Spanish Realities Cataluña, A Region Apart In 1977, the people of Cataluña celebrated the traditional day of Catalan Solidarity. It was the first time they had been able to do so since Franco came to part in the 30s. One and half million Catalans came into the streets of Barcelona to assert their wish for autonomy It was hardly an extremist minority. Most Catalans feel deeply their right to some form of self-government And they have expressed this feeling many times in their past In 1931, Cataluña declared itself an independent republic. It set up its own government – the Generalitat and the statute for autonomy was drawn up. The new republican government in Madrid approved the statute the following year. Under its President Macià, Cataluña was officially autonomous. It was not to last long. The civil war. Barcelona was one of the last strongholds of resistance to Franco. But in January 1939, it too fell to the nationalists. The siege of Barcelona was effectively the end of the civil war. Thousands of Catalans fled to France. In the months that followed, many Catalans, including the Prime Minister, were shot. Under Franco, there followed a rigorous and systematic repression of everything that was Catalan. It was not the first time a Spanish ruler had come into conflict with Cataluña In 1640, Cataluña declared itself a republic under French protection It took the Spanish King 19 years to force Cataluña into submission In the 18th century, Cataluña again resisted the Spanish siding with Spain’s enemy the Hapsburgs, in return for their support of Catalan Autonomy. 40,000 French and Castilian troops laid siege to Barcelona for 13 months before it gave in. In the 19th century, Catalan uprisings against the central powers of Spain were sparked off a number of times. In 1842, Barcelona took up arms against the dictatorial regent General Espartero who retaliated from the heights of the fortress of Montjuïc, bombarding the city into submission. And in 1868, Catalans rebelled against the monarchy burning portraits of Queen Isabella II. If Cataluña was not always the only region to rebel it does have a long standing tradition of resistance to the central powers of Spain Senator Josep Benet, a historian and leading Catalan politician explains why: Well, there are some very obvious reasons… is that Catalonia is a people with a language, with a historical tradition, with a different culture, totally different from the peoples
that occupies the centre of the peninsula and that control the politics of the Spanish state. They are two different peoples. In what ways was Catalonia defined as a nation? Right. According to French historian, the eminent historian French, Pierre Vilar, Catalonia is one of the earliest medieval peoples to display aspects of the modern ‘nation-state’. It was a… a people with strong national feeling. that early In the Middle Ages adopted structures very close to what would become the modern state. Cataluña, one of the earliest forerunners of the nation-state in Europe with its own particular language, culture and history. The closeness of Cataluña to the rest of Europe has been largely responsible for these differences. In the 8th century, the Muslims dominated most of Spain and part of France. But their influence on the language and culture of Cataluña was less than almost anywhere else in the peninsula because they only stayed for 90 years. In 801, the Franks under Charlemagne, drove the Muslims back out of northern Spain For the next two centuries, Cataluña was part of the Frankish Kingdom. While the rest of Spain looked south to the Arab world, Cataluña looked north to Europe. It was now that the Catalan Language was born. Spoken on both sides of the Pyrennees It was closer to the Latin dialects of southern France than to those of the peninsula. With the decline of the Frankish empire, at the end of the 10th century, Cataluña became independent. But it never lost its close ties with Europe Cataluña shared in the European movement of Romanesque art in the 11th and 12th centuries And contributed a highly individual style of its own. Catalan Romanesque art was a rich and vital expression of Cataluña’s emerging identity. Politically as well as culturally, Cataluña was developing its own identity From the time of its earliest independent rulers Cataluña began to evolve a sophisticated form of government based around the court in Barcelona. The King ruled by the consent of the court and was bound to observe all statutes and laws they had agreed. He was one of the earliest forerunners of the constitutional monarch. With the creation of the Generalitat this system was formalised. The Generalitat was the earliest Catalan parliament and its function was to approve or disapprove of measures proposed by the King. The whole feudal system in Cataluña was sophisticated and nothing else like existed in Spain. Becoming stronger and more stable, Cataluña began to assert itself abroad. Under James I of Cataluña in the 13th century, Mallorca then Valencia were conquered. And in the 14th century, Sicily and Sardinia. And later, Naples. Cataluña’s power was not just military. It became the most important trading state in the Mediterranean, with Barcelona as its commercial centre and port. The Gothic Quarter of the city contains buildings which reflect its wealth at this time. In the Middle Ages, Barcelona was one of the finest and richest cities in Europe. But Cataluña’s strength and prosperity were not to last. In the 15th century, its population was decimated by a plague. And it lost its military and commercial power in the Mediterranean to the Turks. Under Ferdinand and Isabella, Castille became the most important power in the world because of its discovery of America. But despite Castille’s dominance in Spain from then on, it never properly assimilated Cataluña. Why not? With the discovery of the Americas, the discoveries in the Americas became the property of the Crown of Castille, excluding Catalonia. The Crown of Castile was formed by a number of states, including naturally, Catalonia and Castille reserved for itself the exclusive control over trade with the Americas. This meant that, during the following centuries, Catalans could not move to the Americas, people could not go to America like so many people from other Spanish territories moved to America. Moreover, Catalonia, had lost practically all the Mediterranean trade largely due to the dominance of the Turks. It was a people that found it necessary to look inward. And thus, it had to find ways of life that worked internally. There are strong historical grounds for the Catalans’ claim to some form of autonomy. And this feeling is not restricted to any political party or social class. Catalans have a sense of solidarity as a people with characteristics that make them different from other Spaniards. How do they see themselves? What is the Catalan character? Quiet, peaceful, hardworking. A Catalan is honest, friendly, pleasant, hardworking, direct. Traditionally, our character was maybe … a bit closed with, uh, a strong spirit for commerce and above all, progressive say, more like Europe than to the rest of the Iberian Peninsula. Are you a Catalanist? Yes, sir. Are you a Catalanist? No. Not at all! Are you a Catalanist? Well, yes, sir. Why? Well, I’m… I do not know, I can not say… I feel
Catalan… and I like … my language. Eh … well, I’m a Catalanist I feel Catalan. I think that Catalonia is a nation, that it must be respected as such and, after so many years of having been
suppressed, it has the right and the duty to become and be treated as a nation. Are you a Catalanist? Well, yes. Why? Because that’s how I feel. I believe in the future of … Catalonia. I believe in the history that we’ve gone through. Eh… I have become aware of the myriad of injustices that we have suffered and … I believe in the resurgence of the country. A sense of past history is important to Catalanist feelings, but the most important thing is the sharing of a common language. 70% of population speak Catalan, and for 50%, it is their first language. Under Franco, people were fined on the spot for speaking it in public. Today, it is the language of the street once more both spoken and written. We want green spaces! Save the wetlands. No, I’m all set. OK, if it doesn’t come out well, or whatever, you can bring it back. No questions asked. – I can exchange it?
– Yes, yes, yes, yes. The use of Catalan is not confined
to any social class or any situation. [Catalan-speaking merchant] Forty, and the pears make 130. [Customer] 130. Are you sure you added right?
[Merchant] 130 in total, yes, ma’am. [Customer] I don’t want the cauliflower.
[Merchant] OK, OK. [Customer] It’s too big.
[Merchant] I see, too big, no problem. Catalan is the language of the local market. And of the expensive shop. [Catalan-speaking Customer] Will they fit?
[Catalan-speaking merchant] Yes, yes, perfectly. And you can use an extension rod if you need to. [Customer] Excellent, does that seem good to you?
[Customer’s friend] I think so, I like it. [Customer] How much will it be, more or less? [Merchant] Around 35,700 pesetas, or so. Catalan is the now the official language for regional matters are concerned, in government administration and in the state-run radio and television system. [In Catalan] Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen,
undoubtedly, the most important news of the day is the meeting held up until a few moments ago
In the Hall of the Hundred in the City Hall with the members of the Assembly of Catalan parliamentarians. There was also a meeting today by the executive council of the Generalitat [Catalan Government] [Catalan-speaking technician] Camera one, camera two. Bachs. Camera two on Bachs. [Catalan speaker] We can also point out the important changes to the business organization chart [Spanish speaking technician] We’re shifting to Bachs? With the revival of the Catalan language has come a resurgence of Catalan culture. But memories of repression linger on for painters like Tàpies and Guinovart. Today, many of Spain’s most important artists are Catalan The great Catalan artist Joan Miró designed this record cover. Cataluña produces many of Spain’s best popular musicians. Catalan theatre is the most active in Spain. Theatre companies provide popular as well as serious entertainment at the yearly Barcelona Festival. The liveliness of Catalan culture is a powerful factor in Catalans’ feelings of solidarity and uniqueness. Cataluña has always been one of the most prosperous regions of Spain. And economic factors have considerably strengthened its desire for autonomy. In the 18th century Cataluña was the first part of Spain to become industrialized. And this in itself created tensions with the government in Madrid. [Historian Benet; Spanish] This industrialization provoked a further differenciation between the Catalan people and the Castillian people which was now the dominant power in the state. In Catalonia it wasn’t just that a different language was spoken or that there was a different culture but also that what we call an industrial society was formed there. In Catalonia, an industrial bourgeosie appeared, and in Catalonia, there was also a working class with all of the new problems that were yet unknown in the rest of the Spanish state. They were not known in the center. And this differentiated them, made one people so different from the others. The differences became even more pronounced with industrialization. The new industrial working class felt that the Spanish government was so remote it could never understand their problems. The workers reacted by rejecting the whole political system. The left-wing movement that was born had strong anarchist tendencies. And this radical tradition was an important factor in Cataluña’s hostility to central power during the next hundred years. But the government was not any more aware of the interests of the new middle class. [historian Benet, in Spanish] This provoked a series of very important problems in the Spanish state— problems, that can be understood if we take into account that Catalonia was the only country in Europe that underwent the industrial revolution, but whose bourgeousie that was born of the industrial revolution, this industrial bourgeousie was the only one in all of Europe that never came to power. Instead it was marginalised, and continues to be marginalised from power. So the industrialists disliked the central government just as much as their workers did. They supported and encouraged the autonomy movement even if mostly for reasons of economic self-interest. Most industrialists in Cataluña today still support some form of autonomy. Corberó is a large manufacturer of domestic electrical appliances. Its vice president is a strong supporter of autonomy. In what ways does Pedro Corberó think Cataluña has suffered under a centralised regime? [P.Corberó, in Spanish] I think that it has suffered in two ways: economically and politically. Economically, the Catalan country has been very conditioned by the economic power of the Spanish state. Because here in Catalonia, those institutions weren’t there and there wasn’t this mentality of… or the strong base of powerful financial firms who could give this support. In the political field, it’s because all of the pertinent decisions that is pertinent to the business world, and specifically to the Catalan business world. were made, and are made, in Madrid, without Catalan participation. The Catalan industrialist wants autonomy partly because it makes for more efficient business, and partly because he wants Cataluña to benefit more directly from its own profits. [P.Corberó, in Spanish] Principally, the benefits would be related to a whole gamut of services not specfically tied to a given company. That’s it, principally. Undoubtedly, in the Catalan country we’re worried because we know that only a third of of what Catalonia gives to the Spanish state comes back to Catalonia. This is what makes us worry because we really already have the results of a lack of a whole series of services, and that’s what keeps us from properly structuring the country. If the Catalan industrialist has always supported autonomy, today’s workers feel differently. Most of them are non-Catalan. In Corberó’s factory as many as 80%. They come to Cataluña from poorer parts of Spain for a job and better pay. These workers are outsiders in a community which is in the process of asserting its differences from others. Integration is a problem
which autonomy can only make more difficult. In the industrial zone around Barcelona, the communities are largely non-Catalan. The “Barrio Seat” is where the workers of the SEAT car factory live in housing provided by the company. It’s a very closed community with its own shops, bars, social facilities and its own school. 85% of the SEAT workers come from other parts of Spain, mostly the south. And few of them speak any Catalan. They are known as immigrants and the problems of integration for them are considerable. The Catalan headmistress of a local school came to work in this district because she was concerned about these problems. Maria Teresa Codina: [Spanish] I believe that language is the most visible problem and the one that’s most obvious. But the underlying problems are of adaptation, social problems above all. It’s the problem of subsistence, to figuring out how they’re going to earn a living how to get along with others, and how to get to, get access to, and rise to better situations. The predominance of non-Catalan workers in the factories, creates a kind of class distinction. Spanish is the language of the shop floor Catalan the language of the boardroom. But the managers are aware of how divisive this is, and insist on Spanish as the official language of the factory. But it’s still a powerful barrier between worker and employer. [Catalan teacher speaks] Louder, I can’t hear you. [Child, in Spanish] No
[Teacher, in Catalan] No, what? [Child in Spanish] that you don’t sit down
(NB: sentar-se in Catalan means to hear, sentarse in Spanish means to sit down) [Teacher] No, man, I don’t sit down. What time do you get up? So learning the language is an important first step in integration. The teaching of Catalan in all schools began in 1978. It should make integration for second generation immigrants much easier than for their parents. As Señora Codina explains: [Spanish] The immigrant thinks, one, that they’re changing by accepting a culture, and taking on that culture, that they’re acquiring the culture of the community that has received them, that is, Catalonia. But then, what happens is that they stop building on their own culture. They leave behind the traditions that they had, that belonged to them, that gave them security. which gave them their identity, and very often they ended up not having one thing or the other. The assertion of Catalan autonomy may have aggravated problems of integration. But then the association of different regions into one Spanish nation has always been a problem. In the past, the answer has frequently been dictatorship. Now other solutions are possible. [Benet, in Spanish] We believe that Spain, a Spanish state, with a federalist structure would be the best way to resolve the problems between the different peoples that make up the Spanish state. A federation that we can imagine open even to Portugal so that all the peoples on the peninsula would be included. And that we also see this as a step towards a united Europe that we would like to see happen one day. A Europe that would be an authentic federation of peoples. Now, however, we are realistic, and for the moment, for a series of reasons, this federal state is not yet possible in Spain. And for that reason, we accept this State structured with “autonomies” that is how the current Spanish situation can be defined. A single unitary state, but that is compatible with the autonomy of all of the peoples that make up the Spanish state. [Voices, in Catalan] We want, yes, yes, freedom, amnesty, we want, yes, yes freedom, amnesty, we want, yes, yes [Catalan National Anthem, “Els Segadors”] These subtitles were transcribed, timed and translated not by Google’s bots but by interested human volunteers, like you, using the online collaboration tools at