17.01.2021 | 00:19
The first person vaccinated in Catalonia against covid-19 is called Josefa Pérez and was born in Galicia. It is not uncommon for this to be the case. More than half of the Catalan population has roots in areas of Extremadura, Asturias and Andalusia. In a continent inhabited in a way that Tony Judt called ‘edge people’, people who are within the boundaries of various communities, it is difficult to find a territory where identities are not a complex, multiple construction that mixes and merges diverse origins.
In recent years, part of Catalonia has lived behind this reality. The most intolerant face of this sector emerged to bitterly criticize that the first person vaccinated in Catalonia did not have Catalan names or speak in Catalan, in an exclusionary imaginary that only contemplates a way of being Catalan. The same imaginary that decided that our public television could not open the Telenotícies on the day of the death of Juan Marsé with this news, relegating it to the last place of the information and juggling not to describe him as what he certainly was, a Catalan writer.
What does it mean to be Catalan? It is something about which the CEO, the Center for Opinion Studies of the Generalitat, periodically interrogates the public. The specific question it asks is what circumstances are important to be a true Catalan. Among the options offered to respondents are being born in Catalonia, speaking Catalan, sharing local customs and traditions and being a Catholic. A puzzling approach. If there are true Catalans, are there false Catalans? Since when is it necessary to embrace Catholicism to be Catalan? In which category are people who meet these criteria but add others? For example, the sons or daughters of people who have grown up here, speak Catalan, have assimilated local customs and traditions but also feel like those of Galicia or Andalusia. What about people from even more distant places like China, Pakistan, Africa, or Latin America?
Catalonia has been trapped for years in a mental framework that does not correspond to the complexity of the 21st century. Pro-independence sectors have led a part of the population to believe that it was possible to isolate themselves, to raise borders in a world where globalization has almost diluted them. The advent of covid-19 has made it even more apparent that nation states based on cultural, linguistic, and ethnic uniformity are not viable in a world that increasingly resembles a village. A world that needs global cooperation and governance, that is, federalism, to address the great challenges of humanity such as inequality, climate change, poverty or pandemics.
In his magnificent book The Danube, Claudio Magris makes a drawing of how in the middle of the twentieth century it was impossible to put a border in Europe without separating people who shared an ethnicity, a culture and a language. He reminded us that belonging to various communities where loyalties and roots are mixed is not a problem but a collective enrichment.
It is not normal to question the name and place of birth of the first person vaccinated in Catalonia. The normal should be to rejoice and get excited, but without any caveats, with the image of an elderly woman clapping from the wheelchair because we began to regain hope after the worst year of our lives.