Noelia Carceller/ María Jesús Cañizares
4 September 2022
Ana Losada (AEB): “This is not about percentages, but about Hispanophobia” The president of the Assembly for a Bilingual School denounces the sectarian attitude of the Government in Catalonia and the pressure on schools to breach the ruling on the 25% of Castilian
The president of the Assembly for a Bilingual School denounces the sectarian attitude of the Government and the pressure on schools to breach the ruling on the 25% of Castilian
She has received threats and insults for defending the linguistic rights of Spanish-speaking pupils. But despite her long legal battle and the loneliness with which she has led this fight alongside other associations, Ana Losada, president of the Assembly for a Bilingual School (AEB), says she has not thought of giving up. In an interview with Crónica Global, she denounces the sectarian attitude of the Government and the pressure from the Ministry of Education of the Generalitat to ensure that schools do not comply with the ruling that requires them to teach 25% of their teaching time in Spanish in Catalonia.
–Question: The schools have already received the order from the Department of Education not to comply with the 25%, not even in those groups where it was already being applied?
–Answer: Court rulings must be complied with, and the conseller has ordered them not to do so. It is very important that the directors know that both the precautionary measures and the firm measures come in the name of the school management, so they are responsible for their application and for not doing so.
–Will the AEB take action if they fail to do so?
–If we detect that they fail to comply, we will inform the High Court of Justice of Catalonia and the person who will be responsible for this will be the director of the centre. Likewise, this decision is based on the impunity of the Government, which stems from a decree and a law that are unconstitutional and against which the Spanish Government has done nothing. This leads to a situation in which the Generalitat shows that there is no pedagogy behind these decisions. This is not about percentages, it is about Hispanophobia. I have no other word to define the actions that have taken place since last year.
–What is the situation of the families who have already been granted 25%?
–On 5 September the school year starts and we will see how this threat materialises. If the schools really listen to the councillor and respond to the pressures of the Department to act illegally. Of course, the AEB will denounce anyone who does not comply with the precautionary measures or sentences.
–What tools do you have to deal with this situation?
–The tools we have are exclusively judicial because we don’t have a government to act. Obviously, the government is against the linguistic rights of some Catalans, especially those whose rights have been recognised by the courts. That is why, on 18 September, a demonstration has been called to say no more to the use of language as a political tool and to the Generalitat’s despotic and sectarian behaviour towards Spanish speakers. We have to go back to the Franco regime to see a situation similar to the current one, of harassment and demolition of the rights of speakers. This shows the state of the rule of law in Catalonia.
–Have you ever met with the Catalan Ministry of Education?
–The conseller has never received us. We asked for an interview with Josep Bargalló and he didn’t receive us. We asked for another one in September last year and they told us that they would tell us something soon. Escuela de Todos was formed in December 2021, we asked for another one with Cambray and Aragonès and it has never been granted. Therefore, there is no dialogue possible with those who do not want to dialogue with those who think differently. For them, we do not exist, we are not a part of society to which they have to give explanations. And when we do exist, we are the enemy and the traitors.
–Will you ask for another meeting?
–We can do it again, but it is not our aim now. Dialogue with someone who has just withdrawn the rights of parents who have fought so hard to achieve it is impossible. Neither he [councillor Josep González Cambray] wants to talk to us, nor would such a meeting be fruitful with this attitude.
–According to the AEB in a recent communiqué, ‘the TSJC has used the defence of the linguistic rights of the Catalans to benefit nationalist interests’. What can be done about this?
–We respect the independence of the courts, although we did not think that they would not apply the 25% ruling, which was so clear, so minimal and so well argued. The TSJC received allegations from the AEB in which we asked it to apply the ruling because this was perfectly valid under the law and the decree. The 25% is a methodology, but Spanish has not ceased to be a vehicular language in Catalonia because there is a law and a decree. Another thing is that the interpretation is trying to block this application. For this reason, we expected the TSJC to be aware that not applying the 25% ruling or taking this decision to the Constitutional Court without protective measures would mean leaving these families helpless.
–And where do we stand now?
–What happened this week [Cambray’s announcement of the end of the 25% ruling] is the result of this limbo in which we find ourselves, waiting for the Constitutional Court to take a position on a law and a decree that block a methodology that had been used until now to apply the ruling. We are also in limbo because the government did not challenge the law. All these circumstances mean that the Generalitat has a free hand to go against Castilian. The TSJC did not listen to our allegations, did not see this situation coming and, furthermore, this week we had requested some allegations and they have also rejected them. What’s more, the Public Prosecutor’s Office has bought these arguments and has supported the fact that there are no precautionary measures. Therefore, we are totally helpless, we have nothing to hold on to in order to ensure that the law is complied with in Catalonia.
–You have sometimes gone to the Ombudsman, who has given you protection. In Catalonia, can the change in the Sindicatura de Greuges be an improvement?
–The new Sindicatura de Greuges, Esther Giménez-Salinas, made some statements in which she spoke against the percentages and said nothing in favour of Spanish-speaking pupils. The 25% ruling states that Castilian must be the vehicular language and that subjects must be taught in Castilian. The Ombudsman supports us, but we would like him to be clearer and more proactive. Because I ask myself: What if we did not exist? We would be in the hands of the parties and political movements. That’s why I would like to have more support from an institution that, in theory, should always be independent and at the service of the citizens.
–Does this fight pay off for you? You have received threats, insults… Have you ever been tempted to throw in the towel?
–I have never thought of giving up. But I have thought, like all of us who are in this, about whether it’s worth it. It hurts a lot to see that nobody helps you. I don’t want to be sad, but we have just enough money to set up the stage and the sound for the demonstration on 18 September. A modest demonstration, because we’re not going to organise something similar to the 8 October, or those organised by Òmnium. We don’t have the money to put ads on the radio or in digital media. We have good contacts with journalists, who give us a voice. When you fight against Goliath, without means, without support from the Spanish government, and you see how some parties treat you as if you were the enemy, how they continually call you a fanatic… it makes you wonder whether this fight will ever result in anything positive.
–But don’t throw in the towel?
–Throw in the towel, of course not. On Thursday I was very discouraged about the 25%, I don’t want to think that my daughter, who has been studying history in Spanish since 2015, won’t be able to next year. But it could happen. I think of all those parents who have stood up and suffered harassment. Each one at their own level. What happened to me has nothing to do with what happened to Balaguer’s mother or Canet’s father. But we have all paid a toll for defending our rights because they were not defended by the right person. This situation makes you angry and you can have a down day, but you come back and say, “they’re not going to be able to beat us”. With my colleagues from Escuela de Todos, who are magnificent, we have been totally active this summer to make the demonstration a success. The support of people who are not in it for the money or to be in the media encourages you to continue. My daughter says to me “please, mum, yes on the radio, no on TV”, because she doesn’t like to be told that they have seen her mother on TV. Fortunately, we are past that period when she was not invited to birthdays, and I had to leave the parents’ whatsapp after receiving some insults. Parents who were silent in the chat later thanked me. That rewards you. One day there will be a documentary about the work of associations, about Asociación por la Tolerancia, for example, which defended our rights when we were not even aware that they were being trampled on.
–Do you fear that the families who defend the 25% may be singled out again and that they will throw in the towel after having tried?
–I’m not saying no. No one has written to me to tell me that. No one has written to me to tell me that, but it would make perfect sense. What do you have to hold on to? Who supports you? We should ask ourselves, how many families have left Catalonia because of the language issue, how many have stopped coming because of the language issue? There are continuous emails and messages from families who tell us that they can’t find any school where their children can study in Spanish. Coming to Catalonia and putting a five-year-old child in a system of immersion has its price, but what if you come with a 14-year-old child and send him to secondary school in a language other than Spanish? They take him out of class and take him to the reception classroom. He is not from Russia, he is from Murcia. And he regresses in his education in the same country where he lived when he was from Asturias or Andalusia. And families who have left. A mother from Guinovart who now lives in Huesca. She was granted 25%, like a father who lived in Llagostera and went to Madrid, but it’s so expensive! We lose professionals who can afford to move, and that suits the Generalitat just fine.
–The Generalitat has always said that Catalan is a social lift, but as it says, only those with resources can send their children to a bilingual or trilingual school.
–What nationalism really achieves is to make people believe that to be Catalan is to be Catalan-speaking. Spanish is a colloquial language, but the language of cultural power is Catalan. The citizens have taken it for granted. You go to the institutions and where is Spanish spoken? How long has it taken for the Parliament to have deputies who speak Spanish? How many deputies who do not have eight Catalan surnames are there in the Parliament? It is normal for parents to think that the social lift is Catalan and that their children will get a job. But the social lift does not only involve learning Catalan, but also succumbing to the nationalist thesis and lowering their heads in the face of all the proclamations they make about language, history, and politics. This continuous victimhood and hatred of the rest of Spain. But it is equality of opportunity that is the social lift and that is not achieved with a language that is damaging the development of pupils. Jorge Calero and Alvaro Choi explained this very well in their report on the PISA results. A pupil who studies mathematics in Spanish, which is his or her mother tongue, will have much better results than pupils who study in Catalan, which is not their mother tongue. It is much easier to understand the content in your mother tongue. It is clear that school failure among Spanish-speaking children is much higher than among Catalan-speaking children. And language is a major factor. It is very serious that children are told from an early age that “Catalan, at school, and Spanish, at home”.
–What feedback have you had from the Catalan parties about the demonstration on 18 September?
–The feedback is very positive about the parties that were predictable. PP, Ciudadanos, Valents and Vox. Their support is sincere and total. We are in constant contact with them, they always lend us a hand when we have problems with permits to set up tents in some town halls. Each one has its own strategy, but they are all in favour of fighting against monolingual schools. They are very close to each other on this. They respect that it is a demonstration organised by civil society, by 15 associations that are part of Escuela de Todos. The leading role belongs to civil society. We do not defend a political position, we defend a civic position and rights for all students. Catalan nationalism accuses us of being Spanish nationalists, but our communications clearly speak of respect for equal rights. Nobody here is against Catalan. Neither are the parties that support us. We would very much like PSC and En Comú Podem to take a different stance. In the case of En Comú Podem, they refused to receive us. In Madrid, Joan Mena told us that he didn’t have to talk to us at all. As for the PSC, it has abandoned the balancing act: it took a photo of itself on the steps of the Parliament and got Cambray to say that the classrooms where Spanish is taught are finished.