Through the excellent blog Syniadau (on building an independent Wales) I found this BBC slideshow about the knowledge of the African continent through the centuries. The documentary shows first a very interesting Catalan map from the 14th century which is used to show the knowledge of Africa at the time. The audio on the BBC slideshow correctly mentions the origin of the map as being from the Catalan State.
Spanish historians have always instead preferred to use the Spanish-Castillian term Crown of Aragon for the same entity so as not to pronounce the dreaded C-word. This is intentional and with a clear political bias to minimise the importance of Catalonia, a Mediterranean power at the time.
The Spanish always justify this by saying that Catalonia was a Principality (and not a Kingdom) but it doesn’t take from fact that in reality it was the leading part of a group of countries that included Aragon, Valencia, Mallorca, Sicily, Naples, etc. and that its functioning was more like a modern federation of states than anything else at the time since the modern concept of the nation-state was not invented until the 18th century. Therefore, questioning the very existence of Catalonia as an entity on the grounds that it was not a Kingdom in the middle ages is ridiculous (has anybody ever heard of a “Kingdom of the United States of America”?).
By the way, can anybody see any trace of “Spain” in that map? Study of history shows us how frequently it is manipulated to achieve political gains and justify a status quo. As the Spanish know well.
A final note, has anybody noticed that the Spanish flag bears an incredible resemblance to the Catalan flag from the map? It is no coincidence. The Spanish State didn’t have a flag until 1843 (yes, you read well, 1843), its military forces needed one and by royal decree nicked the one they had more at hand.
The perfect colonisation plan, if you don’t have a strong identity just impersonate the country you have invaded by appropriating its symbols of identity while at the same time manipulate history and use the tools a state gives you to eliminate its original culture.
But somewhere along the path the plan didn’t go as expected.