diumenge, 22 d’abril de 2012

Those old Saint George days in the sixties

About the author of this article for Help Catalonia

Josep Huguet i Biosca

Minister of Innovation, Universities and Enterprise (2006-2010)
Minister of Trade, Tourism and Consumer Affairs (2004-2006)
President of the Josep Irla Foundation

In my teenage days, during Francoist times, the festivity of Saint George was a day for national affirmation. We knew that by walking the streets and wandering among the book and roses shops we were, in fact, expressing our will to be Catalan. The newly published books, either fiction or non-fiction, and the new releases in Catalan music authored by those big names at their peak in literature, essay or cançó made the perfect gifts. With the dictatorship getting close to its end, and with the existence of the Catalan Assembly as a unitary political platform fighting for democracy and national liberation, that festivity gained a greater political meaning as the fight for freedom became explicit.

The sixties were the decade in which melodic singers started releasing their records in Catalan, such as the recently deceased José Guardiola, Ramon Calduch and others, with their covers of Italian hits. Also Setze Jutges and Raimon made their first contributions and, by end of the sixties, Grup de Folk, and Pau Riba and Jaume Sisa in their multiple installments. At the beginning of the seventies the Catalan musical landscape was further enriched with Llach, Serrat, Ovidi, Maria del Mar Bonet, etc. Our readings were devoted to the very fine literature of that time: Mercè Rodoreda, Joan Sales, Pere Calders, Joan Perucho, J.V. Foix, Pere Quart, Salvador Espriu, the complete works of Salvat Papasseit. And I also enjoyed the first writings of my colleagues in political activism (in PSAN or its environment): Jaume Fuster, Quim Monzó, Maria Antònia Olivé, Xavier Bru de Sala, Joan Rendé, Ramon Solsona, Pep Albanell, etc.

Saint George day had an intense participation of youth organizations like the scouts or mountaineering clubs which also saw it as an opportunity to raise funds for their camps by selling roses. Usually our commercial expectations were not realistic: either we were running out of roses by noon or we ended up by selling the remaining stock in the evening at discounted price.

I remember all of this happening in my city, Manresa, in its lively center between Plana de l'Om and Born, in Passeig Pere III and carrer Guimerà. This commercial center hosted plenty of stands set up by prestigious bookshops -nowadays long gone- such us Símbol or Xipell, which had recruited a lot of friends to help them in that special day.

The visual landscape was modestly starting to get populated by Catalan flags, in the tables or in the flowers ornaments. As for the media, it was like a rehearsing freedom for one day as most journalists (writing for Spanish-language papers, the only existing ones by then) were trying to use and expand the little room left for freedom by the regime.

Those were my nostalgic Saint George days. I only hope that in the future I will be able to leave nostalgia behind because we will celebrate them with all normality. Normality which can only we be achieved with freedom.

Other posts by this author here

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