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SPAIN: The Language Fight

The speed on modern communications is impressive. The newspaper El País published today, March 6, a long and mean interview with Pilar del Castillo, Minister of Education, Culture, and Sports. Miquel Strubell forwarded it to me from Barcelona, and the same day here I am in California, posting this to members of WAIS around the world! Poor King Juan Carlos! Like the opening of parliament speech of the Queen of England, he read a speech which had been prepared by a member of the government (who?), saying that the Spanish language had never been imposed. This was the word that caused an avalanche of protests. It could have been worse. Had he refused to read it or changed it, the extreme left or someone would have charged him with violating the constitution, and the Civil War might have started all over again. Whether he understood what he was reading is irrelevant. When the Queen of England entones "My government will (and then details about legislation)", I often wonder is she has any idea of what it means. The limitations on constitutional monarchs are very real. I remember that in the '30s, Edward,the very popular Prince of Wales and a kind man, went to a Welsh mining town and saw the miserable conditions in which the people lived. He simply said "We must do something about this", and some politicians immediatedly howled that he was interfering in politics.

Poor King Juan Carlos unwittingly got caught in a fight among "intellectuals". In the interview, Pilar del Castillo refused to say who wrote the offending speech, leading to the justified suspicion that she herself did. She has her office in Alcalá de Henares, where the King gave his speech. Obviously some people don't like her. She was an exteme leftist who has become very conservative (but not in her clothes; her picture showed her wearing pants). She was a political scientist, and she larded her remarks with jargon with which she hid her ignorance of the language question.

It seems that Jon Juaristi had been Director of the National Library when she fired him, appointing in his place Luis Racionero, whom his enemies accused of plagiarism. The fact that El País would publish this interview was proof that the newspaper is not among her admirers. It looks as though the dispute was over what Spaniards call an "enchufe" , a nice government job. Behind the "look for the woman" (cherchez la femme, Pilar del Castillo), was a grubbier problem :"Look for the "enchufe". But behind this there was a political fight. She had been in office just a year and she was accused of filling the minstry with extreme rightists (many "enchufes"!). It seems to have had a religious angle too. Luis Racionero was accused of lifting something from a book by Ken Wilber, Science and Religion, which I have been unable to trace. It seems to be well-known among Spanish Catholics. The Royal Spanish Academy of the Language objected to her too. Let us hope that the King is not denounced for a definition in the dictionary. I doubt if he even consults it.

Ronald Hilton - 5/6/01