Peces Barba on bombing Barcelona

Gregorio Peces Barba is one of the fathers of the Spanish Constitution and on October 27th he made some remarks about the relationship between Spain and Catalonia talking about the possible independence of Catalonia and how he believes this time it won’t be necessary to bomb Barcelona to stop it.

Col·lectiu Emma already wrote a post about this issue that summarizes the situation very well. So I just put the bits together (from here and here) (only the audio part is available for the bits on bombing Barcelona) and made the subtitles.

However, a few points on what Peces Barba said are inaccurate:

  • Peces Barba must have skipped a chapter on his history book since Spain didn’t make the decision to let Portugal go. The Spanish lost the battles of lvas, Ameixal, Villa Viçosa i Castel Rodrigo against the Portuguese.
  • Maybe Spain would have been better with Portugal but there’s no arguing that Catalonia would have done much better alone
  • Catalans do not celebrate a defeat on September the 11th, it is a reminder that we lost our state in 1714 and have to keep working to get it back

Even though it is of very poor taste (and possible criminal responsibility) to joke about the bombings of Barcelona and killings of civilians over the centuries (the last ones took place from 1936 until 1939, in which 2700 people were killed and 7000 were injured (link in Catalan)) we should thank Peces Barba that a father of the Spanish Constitution has clarified for the public opinion the true nature of the relationship between Catalonia and Spain.

Peces Barba started this topic with regards to the results of latest poll by the Catalan Centre Estudis d’Opinió (link in Catalan), the Catalan public polls institute, which in its latest issue in October showed an increase in the support to Catalonia’s independence since June. 45.4% of Catalans would vote for independence with only 24.7% would vote no and 23.8% would abstain. This would mean 64.7% of the votes for independence with a turnout of 70%.

Building a New State – 1st Catalonia’s Self-determination conference

Yesterday the 1st conference on Catalonia’s self determination took place and it was a success. Organised by Sobirania i Justícia, the same people behind the excellent documentary “Spain’s secret conflict”.

The conference took place throughout the day in Palau Robert in Passeig de Gràcia, Barcelona and included speeches by international experts Charles E. Ehrlich, responsible for the constitutional comission of the U.N. in Kosovo; Ana Stanic, who negotiated Slovenia’s secession with the serbians; Patrick Dunberry, Canadian expert and Carles Boix, from Princeton University who specifically analysed the Catalan case.

In my opinion, this is one of the best initiatives I have seen recently to help people visualize how to create the independent Catalonia and this is the type we need to let people realise that not only it is not so difficult but that most of the conditions for independence already exist.

The easy bits are that Catalonia would be perfectly financially viable as an independent state. That it already is part of the European Union and has a democratically elected government which represents its people. The harder part will be the international negotiations to recognise the new state and also splitting the assets and the passive with Spain, which will not collaborate. But these parts will be easier with the legitimacy of a referendum with a clear majority of pro independence votes.

Unfortunately I couldn’t be there but a collaborator was able to attend so we’ll soon publish a post about it here. I personally would have loved to see a live broadcast or youtube channel with the videos of the speeches. Those would have been extremely powerful tools to spread the message. However, Vilaweb has posted an excellent video with interviews to the experts, it’s trilingual in Catalan, English and French with Catalan subtitles. In case anyone is interested.

Picture by Sobirania i Justícia.

“I am a Catalan” 40th anniversary of Pau Casals’ speech at the UN

On October 24th, 1971 Pau Casals, one of the greatest cellists of all time, made a historical speech at the United Nations in New York as he was awarded the U.N. Peace Medal. Casals also composed the United Nations anthem.

Here‘s a transcription:

But let me say one thing. I am a Catalan. Today a province of Spain. But what has been Catalonia? Catalonia has been the greatest nation in the world. I will tell you why. Catalonia has had the first parliament, much before England. Catalonia had the beginning of the United Nations. All the authorities of Catalonia in the 11th century met in a city of France, at that time Catalonia, to speak about peace. At the 11th century! Peace in the world and against, against, against war, the inhumanity of war. This was Catalonia. I am so so happy, so moved to be here, with you.

And the video of the speech:

Book review: “What Catalans Want” by Toni Strubell

“What Catalans Want” is a book of interviews, made by Catalan MP and writer Toni Strubell, to relevant people from all aspects of Catalan society. From former President Jordi Pujol to economists such as Xavier Sala-i-Martin or Germà Bel. University professors like Salvador Cardús, former FC Barcelona President turned into politician Joan Laporta or former Barça player Oleguer Presas. Also people in the media business like Vicent Partal or Vicent Sanchís and others who, thanks to having taken active part in recent history, have a clear view of the best direction to take, like 102 years old Doctor Moisés Broggi.

The people interviewed in this book have played, are playing or will play an important role for Catalonia and their views reflect the direction where Catalan society is heading to and from their privileged position are able to lead it.

The book arrives one year after the turning point that meant the demonstration of July the 10th 2010, and a few months after having finished the popular referendums last April the 10th. At a time when the crisis, both economical and political is tightening the relationship between Catalonia and Spain and polls reflect a majority of Catalans in favor of independence.

The next chapter will be defined by CiU’s last attempt to counter the great independentist wave that is sweeping the country. Will they be able to claim a new fiscal deal next year and make Catalonia manage all of its taxes as they promised? Or will they lead the independentist movement once the new fiscal deal fails?

The book captures the full range of opinions that will help understand the direction the country is taking even and I recommend it since, not only it is a pleasant read and the interviews are excellent but it is also one of the few resources about Catalonia that are available in english. My only criticism is that I would have liked to see a few more people, like Miquel Calçada or Oriol Junqueras, for instance.

I hope the publishers have a Catalan version in mind, since it would be great to make this available to a broader audience within the Catalan speaking community.

The book has a website and the book’s electronic versions can be purchased directly from the publishers in electronic format and if you prefer it in dead tree format you can purchase it from the Amazon US and UK websites.

There’s even have a free sample available to download here.

Related to this I also recommend, also from CataloniaPress, the book by Matthew Tree, “Barcelona, Catalonia” which was also reviewed here a few months ago.

Official poll confirms Catalonia’s independence would have 60% support in a referendum

The CEO, the department for opinion studies of the Catalan Government, has just published the results of the latest poll. It asks for the first time about what would voters do in a referendum of independence.

The results confirm what similar polls (like here) made in the last two years said, a clear win for Catalonia’s independence. 42.9% votes to yes, 28.2% no, 23.3% abstention and 4.4% doesn’t know. Meaning the yes would have a 60% support against a 40% for the no.

The link to the full report can be found here and the relevant information is on page 28 question P39.

Book Review: “Barcelona, Catalonia” by Matthew Tree

Matthew Tree’s articles have helped more than I’ll ever be able to thank him to find ways of explaining Catalonia to people from other countries. Being English born and, as he describes himself in the book, an adopted Catalan (I’d say he’s just as Catalan as you can be) has given him a unique point of view, which combined with curiosity to learn about the country where he lives and a strong sense of justice have produced this book as a result.

Matthew has lived in Catalonia for 24 years and is a writer in both Catalan and English languages. He loves Catalonia and probably this book could be titled “Homage to Catalonia”, if it wasn’t that that title has already been used by another English writer. However, I agree to his criticism. Quoting from one of the articles in the book: (referring to Catalonia) “Personally, if I find myself in a room full of people who I know don’t like me, I walk out. The Catalans, for reasons that I am unable to fathom, are dithering by the door, wondering what they can still do to get in everyone’s good graces. Pathetic, or what?”.

Matthew honestly believes that Catalonia will become a State in Europe within this decade. I personally hope his prediction materialises, if only for the reason that I have other hobbies that would love some extra dedication from me. If a few more Catalans had as much sense of dignity as he does, no doubt we would already be.

The book is a collection of articles written in the last few years. Matthew just doesn’t talk about Catalonia, he talks about life, culture, traveling, injustice and publishing, to name a few. And he doesn’t take himself very seriously. Everything is said with an clear style and an intelligent sense of humour.

I recommend this book if you live or are planning to come to Catalonia for a while or as a tourist, if you want to understand this little corner of the earth a little better or, more generally, if you just want a good read. I am a very impatient reader, if I don’t like a book very much I’ll just leave it and I read this one in 3 days. Oh, and the electronic epub version of the book comes with cool videos.

If you want a sample of Matthew’s work I recommend you read “Life on The Receiving End” and watch this video where he explains Catalonia to a group of exchange students.

You can get the book here kindle version. Here and here in ePub version with video and without video (here and here). The book is also available in Catalan.

The presentation of the book takes place this evening in Barcelona, here’s a link to the event.

“Intolerable” to speak Catalan in the Spanish Parliament, according to PP

I found this through NacioDigital (Link in Catalan). At the Spanish Parliament this afternoon Ricardo Tarno, an irated member of Spanish party PP walked up to José Bono, the president of the Spanish Parliament, shouting that was “intolerable” to speak Catalan there and urging Bono to stop Catalan deputy Joan Tardà as he tried to speak in Catalan part of his speech when discussing a law proposal to allow languages other than Castillian (Spanish) in the Spanish Parliament. José Bono afterwards reminded Joan Tardà cynically that “if you want Catalan to be allowed the law needs to be changed” knowing well that without PP and PSOE (the main Spanish parties), which voted against, that will never happen.

The 14th century Catalan State on the BBC

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.

Lecture on Catalonia’s independence for the University of Minnesota

No, unfortunately I haven’t been to Minnesota but rather a group of students from that university currently studying exchange programmes in Rome were interested in the Catalan pro independence movement as part of an organised visit to Barcelona and requested a lecture on the issue which finally took place on February the 17th.

I love doing this type of lectures, last year I had loads of fun in México and the UK doing similar ones, but this has also showed me that it doesn’t matter how much effort Catalans put into explaining that we are a country, etc. Until the day when we become independent the world will continue to question us things that other countries, with less “national credentials”, if you want to call it, enjoy just for the pure fact of being a state while accusing Catalans of being “nationalistic” and “extremist” for wanting those things. Like, that the language is official, that everyone has to learn it if they want to live there or just as important, for the Catalan government to control all Catalan finances, taxes and infrastructures amongst other things. To be just another state within Europe.

In general people from the outside perceive the Spanish State as a homogeneous block, with only one culture (just picture in your head the stereotype of what Spanish culture is, yeah that) and one country with one language spoken within it (the language most widely spoken in other places like México, Cuba or Argentina). This is no coincidence, the Spanish have for centuries put so much effort into projecting that image to the outside that eventually it has paid. As you can see Catalonia does not appear anywhere in this picture, it is not invited to the party, but hey it is supposed to pay for it.

Therefore, it is always a pleasure to explain things like that Catalonia is more than one thousand years old, that it had the first Parliament in Europe and was completely independent and with its own Constitution until the 18th century. That it never asked to be part of Spain and was brought into it by the force of arms.

Or that Catalan is the 10th language of the European Union (even though not one of its 23 official languages) and is spoken in 4 European states. That it is the language number 14 on Google, number 8 in amount of blogs and number 20 in literary production worldwide.

And, also, quite important, that there is an ongoing secession process right now, even if the Spanish, and Catalan, authorities try to overlook it as much as they can. For instance in April the 10th a popular referendum of independence will take place in Barcelona.

One day in the next few years the world will wake up and find on the news a headline about a new state in Europe called Catalunya. They’ll wonder exactly where it is and when they find out they’ll wonder how they had never heard of the country of which Barcelona is the capital. And then life will go on (and I’ll gain loads of spare time to dedicate to other things).

My favourite part of the lecture was the questions, it is always very interesting to hear what foreigners ask since it gives me a point of view and forces me sometimes to think about concepts that I, being so involved in the issue, might have overlooked.

The students asked things like: whether media in Catalonia was biased (it is, the pro Spanish control practically all the mainstream media, even the Catalan public media is Spanish-centered. Luckily, things have tremendously improved since the Internet age has brought an incredible amount of Catalan centered media, which have decisively contributed to the pro-independence movement), how relations with Spain would change in independence (they would be better than ever, this permanent “tug of war” between Spain and Catalonia is exhausting for both), in which form would independence arrive (declaration of independence, since a referendum like in Canada or Scotland is impossible in Spain on one hand and unnecessary, thanks to the clarification on the sentence on Kosovo by the International Court of Justice of The Hague, on the other).

And above all I was pleasantly surprised on the interest on the issue by a foreign institution. I’m sure this is another (small but positive) symptom that we are advancing towards our goal.

Thanks to the University of Minnesota and see you soon!