14 d’agost 2007

The Catalonians by Bart Kennedy

Below you can read what Bart Kennedy published on Thursday, September 30, 1909 in The New Age, a weekly review of politics, literature and arts, under the title The Catalonians. This article appeared a month after the famous bloody confrontations called the Tragic Week of Barcelona.

The Tragic Week in Barcelona, 1909

His point of view about the way Andalusians or Catalans are is funny and simple at the same time, but although it is a trace made with a thick brush it is a part of the reality also. He came to the logic conclusion: Catalans are not Spaniards and the best solution to the troubles of Spain is that Catalans become a separate State. He was completely right: the tempestuous relationship between Spaniards and Catalans will last to the end of times if they go on living together. He somehow foresaw what really happened the next years. In 1923 Spain became a dictatorial system where Catalanism was forbidden and our language, culture and history repressed. But the worse was about to happen. In 1936 the fascists and the Spanish ultra-national-catholics joined to destroy the Republic proclaimed in 1931. One of the reasons was what they called separatism and the Catalan secessionists. From 1939 and during nearly 40 years, the Spanish democrats were repressed for their ideas. The Catalan democrats were repressed for their ideas and for their national reality: Catalans. So the first ones to know that Spaniards and Catalans are not the same are those who violently deny this difference. Those who say Catalans are just Spaniards and nothing else and the only true nation is Spain are the ones who know better that we are not the same and our nations are different. They go on denying it because they know that if one day they accept the truth Spain will change and even disappear. The higher they shout the word Spain, the bigger they write Spain in their flags the weaker their arguments for justifying a united Spain are. Even nowadays they say we are all Spanish people but they treat us as a colony: they take our resources and give us the leftovers mixed with the contempt and humilliating insults from the Spanish media. Like the jews in medieval times, Catalans are the origin of all evil and troubles in Spain. So they are the first ones to treat us as non-Spanish people but a colony with no identity. Shame on Spain.

The Catalonians
By Bart Kennedy

The trouble in Spain is racial. The Catalonians are utterly different from any other Spanish people. The Andalusian and the Catalan are at opposite poles. And the Castilians -the men of the centre of Spain- and the Basques are also very different from the turbulent, energetic Catalonians. The language of the Catalonian is also different from the true Spanish -the Castilian. As I tramped through the mountains to the north-east, on my way to Saragossa, this was borne in upon me. I had to revise my stock of Spanish words. Veinte (twenty) transformed itself into "bin" Cinco (five) was "sin" Ochenta (eighty) was "weetantey" And there were other differences of a radical and puzzling nature. And the accent of the people was distinctly Gaelic. Imagine Gaelic spoken in a rough and guttural way and you will have some idea of the way Catalan sounds. I found them to be a rough, sudden, hurry-up people. And while I was amongst them I often longed to be back South amongst the calm and easy, come-day goday Andalusians. There was an electric energy about the Catalonians that was calculated to upset a person of easy thought such as myself. They were workers of a swift, abrupt character. And that is another trouble springing out of the difference of race. The Catalonian works, and he knows he works. And he knows that the rest of the people of Spain won't work. And therefore is it that he would like to be separated from the toil-shy Spaniards. He wants all the fruits of his labour for himself. I may say that in Andalusia no one works. Or if they do, they do it in such a secret, unobtrusive manner that it escapes the observer. I was nine weeks in Granada, and during all that time I never saw anybody doing anything. When next I am born again I sincerely trust that it will be in dear old Granada, where people neither toil nor spin -but somehow manage to reap. The Andalusian is a lovable, easy character with a supreme gift for polite lying. And his spirit rules Spain. And there you are. The Catalonian doesn't like it -and he won't have it. The merry mine-owner, who dearly loves other people to go out and do a bit of fighting for his mines, is only the ostensible cause of the trouble. For once this sturdy and lofty patriot is not in the wrong. I mean the root of the trouble is not really in him. He is but the feather showing the way that the wind blows. And the wind is blowing in the direction of Catalonia for the Catalonians. This talk of the wish to form a republic because a republic is such an angelic form of government -and this talk of the evils of clericalism- and this talk of the double-dyed and double-barrelled ruffianism of the merry mine-owner is -well, it is merely talk. The real question is one of difference of race. And there is the beginning and the end of it. A race who dearly loves work is disagreeing with a race who dearly loves rest -and plenty of it. And in the opinion of a plain and humble thinker such as myself it would be well were they separated. Oil and water can't mix. History isn't quite clear as to the stock from which the Catalonians sprung. They are certainly not a Gothic race. They possess neither the fairness of look, nor the stature of the old barbarians. They are dark, middle-sized, alert, and tempestuous. A quick, hard race of fighters. They have neighbours, though, who are certainly Goths. I mean the people of Andorra -the Andorranos. The men of Andorra are the finest looking men in the world -tall and broad and powerful, with blue eyes and fair complexions. They don't care much for the Catalonians. They are distrustful of their energy. When I was in Andorra I heard a long argument between a Catalan and some Andorranos. The Catalan was trying to explain how advantageous it would be to Andorra if it were under the wing of Catalonia. But the Andorranos could not see it. And they expressed their blindness, so to speak, with much energy. To put the case simply, it is this: an ancient, easy, conservative race has the misfortune to be living in the same house with a restless, turbulent, rushful, pushful, hurry-up race. True, there are some advantages accruing to the ancient, easy racef rom this mismated marriage. For the restless, turbulents work. In fact, they positively adore toil. And the present way the world is run a little toil is necessary to make the wheels go round. The calm and easy people don't like the turbulents. But they put up with them, because they love what they don't love: toil. Speak to an Andalusian of a Catalonian, and you will see a gentle, pitying smile come into the Andalusian's face. He looks upon the Catalonian as one would look upon the dark and benighted. He feels as the tramp feels towards the honest worker who likes to work hard for thirty shillings or a pound a week. Speak to the Catalonian of the Andalusian and there will come into his hard, energetic face a look of fierce contempt. And he will tell you many rude things concerning the Andalusians with volcanic abruptness. He will go on about his lack of energy and push. As I meandered up through Catalonia I heard a good deal of this. By that time I had been long enough in Spain to acquire a stock of what you might call green, or living, Spanish, and by the aid of that and gestures I was able to converse with these rugged and seriousmen. Serious? Yes, they are serious. There is nothing of a gay and light and airy nature about them. They never seem to have time to make a joke. I remember trying to make a joke with a Catalonian in Saragossa, and for a moment I thought there was going to be war. I had made a joking remark about some soldiers who were passing, and he gave me a snap-your-head-off glare. It was with difficulty that I soothed him and made him understand that though I was a foreigner I was one of the best. The truth of the matter is that the Catalonians do not consider themselves Spaniards at all. And as amatter of fact they are not. Any observer who goes through the length of Spain would be forced to this conclusion.Through the centuries there has been friction -if not about one thing, about another- between them and the rest of the people of Spain. There is a story to the effect that when Columbus landed in Barcelona with presents for Spain the municipal authorities were so vexed that they would allow no record to be made of his landing. How the trouble is to be really composed it is difficult to see. For it springs inherently from a racial difference. The political differences and the war in Morocco--arising out of the dispute about the mines--only mean that any stick is good enough to beat a dog. If it was not this, it would be something else. In the end Catalonia must become a separate State.