Can anyone imagine the moral effect converting Les Invalides into a monument to Rommel might have on Parisians? Or how Englishmen might feel if Trafalgar square were deprived of its statue to Nelson? Well something along those lines is what many Catalans may experience on seeing the Madrid administration’s recent record in Lleida, Catalonia’s westernmost provincial capital. A building in which hundreds of locals were butchered in the War of Spanish Succession was last Thursday reopened as a hotel and show case to Spanish tourism. And what is worse is that it is to hold the name of “Reino de España” (Kingdom of Spain) to add insult to injury.
Catalan News Monitor. 31st July 2017
Last Thursday, Spanish President Rajoy -usually lazy about attending official events- came all the way to Lleida to inaugurate a Parador Nacional (State-run luxury hotel) sited in an old convent. This news item might not seem to be anything other than a new bid by Rajoy to nark Catalans in his mad crusade against the Catalan government and its forthcoming Referendum. But anyone with a basic knowledge of history knows that this inauguration can only be seen as a major afront to all Catalanists and those proud of the local history and tradition.
Why is this particularly offensive to many Catalans? Well because the War of Spanish Successsion marks the period in which Catalans lost their sovereignty and their State structures. Indeed it is the moment when the Borbon dynasty -still extant!- started its very much Madrid-based tradition of French-inspired centralism with a very particular distaste for things Catalan.
The inaugurated Building in one in which for years Catalanist acts are held on the National Day. It was the site where seven hundred Catalans -mainly old men, women and children- had taken refugi and were burnt to death as a reprisal for restistance against the Borbon army in the 1707 siege.
Inaugurating this Parador now is seen as yet another case of the ham-fisted and bullying treatment Catalans have been exposed to in the last few years in what can only be seen as a fully-fledged campaign to do away with current Catalan home-rule.
However, El Roser is not the only building suffering gross distorsion of its symbology in Lleida. On high, above El Roser, is the magnificent Seu Vella, or old Cathedral, voted Catalonia’s most awesome monument in a popular vote last year. This building has the rare claim to fame of being the European Cathedral longest used as a military barracks by a colonising army. Indeed, from 1707, when the Borbon troops took the city, well into the 1990s, this beautiful Gothic temple was gutted and violated, being used as an army barracks for almost three centuries.
Different groups in the city have been active to try and stop this violation. Pau Juvillà, a city councillor for CUP, described El Roser as “a public space which is also a symbol of our struggle and a reference point for the collective memory of the city”. The Catalan Parliament also passed a resoltion in 2012 for the protection of national monuments – such as El Roser- associated with the 1714 conflict. Statements that the Spanish Administration has once again steam-rollered over in its true negotiation-allergic style.