Thursday, September 29, 2011

Genocide with Silk Gloves

Citizens' Voice Series

David de Montserrat
Journalist
@dmontserratnono
Mr. Briton, or you, Herr Deutscher, or further, M. Français: could you imagine that a Spaniard were to come to your respective countries with the intention that all your children were to be schooled in Spanish, as an unalienable right in the name of freedom and the wealth of bilingualism? I mean, could you imagine that your governments were obliged to teach the history of Great Britain, Germany or France, for example, in Spanish? You needn't reply. I'll just say that this is exactly what a small group of Spaniards residing in Catalonia, where Catalan is the official, native language with 1,000 years of history, are attempting to impose. They are few, but they have behind them the extraneous Spanish judiciary and political machinery of Madrid.

And you may reply: “But just a moment, Catalonia is Spain, isn't it?” We Catalans are not Spanish for a multitude of political, historical and linguistic reasons, but we find ourselves formally within Spain. It is a transitory status, the result of systematic oppression that has been practised against us for centuries. Today, for example, the Spanish state machinery intends to force bilingualism upon the Catalans, but have never forced the learning of Catalan upon the rest of Spaniards. I will just say that it is currently much easier to learn Catalan at university abroad than in Spain itself.

The Catalan language is spoken by 10 to 12 million people, and if you count those who understand it, the figure is over 13 million. According to the Spanish, this bunch of millions of Catalan speakers are conspiring to speak Catalan and not Spanish, just to screw them. Among those millions who speak, or spoke, our language are internationally renowned figures such as musician Pau Casals (or Pablo, the Spanish name that was imposed upon him, although he wanted to be known by his Catalan name), artist Salvador Dalí, soprano Montserrat Caballé, fashion designer Custo Dalmau of Custo Barcelona, LA Laker basketball player Pau Gassol, tennis champion Rafa Nadal, the world's best chef Ferran Adrià, or Hollywood director Jaume Collet-Serra. It is also the official language of FC Barcelona, the world's greatest soccer team. Corporations like Google, Nokia, Microsoft, McDonald's, Ryanair, or American Airlines also apparently seem possessed of this supposedly “closed” (at least for many Spaniards) mind-set and use Catalan with absolute normallity in Catalonia.

Most of us consider that our language has been silenced long enough, that we have suffered attempted cultural genocide for long enough. And if you think the expression “cultural genocide” is going over the top, just consider the royal instructions Philip V of Spain imposed after defeating the Catalans on September 11th, 1714 and eliminating all our institutions.

"The importance of making the language uniform has always been recognised as being great, and is a sign of dominance or of superiority of Princes or nations, whether because dependence or adulation wish to please or fawn, affecting other nature by the similarity of language, or because subjection [of the subjects] obliges by force".

"...But as each Nation seems to have been assigned its particular language by Nature, art has much to overcome and some time is required to do so, especially when the temperament of the Nation such as the Catalans is stubborn, proud and loving of its Country's particulars, and thus it seems convenient to address this with the most tempered and disguised instructions and provisions, so as not to reveal our concern..."

From the "secret instructions" that the prosecutor of the Council of Castile, Don Rodrigo Jose Villalpando, transmitted to the magistrates of the Principality of Catalonia on 29 January 1716.

"That in the schools, books in the Catalan Language shall not be allowed, nor speaking or writing in the language in schools and that the Christian doctrine shall be given and learned in Spanish ... "

Jose Patino. "Consult of the Council of the Castilles on the New Government that is to be established in Catalonia."

You will say this was centuries ago. Certainly. But you know what? In 2001 King Juan Carlos I of Bourbon, the direct heir of King Philip V of Bourbon, who had imposed the above instructions, referred to the Spanish language as:

"Universal language, mother language, language that sounds in the most varied accents in the most diverse and distant territories, but language that is, by the wish of its speakers, who maintain it prodigiously cohesive... Our language was never one of imposition, but that of encounter; no one was forced to speak in Castillian (Spanish): it was the most diverse peoples who made theirs, by their most free will, the language of Cervantes."

You can find more examples of Spanish nationalism against Catalans in Help Catalonia's series  and in Quotes


David Montserrat
Journalist
@dmontserratnono
Read other Citizens' Voice articles
Related articles:
Spain seeks to destroy Catalan Educational System
The Violation of the Human Right of Self Determination
Another attack against the Catalan People

3 comentaris:

  • Hugh Jordan says:
    October 5, 2011 at 7:49 AM

    All I would ask the author of this piece is not to assume that everybody in "Britain" is English. My country, Cymru (Gales), has an ancient Celtic language and culture that still thrive.

    However, I was brought up only with the language of the English state which is our neighbour and had no lessons in the history of my country - only of an alien empire.

    Does the story sound familiar?

  • well19521991 says:
    March 4, 2012 at 9:16 AM

    From a proud Scotsman who has lived in Catalonia for 7 years I can only say what utter nonsense.

    You proudly talk about famous Catalans such as Salvador Dali (a fine artist but who sent telegrams to Franco commending him on death warrents he issued- Franco issued an unsuccessful death warrent on my Grandfather in law by the way- and painted Franco´s granddaughter), Pau Gasol (a fine basketball player who considers himself Catalan AND Spanish)and that Catalan is the official language of the "world´s greatest football team" (a fine football club who are currently the best team in the world but have a long way to go before they win 10 European Cups) who is able to compete with the best and be the best. Why? Because they compete in the best league in the world, the SPANISH league. I could go with the other people you mention, but frankly I have no desire nor patience.

    Catalan survived 40 odd years of dictatorship and efforts to stamp it out. There are no such efforts nowadays to stamp out Catalan. Let the language develop naturally and people who migrate to Catalonia will be far more willing to learn it and respect it. Spanish is a global language and you are in a position to be billingual (trillingual should Catalans pull the finger out and learn English) and prosper accordingly.

    I am a proud Scotsman and I cringe with embarressment seeing my fellow country men try to stir up animosity between ourselves and England. Should we get independance the last thing we should do is make an enemy of England because they will be a major trading partner. The last thing Catalonia needs to do is make an enemy out of Spain and with nonsense blogs such as yours is exactly what you are doing.

  • YuriBCN says:
    March 4, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    Dear well19521991 (odd name, but anyway...),

    Firstly, a question of terminology: *nonsense* qualifies something lacking sense, and I would not say that the article lacks sense, even though you might not sympathise.

    As for Dalí, he was most definitely a speaker of Catalan, notwithstanding his political oddities: you should be aware that he was a declared Communist in his youth, being a founder and contributor of the Leninist group and publication "Renovació Social" in Figueres. He was also arrested during the Primo de Rivera dictatorship for burning a Spanish flag. Later, when in Madrid, he became a very close friend of left-wing Federico García Lorca. His fleet-footed adaptation to later circumstance, whether to US high-art culture or to the Spanish dictatorial establishment should not be read as a rejection either of his land or of his language. In any case though, the author does not claim Dalí, nor the others mentioned, was an independentist but includes him in his list of celebrity Catalan-language speakers, who may or may not maintain their current reservation concerning declaring themselves outright one way or another.

    What the author is trying to say, and I believe he makes very good sense, is that the survival of our language depends on its being defended, and that it is a living language that is still being side-lined as far as possible, although now no longer "by whichever means necessary", by outright war or by attempted linguistic annihilation.

    You say that our language has survived 40 years of dictatorship. It has in fact survived aggression for far longer, as is made clear in the post. Fortunately for the Catalan language, the Spanish have been singularly incompetent and unable to consolidate as a linguistically uniform Nation-State beyond the regions of Castilian culture, unlike France or the UK, which has effectively obliterated Gaelic or Scots, for example.

    And concerning FB Barcelona, I honestly do not believe the fate of a nation should be guided by whether a football team would survive as the world's best. That would certainly be nonsensical!

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