Andreu Claret Thursday 13/08/2020
Replica of the painting ‘L’Onze of September 1714’ by the artist Antoni Estruch, at the entrance of the Casa Museu by Rafael Casanova, in Moia. DANNY CAMINAL
Such is the culture of defeat that nests in many Catalans that when Ronald Koeman scored Wembley’s goal the sense of relief was renewed until 1714. With that goal, Bara won their first Champions League. It was the year of another great victory for Barcelona and for Catalonia, that of the celebration of an Olympic Games that transformed the city and put us on the map of the world. 92 was a year of victories, not just in football. However, the most commonly remembered is that of Koeman’s goal with Barça he re-engendered a historical wound, that of Madrid’s six cups won during Franco’s rule. A quarter of a century later, the unrest has taken over Catalan society again. As if four more Leagues were not a feat, as if being one of the regions Europe where you live best not relevant. Again the feeling of defeat.
Catalonia has cultivated defeats more passionately than victories. We celebrate the Day on 9/11 to commemorate the date canonized as the mother of all of them: 1714. We could celebrate the constitution of the Commonwealth that brought both catalans of the early twentieth century, or on April 14, which also brought change and hope for Catalan society. If we wanted something more ‘very own’, we could celebrate the Battle of Montjuic in 1641, when the Catalan troops, with the help of the French cavalry, forced those of Philip IV to retreat to Tarragona. We could also recall the adoption of the Estatut of Núria, which was granted to us for the first time by a government and parliament of its own. Or the Estatut of Sau, which provided us with the highest quotas for self-government in our history. Nothing. We prefer the date that marks the fall of Barcelona at the hands of Felipe ‘el Animoso’.
Much has been written about this Catalan idiosyncrasies and Manuel Vázquez Montalbán was among the first to identify it with the suffering “culé” (Barcelona team’s supporters). A being “punished by history”, who hopes to find “in the survival of Barca one of the few saves of the shipwreck”. It was he who defined Football Club Barcelona as “the only legal institution that binds the man of the street with the Catalonia that it may have been, and it was not”. This is, with a dream. Not as an entity that confirms our ability to add victories, but as the place where we compensate for humiliation.
What could have been and was not
The historical defeats have been fixed in the Catalan imaginary because they have been absolute, scary. Starting with the most categorical of all, that of February 10, 1939, when General Yaguee’s troops arrived at the Pertús. On the contrary, victories remain diffuse in our collective memories. Perhaps because victories are not usually absolute, they are always relative. The two statutes, the Commonwealth or the four recent decades of self-government that have brought the greatest prosperity in our history. As Vázquez Montalbán said, there is always a Catalonia that could have been and was not, that of Francesc Macià or Lluís Companys. These are the ones that today provoke passions among the independentists, not those of Enric Prat de la Riba or Josep Puig i Cadafalch, or even that of Jordi Pujol (I mean his work, not the shames of his governments and his family).
The dream Catalonia that never became remains the one that animates today the illusions of half of the country. Not the one who has left its mark on government works that brought prosperity. Macià died without seeing his separatist dream fulfilled. Companys was shot by Franco for defending a free Catalonia within a federal Spain. Heroic defeats that we honor every year with floral offerings. It doesn’t matter about Barcelona ’92. Or that Prat de la Riba did more than anyone else, in five years, so that Catalonia would be equipped with the advanced nations of Europe, modernizing the economy, infrastructure and agriculture, and erecting schools for all. A great victory, which no one celebrates.
We are a country of defeats nailed to the soul and forgotten victories. And this condition prevents us from remembering a lesson from history: the living conditions of most often improve with small victories – those that are woven by negotiating, according, without heroics – and often stagnate when frustrations accumulate. Leaving dates for nostalgia for what might have been. Like October 1st. It’s happened to us again. Anyway, if Messi wins the sixth Champions League Cup, nobody can take away the good times we have had!