Friday, March 9, 2012

Being Catalan Abroad

Citizens' Voice Series







Aleix Salvans
Screenwriter & Student
@aleixsalvans



Living in a city –Leeds- with barely a 10% of student population, lots of whom from abroad, you’re asked where you’re from pretty often. This wouldn’t be a problem if I wasn’t Catalan. I’ve met quite a few Catalans here, and as most of them support independence we face the same dilemma when asked about our origins: answering “I’m Spanish” would be a lie and a betrayal to our country despite of what’s written in our IDs, while saying “I’m Catalan” most times implies having to explain what it means. There are some exceptions –I’m actually quite surprised of the number of people from different countries who know of our existence and our conflict with Spain-, but sticking to who you are costs you several minutes and, sometimes, being considered a radical by people who are not familiar with any similar situations –Quebec, Scotland, Ireland-.
Sometimes you get tired of it and try a way to avoid further questions: “I’m from a small city close to Barcelona”. This is not a complete solution, though, as questions may arise anyway. Often but not enough, “So you’re Spanish or Catalan?” or even “So you’re Catalan” straightaway, but mostly “So you’re Spanish, aren’t you?” And then you have to explain anyway who you are and what the Spanish have done to your country, your people, your language and your culture during the last 300 years –and that’s only the worst part of it, it actually started before-.

But I’ll never resign and say I’m Spanish, because I’m not. My ID and my driving license are only a consequence of having been invaded and defeated by them. I would never say I’m Spanish, just as a Northern Irish would never say he’s British. Unless, and not always, if he descends from British colons, and this actually sets an interesting parallel to what happened in Catalonia in the 20th century and could be a topic to write about about in a future post. But the thing is no matter how hard they’ve tried, we are still here, and there’s too many of us who still know who we are and what we were and want to be again to just fade out as if we had never existed. That’s what they want, and we’re never going to give them such a pleasure.
It is said that traveling softens your opinions in this kind of national issues as you meet many people from many different places, new cultures and points of view. It may be right in some things, but in my case being away from home, and seeing how some Spanish students behave has made me even more aware of the differences between us. Of course, I’ve also met some wonderful Spaniards who I consider to be my friends, but all of them happen to understand –if not agree with- my opinion on this matter. But that’s another topic, too.

Aleix Salvans

6 comentaris:

  • AriadnaBach says:
    March 9, 2012 at 1:46 AM

    Simpatitzo totalment amb els sentiments i experiències que es viuen a quan estàs a l'estranger. Per una banda et sents content que gent d'altres països sàpiguen el que volem a Catalunya, però sovint la informació que tenen està tant o més manipulada que la que tenen a Espanya i sovint els has de donar explicacions sobre què volem a Catalunya com si fóssim els dolents de la pel·lícula...

  • krekbert says:
    March 9, 2012 at 6:31 AM

    I agree with your opinion. As further away I am from home, more Catalan I feel. Plenty of times it is frustrating, especially when people don't take you serious and see you as the funny Spanish who complains about Spain. They cannot understand the real feeling, but I can imagine. However, no matter the reaction of others, it is always worth it to do the effort and let people know about our great small country called Catalunya.

  • Rochetti says:
    March 9, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    Molt bon article. A Europa sovint és més fàcil que coneguin i entenguin que som catalans i no espanyols i el perquè, però als EUA es fa complicat degut a la seva ignorància... Però mai cessaré de reivindicar d'on sóc i què significa.

  • acutia says:
    March 17, 2012 at 11:19 AM

    You write
    "I would never say I’m Spanish, just as a Northern Irish would never say he’s British."
    This analogy is not fully accurate. While the majority of Northern Irish people from the Republican/nationalist community reject Britishness and identify solely as Irish, a significant percentage of Northern Irish citizen's strongly see themselves as British. Many in the Unionist community identify as British primarily and some Irish secondarily. Some also value these identities equally.

    This just to show that there are parallels between Catalonian-Spanish issues and Irish/British but significant differences too.

  • Aleix Salvans says:
    March 20, 2012 at 3:13 AM

    True acutia, I should've said "just as some Northern Irish". I'm quite aware of the situation up there.

  • Unknown says:
    October 7, 2012 at 4:38 AM

    As a Northern Irish married to a Catalan and living in Catalunya you have no idea how frustrating it is to hear someone say I would never call myself British.

    The majority of people in Northern Ireland (1 million people or almost 20% of the entire population of Ireland) are happy to be Irish and British and to have our Independence from Dublin who like Madrid seek to undermine our culture and traditions at very opportunity.

    I feel Catalan and identify it with my Northern Irishness. We are trying to keep our Independence and you are trying to get it.

    Visca Catalunya Lliure!

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