Sunday, October 2, 2011

The tiny language that threatens an empire

Citizens' Voice Series

Germà Capdevila
Editor of Catalonia Today Magazine
Deputy editor of Presència Magazine
www.germacapdevila.cat
Val d’Aran is a very small area in the Pyrenees that has been linked to Catalonia since 1175 when the Catalan King Alfons signed the pact of Emparança with the inhabitants of the valley. In 1313 the king agreed to concede to Aran a bill of rights called Queimònia. This ancient link with Catalonia does not make the people of Aran Catalans. In fact, the Aran valley is the only county in Catalonia not facing the Mediterranean sea, but rather the Atlantic. Aran is on the other side of the Pyrenees. The people of Aran are proud of their ancient heritage, their own culture and their language, Aranese, a variety of the Occitan tongue spoken in a large area of southern France and northern Italy.
They may be proud of their language but the Spanish government doesn’t like anyone to interfere with the tongue of the Empire: Spanish. A few months ago, the Catalan parliament passed a bill recognising the Aranese language as the language of the valley, giving it protection and preferential status in relationships between citizens and the administration and schools of the valley. The Spanish government immediately asked the Constitutional Court to suspend the Catalan law, arguing that the only preferential language within Spain is — and must be — Spanish.
It doesn’t matter that we are talking about a tiny language spoken by less than 5,000 people. It’s hard to imagine how the Aranese language can be a threat to another language spoken by 400 million people around the globe. The lack of tolerance towards diversity is part of the DNA of the Spanish state. One nation, one culture, one language. This unitarianism was born with the Bourbon state that conquered and assimilated all the kingdoms in the Iberian peninsula — with the exception of Portugal, which fought back and won — and the rulers of Spain that followed, from Franco to the elected governments of today, weren’t and aren’t keen to change this. The result of this intolerance could be the breakdown of the country in the near future.

Germà Capdevila

Published in Catalonia Today magazine - October 2011

Read previous post of this author here
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1 comentaris:

  • Hugh Jordan says:
    October 5, 2011 at 5:45 AM

    As an outsider, I must comment that the position of the government of Catalunya towards its minorities should be a lesson to us all.

    While struggling to assert the rights of the Catalan language, those of Aranese and Occitane are not trampled upon - that would be so easy.

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