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SPAIN: Catalonia



Unrest in the Spanish-speaking world has risen sharply in the seventy-odd years I have been studying it. When I travelled through the Basque country in the early 30s, ETA and its terrorism were unknown. When I studied Catalan in Barcelona in 1932, Catalonia was enjoying its autonomy peacefully. In 1944-5 I travelled by land from the US to Argentina, and the only serious unrest I ran into was a revolution in Bolivia. Look at the area now. No one in his right mind would undertake the trip by land.

The case of Catalonia and the Basque provinces is special because the "Europe of regions" encouraged by the EU has given them a hope of being independent within the new Europe. Barcelona is an ancient city which views Madrid as an upstart, and it has a natural resentment against the capital. This is an old story, but now there is a militancy which bodes ill in Catalonia and the Basque provinces. The Spanish government will fight the threat to the unity of Spain, so painfully achieved. A renewal of the civil war is an eventuality which should not be completely excluded.

I receive hysterical and unrealistic messages from young Catalan nationalists, albeit not of the order of the declarations of ETA. I have a bulletin in Catalan from the Pauli Bellet Foundation (he was a Benedictine who lived from 1913-1987), the "Association of Catalan-speakers of the Washington, DC area". It describes itself as a not-for profit organization, which means that it cannot try to influence US policy. I believe the law requires also that it not seek to influence Spanish policy, so it has to be careful. The Catholic Church has promoted Catalan cultural nationalism, but not political violence. The bulletin describes itself as "the voice of the diaspora", a rather dangerous word since come some violent messages I have received use it to imply that Catalans are like the Jews who had no state of their own. The bulletin brings up history (Carlos III and France), but it says "we are not racists". An article on the conquest of Valencia shows that it views Valencia as part of the Catalan domain. It is taken from the history of Catalonia of A. Rovira i Virgili, a fiery historian whose lectures I attended in 1932. Presumably Victor Rovira on the board of the association is a relative of his. A confused polemic is going on with someone called Barrera i Ferrusola, who apparently promotes extreme nationalism. Those interested in the argument going on can consult the internet: www.sola-sole.com.

Ronald Hilton - 12/26/01


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