Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Politicians without "cojones"

Some of you still remember that I described Catalonia as a country without "cojones". And the question is where did we lose them? My conclusion is that we never had them, or, at least, our politicians never had them.
When I left Catalonia, 16 years ago, I thought that Catalonia was part of Spain and I never challenged that reality. After 16 years overseas, I have become a Catalan nationalist who would like to see Catalonia as an independent country. Why? I have realized that I do not feel Spanish, I have little to do with the image Spain portrays in the world, I do not want to be identified with that country, I do not feel proud of being from Spain, I try to hide it or euphemistically say, I am from Barcelona (since I positively know that if I say I am from Catalonia, 99% people will think I am from Caledonia). My personal values are different from those who people associate with Spain or the Hispanic people and, in addition to that, I am against bullfighting in Catalonia, I dislike "flamenco", and I feel like vomiting when someone uses one of these symbols to refer to me. You can tell me that what I am saying it is an attack to Spain. I do not think so. You foreigners tell me the truth, which symbols do you associate with Spain. Go ahead. Tell me the truth. Do no be shy. Isn't it flamenco, siesta, bullfighting, conquistador? (I still remember when a group of Swedish customers visited my factory in Barcelona and during the factory tour they asked me where we took the naps. I swear). And now, tell me whether you think of the same symbols when you think about Andorra. You see. And I am much more like Andorra, even if that means that your mind is blank.
The Spanish government has done NOTHING to reverse this. Go to any embassy and you be immersed in a Castilian atmosphere. I feel like a man trapped in a woman's body, I want to be a man, but my ID says I am a woman. I want to be a Catalan, but I am a Spaniard (I have to say that since I became American, I feel much better, but it is impossible to erase decades of mental stress).
If someone wants to understand what a Catalan is (or was, I should say) and which the fundamental differences with the perceived Spanish culture are, I invite you to read Jaume Vicens i Vives's "Noticia de Catalunya" (Catalonia news), a very unbiased and subdued book about us Catalans filtered by the Franco's dictatorship, but deeply Catalan if you read between the lines.
All my internal suffering could have been avoided if years ago, decades ago, centuries ago, a millenium ago, Catalan politicians had had "cojones", but they had NOT. Starting with Ramon Berenguer IV who got engaged to a one year old Petronilla, was appointed regent of Aragon and who never took the title of King, never dared to change his title of count of Barcelona to king of Barcelona or king of Catalonia, and took the cojonessless title of "Count of Barcelona and Prince of Aragon". His son, Ramon Berenguer, the first king of the emerging XII century European power, the combination of the Catalan counties and Aragon, who was only 11 years old when he became count of Barcelona and 13 when his mother renounced her rights in Aragon in his favor and became king, ruled under the name of Alfonso II to PLEASE the Aragonese. Give me a break, he was not called Josep-Lluis, Ramon Berenguer was not so difficult to pronounce, he was the son, grandson, great grandson of Ramon Berenguers, he was born in the outskirts of Barcelona (something I have to change periodically in the Spanish wikipedia, since they always make him a native of Huesca) and he had to change his name to please the Aragonese.
And his grandson, Jaume I, another big disappointment, even though I truely admire him. Despite he has nothing but praise for Catalonia and the Catalans ("And by the faith that we owe to God, since those of Catalonia, which is the best kingdom of Spain, the most honoured, the most noble,...", Llibre dels Feyts), he goes to Majorca and makes them a kingdom, he goes to Valencia and makes them a kingdom, he does not annex them to Catalonia, let it be, but he does not even change the rank of Catalonia to a kingdom, the most noble, the most honoured, the most "gilipollas", that's the truth.

After such a brilliant start, what can we expect now? The worst. On one side, our politicians have adopted all the negative characteristics of our Catalan ancestors, making compromises too quickly, not having "cojones", being low profile, betraying their own (botiflerisme), etc, plus many other new ones that they have quickly absorbed like being corrupt, practicing nepotism, red tape, etc.
The Mas, Carod-Roviras, Puigcercos, Chacons, Corbachos, Vendrells and Montillas of this world will sink Catalonia and will actually erase the few remaining characteristics of our culture, characteristics which survived in its genuine form for more than 1000 years till 1939 and which first through Franco's application of Machiavelli's guidelines that can be concisely found in The Prince ('if you want to dominate a country that has a different language, it is much more effective to send colonies of your own people than big armies' wrote Machiavelli) and later through the even more effective methodology of self-destruction that consists of giving the power to a moron and ask him to represent an "honoured and noble" people.

And I know what you are thinking and you are right. I have to admit it. I do not have "cojones" either.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Carles Rius Çafó and Ildefons Falcons (I)

In the last two months I have been flying a lot, those very long flights that give me the opportunity to finish long and interesting books. Two of those books were written by Barcelona authors. The originals were written in Spanish (not in Catalan), although I decided to read one of them, The Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefolso Falcones in its wonderful translation to Catalan, since I thought it would allow me to get immersed much more easily in the medieval Catalonia. In general, I always try to read books in their original versions, but this time, reading The Cathedral of the Sea in Catalan was really a plus.

I never wrote in the past about the Frankfurt book fair. Now with the perspective that time provides, I have to admit that, in my opinion, it was a blunder, no surprise if we take into consideration that Josep Lluis Carod-Rovira was behind the whole thing.

As a purist, I went back to check how the invitation to Catalonia was phrased in the Frankfurt book fair website. There, they clearly stated that the Catalonia culture was invited, not the Catalonia literature, not the Catalan literature, not the literature in Catalan, but the Catalan culture. For me this is Culture generated by Catalans in any language. Not inviting Catalan authors writing in Spanish was, in my opinion, a big error. They should have positioned the Catalan culture as an open culture with excellent contributions in our mother tongue and also in other languages like Spanish. They could have even tried to find Catalans who write in other languages like English, French, German or Swedish (actually, there is afew of us) and give us a booth too. What about me?, I write in English, am I not considered Catalan culture?, apparently not, at least, for Carod-Rovira.

Frankly speaking, I think that the Catalan politicians do not portray the openness of the Catalan society. They should have taken credit for the contributions of all Catalans, independently of the language they use for their artistic creations, while highlighting the strength of the Catalan language which, in theory and due to its size, should be in the list of endangered languages, but which is still alive, kicking and growing.

Going back to Carlos Ruiz Zafón and Ildefonso Falcones, I think that there is a clear reason why they did not write their books in Catalan and the answer is that I think that they do not have a good enough command of the language to produce works of similar quality. They are both my age and at that time, it was forbidden to learn Catalan at school, and we spent years and years learning Spanish grammar and literature (from the "jarchas" to the Archpriest of Hita, from Cervantes to Pio Baroja, but never ever a single author who wrote in Catalan or a single piece of work written in Catalan). Therefore, I assume that they would have struggled (the same as I do, although I do not give up) to write something good in Catalan and they took the easy way out and it paid, since they are now famous and hopefully wealthy.

In one of my future posts, I will explain why, despite being written in Spanish, there is a thick Catalan subtract in those pieces of work, even in Ruiz Zafon's one.