Friday, November 26, 2010

Battle Lines Drawn in Catalonia (The New York Times)

Battle Lines Drawn in Catalonia

BARCELONA (CATALAN COUNTRIES) — When voters in Catalonia go the polls on Sunday, they will not just be writing another chapter in the long and complex saga of whether and how Spain holds together. The most recent opinion polls suggest that the current Socialist-led coalition government in Spain’s northeastern region will fall, a slap in the face for Spain’s prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, a Socialist whose own popularity has plummeted along with the country’s economic fortunes in the financial crisis.

The likely triumph of a Catalan nationalist party, Convergència i Unió, heightens the regional tensions that continually tug at Spain’s fractious unity. As in other European nations, most notably Italy and Belgium, there is a gulf between northern regions like Catalonia, which spearheaded Spain’s industrial revolution and remains home to some of its most successful corporations, and poorer southern areas like Andalusia.

Edward Hugh, an independent economist based in Barcelona, said that, while hard to measure, the consensus estimate among his peers was that Catalonia contributed the equivalent of 10 percent of its gross domestic product to supporting other Spanish regions, through taxes collected by the central government in Madrid.
With Spain particularly hit by the world financial crisis, and Catalonia itself grappling with a total debt that rose 20 percent last year to €30.5 billion, or $41 billion, burden sharing has become a burning issue within Spain, as has the question of who should collect taxes. Catalonia’s limited fiscal autonomy has also contrasted with that of another prosperous northern region, the Basque Country, whose own government recently struck a new financing deal with the central government in Madrid, triggering loud demands from Catalonia for a similar treatment.

“The Basque Country has managed to get a credit rating that is better than that of Spain because it is fiscally independent,” said Xavier Vives, economics professor at IESE Business School in Barcelona.
Instead, faced with tough refinancing hurdles, Catalonia was recently forced to issue €2.5 billion in domestic bonds for the first time since the mid-1980s, at a 4.75 percent yield, which was above that paid on similar Spanish government bonds.

Unless Convergència i Unió wins an outright majority on Sunday, however, the election is almost certain to be followed by intense horse-trading among parties hoping to join a coalition government. The consequences for Mr. Zapatero are also hard to predict, because he has maintained an ambiguous relationship with his Socialist counterparts in Catalonia, strained since a contested ruling last June by the Constitutional Court on a Catalan autonomy charter that had already been approved by Catalonia’s 5.5 million voters and the national Parliament in 2006.
Some of the parties competing on Sunday, in fact, want Catalonia to split immediately from Spain and become a new member state of the European Union. “This election is a historic opportunity to take a decisive step toward independence,” said Joan Laporta, who started his own party earlier this year after leaving the presidency of Barcelona F.C., one of the top soccer clubs in the world.

But rivalries between Mr. Laporta and other advocates of independence have splintered and weakened their movement. Catalan politicians also disagree over the level of popular support for independence.
Celestino Corbacho, who recently stepped down as one of Mr. Zapatero’s ministers in order to return to Catalonia and help bolster the Socialists’ prospects on Sunday, suggested that a better target would be to provide Spain with a stronger federal structure akin to that of Germany, in which Catalonia could stand out, because at most 25 percent of Catalans would vote for full independence should a referendum be held tomorrow. “Many politicians here are at least one step ahead of what people actually want,” he said.
That, however, is partly because “the benefits of independence in the long term are huge but there are costs in the short term, which many people aren’t ready to assume,” argued Salvador García Ruiz, one of the founders of Col-lectiu Emma, an association promoting Catalan interests. He compared that reticence to the constraints of dieting: “I would love to be thinner, but am I really ready to eat only healthy food and start exercising immediately?”

Among long-term benefits, Mr. García Ruiz predicted that Catalonia would better manage its infrastructure spending, while Barcelona would attract more foreign investment as a capital city. Indeed, Catalans consider several past economic decisions made in Madrid as unfair, ranging from the prioritizing of Madrid’s airport expansion over Barcelona’s to a veto of an attempted takeover of the electric utility Endesa by Gas Natural, headquartered in Barcelona.

Catalan separatism has been gaining ground since Spain’s return to democracy in the 1970s, with the re-establishment of the Catalan language as arguably its most notable achievement so far. Earlier this year, the Catalan Parliament approved a law to have 50 percent of foreign movies dubbed or subtitled in Catalan, despite concerns in Hollywood about higher distribution costs.

More recently, the language debate has centered on whether professors should demonstrate fluency in Catalan to teach in one of Catalonia’s universities. Another controversial law resulted in 152 fines last year against shopkeepers who had failed to label their establishments in Catalan.

Although Mr. García Ruiz noted that similar sanctions had been imposed for breaking Spanish-language regulations, such regional legislation has fueled concerns that the separatist drive in Catalonia has also raised intolerance within a region that has long been a major recipient of immigration. Some Catalan municipalities also made national headlines recently by banning women from wearing burqas in public.

“Silly measures like fining shopkeepers in defense of our language or banning the burqa make us seem like exactly what we’ve never been, which is a closed society,” said Josep Ramoneda, a Catalan writer and philosopher.
The election Sunday is expected to result in low turnout, following a campaign marked by highly provocative advertising, ranging from one party portraying Spain as a bank robber to another launching a video game awarding points for shooting down illegal immigrants. Some politicians also anticipate voters’ abstention because the nationhood debate has eclipsed their more pressing economic concerns.

“The real problem for Catalans is how to reach the end of the month and cope with unemployment,” Alicia Sánchez-Camacho, the main candidate for the center-right Popular Party, said in an interview on Spanish television Tuesday. “Instead of more nation, we need better management.”

One of the political hot potatoes facing any incoming administration will be the aftermath of the Constitutional Court’s ruling on the Catalan statute. While endorsing most of the charter, the court also set off a huge protest march in Barcelona by striking out some of its points and a legal claim to nationhood.

Still, Mr. Laporta and other separatists insist that the next tussle with Madrid must be over finances, in order to allow Catalonia to emerge quicker from the crisis. “The right to handle our own money is a priority,” Mr. Laporta said.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gaudí es un gigante del genio catalán independentista, reinvindicativo i liberador !


El título es una traducción interpretativa del significado del catalán

Por encima de cualquier otra cosa, Gaudí es un gigante del genio catalán y su obra máxima —La Sagrada Familia— esconde su espíritu de catalán independentista, reinvindicativo i liberador de la continua imposición castellana y que, tal vez quede olvidado por otros acontecimientos actuales más visibles y, casi con toda seguridad, escondido para siempre. Lo que voy a contar de Gaudí fue, posiblemente, un señal de arrebato dentro de la cordura del hombre genial que era, al menos a mí me gusta pensarlo así. Para entender lo que quiero decir tenemos que situarnos en la época final de su vida en plena abolición de las libertades catalanas que Gaudí le tocó vivir.

Eran tiempos difíciles de la dictadura de Primo de Rivera, favorecida por el rey Borbón Alfonso XIII e inspirada en el fascismo de Mussolini. Dictadura que por los agravios en que fueron tratados los catalanes parecía una nueva reedición de la dictadura borbónica de Felipe V, ya que se volvían aplicar las vejaciones con procedimientos restrictivos y con un rigor infame en contra de Cataluña y de los catalanes, intentando conseguir la sumisión total de la población catalana, de sus derechos, de nuestra lengua y de todas las instituciones catalanas. (Consejo de Ciento, símbolos, himnos, banderas, etcétera). El ejercicio de los derechos y libertades de Cataluña, así como la vigencia de sus instituciones se han visto en distintas épocas interrumpidas, contra su voluntad y que, como una constante maléfica, se han tenido que padecer durante largos periodos de la historia.

Tras la derrota de Cataluña en 1714 y con el Decreto de Nueva Planta (16/01/1716) la vejaciones y prohibiciones a Cataluña fueron gigantescas, desde entonces Cataluña ha tenido que luchar —en más o menos intensidad— para no morir ahogados. Sectores políticos, monárquicos, religiosos y económicos nos han fustigado para eliminar la lengua catalana. No podemos olvidar a la iglesia que, a través del arzobispo Mayoral (1730), ordenó a los rectores de sus parroquias que castellanizaran todos los nombres y apellidos en los registros parroquiales. La economía de Cataluña se vio afectada cuando los puertos catalanes tuvieron la prohibición de comerciar con América y que no se recuperó hasta el reinado de Carlos III.

Sin olvidar que las normas de la arquitectura de la ciudad de Barcelona, desde el Decreto de Nueva Planta, se mantenían estrechamente relacionada con la opresión que se ejercía sobre la ciudad por parte de las fuerzas colonizadoras. Pensemos que las casas de Barcelona habían de tener menos altura que las torres de la ignominiosa fortaleza de la Ciudadela que mandó construir Felipe V. De esta manera se facilitaba que desde la fortaleza pudiesen bombardear la ciudad cuando quisieran.

Antoni Gaudí fue humillado por la España castellanizadora. Un 11 de setiembre de 1924, las autoridades españolas cerraron las iglesias de Barcelona para impedir la celebración de la Fiesta Nacional de Cataluña, pero Gaudí, un catalán independentista de 72 años fue a la iglesia de los Santos Justo y Pastor para rendir memoria a los héroes caídos en combate por defensar las libertades de Cataluña. Gaudí fue detenido por la policía y llevado a la comisaria en la que se negó a hablar en castellano, este hecho provocó que fuese arrestado, maltratado, gravemente insultado y humillado por los guardias. En su intimidad, Gaudí vivía tan separado de España que actuaba como si no supiera ni quisiese hablar en castellano, porque llegó a la conclusión madura y firme que, sin la independencia, no había posibilidades de vivir en Cataluña sin una política propia que fuese justa, honesta y reformadora.

Gaudí influido por tantas prohibiciones que Cataluña había sufrido a través de la historia, al proyectar la altura de las torres de La Sagrada Familia era una forma de reírse abiertamente de los borbones y de sus prohibiciones, ya que su proyecto contiene torres de 130 metros de altura y la torre central que coronará la obra tendrá 170 metros. La imagen de su gran obra, al contrario de lo que querían los borbones, una Barcelona minimizada por las alturas de sus edificios, se convierte ya en una de las victorias más espectaculares de la catalanidad de Gaudí.

Ya en plena dictadura en el año 1925 Gaudí terminó el primer campanario de la fachada del Nacimiento, dedicado a San Bernabé, de 100 metros de altura. Esta fue la única torre que Gaudí pudo ver construida, ya que el 10 de junio de 1926 murió de un trágico accidente ocurrido tres días antes, al ser atropellado por un tranvía. El día 12 fue enterrado en la Capilla del Carmen de la cripta del Templo Expiatorio de La Sagrada Familia, donde aún hoy reposan sus restos.
Reflexión final:Hace tantos años, tantos siglos que nuestra lengua es maltratada y cuestionada por tantos sectores que tendríamos que hacer algo para poder evitarlo definitivamente. Unas veces el maltrato lo recibimos por los enemigos declarados, con estos ya no nos pueden engañar —sabemos quienes son— van en contra de la lengua catalana. Pero hay otros que, unas veces hacen políticas subordinadas —no son autónomos— y votan lo que les mandan, son partidos sucursales que votan en Madrid lo contrario de lo que votan en Cataluña. Es como tener la 'Quinta columna' dentro de casa y no debemos consentirlo. Ahora que tenemos la oportunidad de votar, de escoger al partido que defienda más nuestros intereses, tendríamos de votar en favor de aquellos que defienden nuestra lengua y que, visto el panorama restrictivo que España nos ha sometido, tal vez es la hora de tomar una decisión valiente intentando conseguir la independencia de Cataluña.

Lluís Busom i Femenia

Blog Archive