by Anna Grau 13/05/2020 originally published in Spanish:
– So much complaining about Franco, so much complaining about Franco… If you behave, nothing will happen to you…
This is my father finishing dinner. My mother peels an orange and is silent. How old would I be then, seven years old? I know I was eight when Franco began to die. On TV they began to ask every night that Spain pray for him. Praying was not bad for me, since I was a child in bed with my mother: an Our Father, a Hail Mary and the prayer of the Guardian Angel. Everything in Catalan, of course.
There was a brief and sudden period when I prayed in Spanish. Or in what I understood by Spanish the first time I came into massive contact with this language. I was three years old and in a curious immigration anomaly my very Catalan middle-class family (dad + mom + me) had moved from Barcelona to Granada. We didn’t hold out much there. As long as it took my father to enter the door of my room one night, when my mother was putting me to bed, and realize how his daughter was praying:
. —Our Father who art on heaven…(Strong andalusian accent)
I swear they haven’t told me. Heard it myself. I heard the following exchange between my parents:
—Teresa, we have to return to Catalonia before the baby marries an Andalusian…
—Man, the baby is only four years old…
—We’ve got to come back! Now!
Let it be. That is to say: we left. Not as fast as my father would have liked, but it was in time for the death of the Caudillo to catch us on less hostile land. In the municipal district of Mataró. It was there that, after listening to the Spanish anthem on TV and seeing the test card on the screen, I started, in turn, announcing that I was going to pray that night so that Franco would not die.
“Well, you will do very well, because many people who boast that they are going to do it, then do not do it at all…”, my father assured me, without messing up in the least. And of course without turning into Spanish. It is me who for convenience abandon subtitles to go direct to the dubbed version.
Today my father lives in a semi-detached house where several stellar banners of arch-natural size roam and wave, a huge yellow luminous sign with the legend “Free political prisoners”, which was sold with great success by a chain of Catalan supermarkets, and even a few handmade signs where things like “Espanya, que et bombin” (Spain, let them fuck you) can be read. After many, many, many years, voting for Jordi Pujol and even having a card of the party founded by him, my father is deeply convinced that he is an independentist. Even more: he believes that there will be a Catalan Republic, there will be one … That unfortunately he does not live to see it (he is 82 years old) is nothing to do with the fact that this is inescapable.
National Movement for all seasons
Is it the same to be deeply convinced of being an independentist as to be a real one? Was my father deeply pro-Franco in the mid-1970s, when he praised “behaving” at the dinner table as the best way to manage a dictatorship, or when he encouraged me to pray for the dictator’s health? Neither. I think my father was one of so many Spaniards (including so many Catalans …) who let and still let themselves be dragged along in good faith by the National Movement of every moment.
Let’s take a look at the electoral dance card of my extreme Catalan middle-class family in those first crazy years of democracy. My mother voted in quick succession for Adolfo Suárez and Felipe González. She never hid that she voted for them because of their good looks. My father threatened to vote for Manuel Fraga. My mother threatened to send him to sleep on the sofa. So my father quickly changed his vote. Everything was new, everything was possible, everything was so volatile… until Pujol arrived. My mother voted for him from the beginning until death (hers, in 2004). My father continues to vote for them, although lately they are a bit like the pink panther, mutating from one acronym to another until the party’s name and objectives are indecipherable. By the enemy, of course; but by the voter too.
What did Jordi Pujol have that others didn’t? Well, the first thing is that to be Catalan you didn’t have to study. It was not required to cram tomes like The Capital or to accredit this or that anti-Franco pedigree or anti-this or against-that. If you press me, there was no need to take sides at all. Pujol was highly careful about this. He designed a Catalanism with such a pharaonic absence of qualms that in practice anyone could join. A low cost Renaixença? Those who kept and keep convinced that the driving force behind all this is the happy Catalan bourgeoisie, the one that in the novels of Juan Marsé plays the same role as the Civil Guard in the poems of Federico García Lorca and the Nazis in the films of Spielberg, please take note of the war cry with which Pujol had in his pocket for decades not only my parents, but also the parents of anyone who passed by and would like to prosper: “Catalan is everyone who lives and works in Catalonia … and wants to be such».
The italics are mine and the tagline is serious. Let’s go step by step, like Jaume I El Conqueridor: yes, curiously and against what is usually taken for granted, Pujol laid the foundations of his political empire having more against than in favor of the ruling Catalan bourgeoisie before his own arrival (and to which he did not belong, neither by caste nor by fortune, which in the long run will explain many things …), his other great enemy, his brown beast, was the left. Now it seems very normal to be left-wing and nationalist, or at least to be left-wing and flirt with the latter. But for a good handful of decades (from the first democratic elections to well into the leap of the millennium), in Catalonia one was either with the invertebrate, small-town and Carlist-like right of the CiU, or one was with the red, divine and metropolitan belt of the PSC. At last!.
“Catalan is anyone who lives and works in Catalonia … and wants to be such
Certainly, there existed since 1931 the experiment or monstrosity, as you might want to consider it, of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, the party of Francesc Macià and Lluís Companys. Also, in the end, of Josep Tarradellas, which represents a qualitative and evolutionary leap comparable to that of the Man from Cro-Magnon stepping on the Moon. It also gives the measure of the great belly flop the radical left, gunman, pro-civil war, and Orwellian had obtained in Catalonia around the corner from democracy: in the 1979 municipal elections they still saved some furniture (few …), but from the autonomic ones of 1981 four cats voted them and sometimes only three. Or two. So much legend for nothing. The PSUC itself, a hard forge of heroes, nest of the anti-Franco cuckoo where elite eggs from almost all other parties were hatched, was reduced to a surprising insignificance in the 80s beyond the occasional charismatic mayor. I reiterate, after forty years of dictatorship, Catalonia plunged into forty years of drastic duopoly. Montescos against Capulets, botiguers (shopkeepers) against Olympians. CiU versus PSC.
Racial versus ideological? It is possible, given the evolution of the Catalan political ecosystem, given that Freudian joy with which the right or even fascism are classified as strictly endemic species of the rest of the Iberian peninsula, unable to survive on the good side of the Ebro, that above this fluffy mental pie, the only ideology available to the common Catalan mortals is to declare themselves more or less on the left. Everything else would be anti-Darwinian. And a recklessness.
Ah, but whatever the political scientists, the experts in public surveys, many journalists and other bloodsuckers of the published unreality (in deaf conflict with the real but un-nameable …) say, ideology is an anecdote. This is so. Ideas obsess very few people very much. They will be as decisive and dangerous as you want, but that is another matter. Going to today: ideas constitute a very small part, a tiny part, almost microscopic, of the operational priorities of the common people. Let us not say their desire for coherence. If you can be an atheist and celebrate Christmas, why can’t you vote the first thing that comes to mind? Wasn’t that precisely democracy?
Do like Franco and like Pujol: don’t get involved in politics
It is possible that Pujol’s greatest genius, an explanation of his early electoral victory against the grain of what everyone expected, as well as his long adherence to power, was how easy and relaxed was to vote for him without getting into politics. Like Franco, are we realizing it?
“Behaving” under Franco, and being a Catalanist with Pujol, was the easiest thing in the world. Opium for the people, they say. Since when do the people, any people, need opium to fall asleep politically? With a cheap cigarette it will be enough. It is not necessary to reach the dictatorship, nor the tyranny, it is enough to do a few stretches of hyper leadership to verify that the gregarious comfort, the warmth of the tribe and of custom, the belonging without frights, the security without challenges, attract support incomparably more solid and durable (immortal props, I’d say) than this or that groundbreaking idea. There are very few or none of the Ibsenian Enemies of the people. I insist, it is not that the majority is more or less deceived. It is that what nobody wants in any way is to be disappointed alone.
That being right is secondary has its advantages. It is not always a bad thing that the family, the tribe and their values go on the one side and politics on the other. Sometimes it is in fact trying to match everything one hundred percent which causes terrifying chain reactions. Who knows if quantum theory was not invented to help us out on these issues.Perhaps the ability of Schrödinger’s cat to be alive and dead at the same time helps us to have the universe at peace.
Spain resisted forty years of Francoism increasingly costumbrist, possibilist, developmentalist and, in the end, with vital signs to a minimum and nothing more than waiting for the “biological fact” … Would it have endured the same period of rampant and ardent Phalangism? Look at what has happened in Catalonia when the heirs of Pujol have decided to transfer all their tribal codes to politics. Literally and seriously. Well, then, everything that was to provide facilities, everything that was to integrate, accommodate and negotiate, validating almost any way of being Catalan, celebrating any advance at an ant’s pace (how much does it matter to look like an insect in Madrid, if in Barcelona you feel like an elephant? …), well, all this game of transcendent but innocuous misunderstandings is what has gone to the horn, and not exactly of plenty. Where we had peix al cove (bird in hand) we now have a nuclear mushroom.
More pro-independence than Catalans
It is a shame that now they “allow you” to be an independentist without needing to be Catalan, but hey! do not consider you Catalan enough if you are not anti-Spanish. I suppose I was always an unorthodox Catalanist because, to start with, the territory made no difference to me. I am ethnically very frigid, seriously. It will be because at the age of 8 I had already resided in five different cities (one of them in the Andalusian outer space …), with the consequent changes of house, school, friends, etc. My childhood are not memories of any patio in Seville, but neither of the Ramblas in Barcelona. My blue days are an ungraspable glow. A time not anchored with certainty anywhere. If my parents languished in their respective home towns, especially my mother, who never took comfort in leaving behind the mythical 18th century farmhouse in which she had been born, I, with so much movement, fickleness and bustle, turned to be enormously nomadic. My ideal state is to be in transit. Madrid is the city where I have lived the longest, the only one that has made me cry with nostalgia when I walk away. Still, my hands wouldn’t shiver if I had to start a new life in Australia or Singapore tomorrow.
Already as a child I was aware that as a Catalan daddy’s girl I was a disaster. I don’t reach the type. Neither physical nor, much less, psychological: I don’t look much at the coin, nor has the coin ever looked much at me, I cordially detest sardana, l’escudella barrejada (Catalan stew) and Estrella beer, Romanesque art and Catalan cream saturates me right away … Above all, I am saturated by that most Catalan tendency to be indisputably the most beautiful, the cleanest, the most laborious, the most enterprising, in short, too much indeed!. Nobody can tell us anything. And even less after so many years of misunderstanding and persecution, of ignominious humiliation of the only truly original and interesting thing that we have. Our own language, Catalan and martyr.
Stop!, here come the dragons , as it was said in the ancient maps. Here begins the unknown terrain of a wild side Catalanism like mine (and that of many others swallowing the bitter draught and grinning and bearing it in frightful silence, almost internal exile …) that nobody understands. Or that few want to understand. Because you have to trepan the hard bone of ideology and peek into the helpless viscerality of the human.
There are people who speak a single language, their own, like someone who opens his mouth to drink water
Let’s start with the most basic. There are people who speak a single language, their own, like someone who opens her mouth to drink water. Because it is normal. Because even if they learn a quarter and a half of English or French, German or Chinese when they grow up, it never occurs to them that they could ever be anything more than sophisticated complements – like a nice Louis Vuitton toiletry bag – of the main, warm and obvious language, in whose womb they have grown without missing anything. Without wondering if there are, or why, alternatives to saying bread and wine, I can write the saddest verses tonight or at six-fifteen I have an appointment with the gynecologist.
And then there are other people who have not been adding languages throughout their lives – and sometimes also – but who were directly born into a forked world. A world with words back and forth and even with a boomerang effect. Viewed from the outside, and from as far as possible, linguistic diversity presents itself and always wants to be appreciated as an immense wealth. Seen up close and from the inside it is completely another song. In confidence, and now that no one hears us: only four hallucinated, cultural masochistic, are attracted by the cruel and inusual punishment of dealing with a foreign language from the beginning and as hard as if it were their own, and having to sweat it and endure it and understand it at all times in addition. Inevitably, stomping from one language to another, naïve and less naïve misunderstandings, slips of meaning and dignity happen. Hierarchies, annoyances, shocks arise…
Bilingualism does not make prisoners
In short, bilingualism is an infinite trench, in which prisoners are never taken, nor is peace signed. For every bilingual in good heart and in good faith, there are one hundred resentful or revengeful. Abusers of the foreign language (or not so much) who always have some good excuse to act like this. The ugly Francoist pushing aside of any language other than Spanish has served as an inexhaustible dynamo for the famous linguistic immersion in Catalan schools (and increasingly in the Catalan media …), which although it could have its meaning there in the 1980s -when the predominance of Spanish in all official spheres was overwhelming-, today it is nothing more than … well that, Franco’s boomerang, less and less distinguishable from the original … It is increasingly difficult to differentiate Jekyll from Hyde …
I did love, loved, still love, the Catalan language almost above all things. Saying that a writer’s homeland is their language sounds stiflingly corny but sometimes it’s true. The closest thing I have ever had, not to a homeland, but to a portable home, is the language in which I speak, read, write, am…For many years I did not consider that this could be other than Catalan, my mother tongue. No matter how well and very pleased I was in using other languages, starting with Spanish.
At 25 years old I was an educated person, almost cultured, who could spend weeks, maybe even whole months without having to use Spanish in a merely passive way (let’s say watching the TV news, browsing the national press …) or strictly literary (I always read Spanish literature with true devotion; we will return to this because it is important). For the rest, my family was Catalan from head to toe, my partner and almost all my friends too, I had started working in a pure Catalan newspaper, the Avui …
A first warning is that it has cost so much the presence of bilingual media in Catalonia. That there are still none. If some newspapers historically in Spanish (La Vanguardia, El Periódico de Cataluña …) have ended up endowing themselves with a Catalan edition or version, it is not for any love of normality. It happens that the savage crisis of the press has turned the media into aggressive junkies of public subsidy, and that in Catalonia there are no other public subsidies than those given to the press for being in Catalan or for being Catalanized; significantly and unfortunately no one has thought to subsidize a medium in Catalan so that it is ALSO in Spanish.
Right at the beginning of my journalistic career I knew the exception that confirms the rule, the only truly bilingual media case where I have stamped my pen and my signature: the Diari de Sabadell. Sabadell is the fifth municipality in Catalonia, with more than 200,000 inhabitants, with its own El Corte Inglés store and with an economic activity that surpasses that of many provincial capitals. In its good times, the volume of publicity that entered in great quantities in the local newspaper made it one of the most profitable in all of Spain. It was the pre-Internet times, when you really had to read the newspaper to learn about many things, from the movie billboard, to begin with. When I started at the Diari de Sabadell (being a freshwoman in Information Science), I was the only female in the entire newsroom (minus a nonagenarian opera reviewer), articles were still typed and in the same page could alternate pieces in Spanish and Catalan and even in different letter bodies. The director (ex-Falangist and ex-teacher of Spanish literature) and the editor-in-chief (Catalanist, progressive, uncle of a future mayor who years later would threaten to remove the poet Antonio Machado from the municipal street map for being “españolazo” … although at the last minute he rectified) they put everything together as a kind of everyday puzzle. It was taken for granted that the most cultural information had to be in Catalan, the incidents instead always in Spanish, etc. It was a cohabitation for around the house.
This is the only case I have ever known. Furthermore, Catalan society is not bilingual: it is or pretends to be bicultural. An increasingly dense iron curtain separated and separates the different artistic, journalistic, literary manifestations, etc. Occasionally you can laugh at the grace of Rosalía for starting to sing a song in Catañol … But, alas, if the same had ever occurred to La Caballé! The higher you climb the cultural and social pyramid, the stiffer the paradigm. Catalan writers in Spanish are denied Catalanity, for the same reasons that not so long ago Catalan writers in Catalan were denied any hint of modernity or even interest … We were all supposed to be a horde of crybabies and peasants …
I still came to suffer in my own flesh that modern and exaggeratedly charming people who wrote in Spanish-language newspapers looked down on me, for writing in Catalan… Now that some of those people have become, for example, a CUP leader (sic), the reason for looking badly at me is “having sold myself to Madrid’s gold”. Just to have switched to Spanish!.
From my mother tongue to my father tongue
Which is true, of course; I did it. I crossed over. I was a journalist and writer mostly in Catalan since I was born until I was in my 30s. At 35, I had already made the transcendent and conscious decision to shift the literary centrality of my life from Catalan to Spanish. From my mother tongue to my father tongue, I like to call them that.
Why? Contrary to what the Procés propaganda says, doing this does not exactly makes you earn a lot of money. Rather, you lose it, and so much. It has been a while since the Catalan separatist government and all its terminals generously anoint anyone who goes from Spanish, English, Chinese, German or even from Viking to Catalan. Erasmus hustlers, globetrotters in distress, journalists and politicians already evicted in the rest of Spain, pseudo-intellectuals down at heel and even magistrates emeritus and maybe a little loopy have come across an unexpected and very well endowed Marshall Plan in charge of the Catalan public treasury, only by willing to appear every day on TV3 and related media to say that Spain is a fascist, repressive and unlivable State, with Catalonia as the only lifeguard of liberties. If they don’t even know how to say it in Catalan, they will put the earpiece and subtitles on them.
A bilingual writer has at least two homelands and, as little as she is well bred, she does not allow herself to be taken away from any of them
In the meantime, outside of Catalonia … well, it does not occur to anyone, nor does it occur to them, to gild any Catalan who take the risks in favor of the Spanish language. Or the simple bilingual reality. Such a feat is done for free, losing friends and jobs and amid the utmost cultural and institutional indifference. The incentive is zero or, worse still, the opposite is encouraged. It will seem incredible but the idea that not a few media and cultural managers (especially from Madrid and Andalusia, what a coincidence …) have to promote plurality is to open wide the doors of their televisions, public networks of theaters, festivals, etc. to Catalan communicators and creators who, trained since childhood to hunt for subsidies like a scalp hunter, leave no stone unturned or canonry unoccupied. And on the first occasion they resign calling you a fascist to return to Barcelona with the pocket full, the independist hymen intact and of course no intention of reciprocating by inviting anyone from abroad to release anything in Spanish in Catalonia. Who would think about it. Lest it will happen to them like to Albert Boadella, whose cypresses in the garden of his farmhouse are even cut… so that he learns to be a barbarian like the others.
It is unpleasant to descend to this level of detail. But how can we scare off such toxic propaganda, and, feeling it very much, how to awaken such immeasurable carelessness and stupidity on the part of who should be the custodians of the agora? I could fill innumerable pages, offer countless painful experiences, personal and professional, to try to explain why I fled not from Catalonia, which is my land wherever I am, not from Catalan, which would continue to be my mother tongue, even if I became mute and deaf like the girl of the miracle of Anna Sullivan, but of the Catalan culture, yes, as it is raised today: as a mixture of calçotada (spring onions for lunch at the countryside) and concentration camp.
Embarrassment for others is harsh but embarrassment for yourself hurts more. In the 1990s I endured lots of trouble and not a little sectarianism from many triumphant progressives who laughed at Catalanism (that is, about me …) considering it a backwardness. Now that these triumphant progressives have mutated into independentist winners (the grapevine climbs, neither is created nor destroyed, it only transforms itself …), it is logical that we collide again as in Star Wars. It seems that it is the opposite of before, but it is the same. It is the same as always. And whatever the plot of the play, the underlying theme, the final conflict, is always the same. If it is more important to be OK with the empire … or that the force be with you. Mark the tribe’s passage or resist.
Let me also tell you that although from the Enlightenment it is slightly frowned upon, I consider the reasons of the heart as much or more valid than the others to stand up. Do you remember the “Spain and I are like this, lady” of Captain Diego Acuña de Carvajal? Do you remember the poem Vencidos by León Felipe, and Serrat’s version? I told you before that Catalan is my mother tongue. I told you that Spanish is my father language. A language from which hangs one of the greatest literatures in the world, the one at my bedside for many years. Do you remember that gossip that a writer’s homeland is his language? Well, a bilingual writer has at least two homelands and, as soon as he is well-bred, he does not allow himself to be taken away of any of them. I, who have knocked and knock myself with whoever it takes just to be able to speak and write freely in Catalan, I am not going to knock myself less so that I can be equally proud to do it in Spanish. I feel true compassion for so many inhabitants of Catalonia to whom the National Movement on duty (Franco or independist, it does not matter to me …) has taken from their hearts, by subsidy or by force, an entire language and culture. They can rip me out of everything but that. It is possible that I, in the middle of Franco’s regime, would have ended up in prison for the same reason that now some minions of separatism are seeking my civil death. Catalonia and I are like this, Madam …
Watching the bomb fall from the box seat
We are coming to the final stretch. I would like to tell you about something that I experienced in 2003 (the year of the Tinell pact …), and that I have always remembered as my great epiphany moment. My fall from the horse. The day that ended five years of Catalanism more or less placid and happy. The day I first sensed a possible Catalan Leviathan.
It was at the Liceu. I was so happy sitting in a box seat in the big theater, attending a concert organized on the occasion of I don’t know what anniversary of Catalunya Ràdio. By then I had already been in Madrid for 5 years, but I had been a delegate of the Avui newspaper in the place and an assiduous collaborator of a lot of public and private media, Catalan and Catalanists. I have never been better paid in my life. That was indeed Moscow’s gold, that of the Rhine and that of the Incas, all together … what if I manage to do it not in good faith but calculatedly; what if I knowingly sell myself…
That had never happened but it could have happened that afternoon. I, I insist, had already been in Madrid for 5 years and was beginning to be aware of some ethical leaks that appeared here and there to the Catalan establishment. But I was still optimistic and forgiving of my childhood tribe. That childish fear of my father that I could end up marrying an Andalusian still made me laugh.
I have never dared so much. But I did dare to marry and even to have a daughter with a man from Madrid. That man from Madrid was sitting next to me on the fateful afternoon of the concert at the Liceu. We had just started dating. We were at the sweet dawn of our courtship, and that brand-new invitation to a seat box at the Liceu had come in very handy to me to impress my boyfriend with everything I thought I was: charming, cosmopolitan, sophisticated … An Audrey Hepburn à la Catalan, so fine myself as opposed to the pure blood girls in traditional dress to whom he would surely be accustomed…
I said to him: “You will see what a dream weekend, honey, I will take you to my favorite places in Barcelona; we will go to Ca l’Isidre and Boadas and have chocolate in Escrivá … and get handsome for the Liceu!” When I got there, I visually swept the entire perimeter in a second (professional deformation) and on the one hand I was very pleased, although I was also a little worried, to see that there was no room for another Catalan VIP. All who were something were there and all who were there were something. The main level of communication and culture and even sport, it would be enough saying that the then president of Barça sat right at the vertex, in the yolk of the egg of the central and main seat box … And we are not talking about any president of Barça, listen, but from Joan (Jan for friends) Laporta, who had reached the top of the Barça curia after busting a few lame horses of the independence movement, embarking on adventures and political candidacies each time more outlandish and bizarre …
Well, unavailable to discouragement, Laporta goes and gets up there in the middle of the Liceu, offers a harangue of the type he was used to and ends in this way: «And now I am going to ask us to stand up to sing Els Segadors all together». In Catalan, of course. I simultaneously and quickly translated for my boyfriend: “He says that Els Segadors, which is the official hymn of Catalonia, is going to be sung now”. “I don’t know it”, my boyfriend warned me seriously. “Don’t worry, everything is under control, it is also what always happens, some will get up to sing, others will sing sitting down, others will stay reading the program or looking at the ceiling …”. New interruption of the boyfriend: “I don’t plan to get up to sing anything”. And I, bursting with laughter: «I tell you that not even half a theater is going to get up, this never happens … and don’t fear, I am sitting here with you».
What would not be my surprise when I realized how much things had changed in the five years I had been away. The entire theater raised thunderously, overwhelmingly. As a single man, as a single woman, as everything together. All of them with their hands on their chests, singing at the top of their lungs and even disciplinedly tilting their faces towards the Laporta seat box, like hyenas parading before the scheming brother of The Lion King.
I had never seen anything like it outside of the movies. I did not expect it and I was scared. I clearly remember the cold, rather icy sweat that ran down my flirtatiously naked back when I realized in a flash that my boyfriend and I were literally the only two people who sat in the entire Gran Teatre del Liceu. And in the first row of the seat box, to cap it all.
The second thing I realized at lightning speed was that they could be there, looking at me and taking note, all the bosses and chiefs, all the directors and deputy directors, not just of my newspaper but of all the other Catalan and Catalanist media for whom I then worked. And where until then I had worked without more friction or more job risks than normal, without wondering that I could have a problem if one day, for whatever reason, when saying what I thought —as always—, for whatever reason, what I thought stopped appealing to them …
It was only a tiny moment of vertigo. But so overwhelming and so precise, as well as unexpected and surprising, that I am not ashamed to say that if I had got to be alone, I almost certainly would have get up too. If I wouldn’t have had my boyfriend from Madrid sitting next to me, who in the most unexpected way built for me the fourth wall of consciousness, a mirror of Alicia or Snow White, what do I know… The thing is that although I didn’t know by then, my whole life and my future were going to be decided in seconds. I had to choose very quickly if I would sit with my boyfriend, as I had just promised to do, or if I would get up, not even out of true warrior ardor, but because of not signifying myself. I had to look inside my heart at the speed of light. And see what I was to find in there.
I did not stand up. I remained seated. Trembling with fear for the first time. Of fear of mine. Of the immense gap that could be opened and of everything that could happen. Of the high professional, social, human, sentimental price, etc., that I would have to pay for that act, I will not even say of dignity or pride. Of candor? I really did what I did because I don’t know how to do things any other way. As much as the consequences frighten me. I don’t know how to be better, but neither to be worse than what I am. Not even willing it.
As the ellipsis and fades to black in life are quite longer than in the movies, it still took a long time before my personal “bomb” at the Liceu exploded. My divorce from the unique Catalan thought, increasingly aggressive and separatist, not only eager to break with the rest of Spain but with Catalonia itself, with the real Catalonia that simply does not jump through the hoops of so much patriotic simplification, has been stubborn and very painful. In 2005 I followed the man from Madrid to New York, from where I returned in 2011. I had gone professionally in Catalan, as editor of Avui on leave of absence, and I returned in Spanish, as an ABC correspondent. It is said soon. Along the way there lay abandoned many annoyances, clashes, purges, censures, disappointments, injuries … loneliness.
Are the Spaniards from Mars and the Catalans from Venus?
How and when the entanglement went to hell. We would be happy for Ortega y Gasset if he raised his head. Do you remember when he warned that the problem between Catalonia and Spain cannot be solved, it can only be endured? Since then, it seems that progress has been rapid: we are getting worse and worse at each other. And the others at one. Because, let’s say it all, the Catalan problem is just a thorn … And the Spanish, too.
Today I live, work and write all this in Madrid. Although whenever I think I am needed in Catalonia, I go. Politically and culturally I have mobilized and I mobilize everything I can for plurality, dignity and freedom for all. I passionately documented this effort in the book Are the Spaniards from Mars and the Catalans from Venus ?, published five years ago and which is much more current than I would like.
There are exciting moments. And there are moments of great disappointment. There are times when you wish that at least some of your friends were as effectively fanatics as your enemies. Moments when you want the silent majority to raise their voices a little more. Or that the Spain that belongs to everyone remembers more often that it is also ours. Of the Catalans who have not gone mad with hatred against ourselves, or against others. At what point did to be normal become so arduous, so ungrateful?
I’m leaving it for today. There are days when this is beyond me. Let me confess something here and now that I have never confessed before: sometimes, when I see images of the famous prisoners of October 1, the self-proclaimed “political prisoners”, and that it is true that they have been in preventive detention much longer than it would have been smart or reasonable (but that is a black hole that affects the entire Spanish criminal system, not only them …), well, pay attention to what I say: sometimes I have discovered myself thinking that they are surely happier inside the prison than I was outside. Because they have or believe to have the inflamed love of a few hundred thousands whom they have convinced to be a whole people. The only possible people.
There are days that make you want to let them make up for it with their damn infected thermal waters. Days when being Doctor Stockmann tires. It exhausts. It wears out. Does it compensate? What difference does it make that you’re right if you don’t have the power?! », his wife shouted hysterically to the Doctor, to the protagonist of An Enemy of the People of Ibsen. I wish it was just about having or not having power. I wish they didn’t try to snatch you much more. The heat of the days. The salt of the earth. The peace of affections.
Someone with whom I commented that I was going to write this article asked me if I was really going to dare to undress not only my ideas, but my most intimate feelings on this subject. If I really was going to reveal so much tear.
To that person I said the same thing that I now say to you, with the greatest humility, and please understand it this way: I do not know how to be better than I am, but not worse. I am still that woman of apparent determination with a girl dead of fear inside sitting in the first row of a seat box at the Liceu. Scared to death and bathed in invisible but burning tears.
Forgive me if I didn’t get up then and still remain seated today.
Long live the Inseparable Catalonia.