Photo: Felix Parra Hernández (Mexico, 1845-1919), “Episodes of the Conquest: The Massacre of Cholula” (1877, oil on canvas)
By Gabriel Laflèche, L’1Dex Magazine, Switzerland
23rd January, 2018
If one were to make a quick sketch of the Spanish national character, of what would it consist? Basically, Spain, in its collective unconscious, is he who crushed the civilizations of South America. A conqueror, a warrior, a soldier proud of his battles. Moreover, Spain has never known defeat. Some disappointments, at most. The type of battle is not important: he’s a soldier! A warrior who finds his raison d’être in confrontation, in the annihilation of the other and the humiliation of that which he has subjugated. Whether that is a man, a bull or a windmill, it is all the same. He has conquered it; he is strong and valiant! Whether the fight was unfair, ridiculous or burlesque does not matter to him. His goal is to show his worth by lowering that of the defeated. And if he loses a battle? He erases the event from his memory and history. Spain is like a character issuing from Iberian mythology, and not from any particular region. However the region that best fits this description is historic Castille, or the government of Madrid. That’s where the pestilential smell of testosterone emanates from. Yet there is one remarkable constant: Castro was Galician, Franco was Galician, Rajoy is Galician, Hitler …. Oh, no, not him! He was Austrian. The Romans referred to “The Spains” as the countries of the sunset – but will the Spain of today be one to lie down?
And the Catalan national character? Historical legacy says the Catalan is a merchant. The Phoenician, or the Venetian of the Iberian Peninsula. First of all because his customary right of inheritance forced him to become one: under the Catalan right of l’hereu (the heir), it is only the eldest sons who inherit, and there is no sharing of properties. This forced cadets to settle in the city and become bourgeois. It is from this moment that the urban, commercial and industrial fabric densified in Catalonia. When Castille brought down the monopoly of trade with the Americas at the end of the 18th century, Catalonia was ready: and there was a veritable economic boom. Moreover, the decree by King Philip V forbidding Catalans in politics only served to boost their economic and intellectual activism. Catalonia has been a land of welcome since ancient times. Migratory flows from all over the Mediterranean basin make this region a haven of peace for many peoples. This mixing and these migrations are a constituent part of the cultural and economic wealth of Catalonia. A headline example: during the inquisition, the count of Barcelona was the only one to punish those guilty of genocide in the Jewish district of Barcelona.
Photo: Sketch by Goya, “Galileo in the hands of the inquisition”, 1814
So how can two societies, two mentalities so diametrically opposed, coexist? On the one hand, a society so hierarchical and absolutist, in which the people fear power and are compliant. It didn’t really live industrial revolution, led the Counter-Reformation and ignored the Enlightenment. On the other hand, a society composed of traders, craftsmen and minstrels, in which power is agreed, who lived the mercantile revolution then the Industrial Revolution, who practiced tolerance, stimulated innovation and made of democracy a shared, natural reality.
What is happening today in Catalonia is the conquistador’s nightmare: the people he tries to subjugate resist and refuse to submit to the yoke. So, to this rebellious behavior, he applies techniques that he understands and which would work on himself: he subjects them to violence and humiliation.
Humiliation…ratified and institutionalized by the Spanish government through the application of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution. This is insidious, emotional and destructive violence. Violence practiced by the state but also legalized and legitimized by the state. As of now, it is acceptable, for the media, politicians, and people in the street to bully, insult and openly hate Catalans. As in the days of Franco. These are nostalgic days to the current government, since back then, it was acceptable, and legal, to despise and oppress this “other”. This was normalized, and a daily occurrence. To behave with blatant disregard for those who must already submit to the most contemptuous condescension. In the manner of the most crass, base, racism.
Did you know that during the Franco period, languages other than Castilian were banned. When a person spoke one of the prohibited languages, Catalan, Euskara, Galician, he was rebuked in the harshest of ways: “Hablame Cristiano!”(Speak to me in Christian!) The way this expression emphasizes the difference between the conqueror and the ‘barbarian’ is not even subtle. Nothing has changed today.
Today, a return to these foul practices is allowed. According to Ramón Blázquez, the avalanche of ignominies and insults resulting from the application of Article 155 was expected and planned for by the government. This phenomenon is persistent, and violent in the press, especially television, and on the social networks. Even the Basque Country, he says, during the most violent of periods of terrorism, Basques didn’t suffer such humiliations, insults, and outrages.
There are two faces to this torrent of ignominies: the first is full-frontal and primary. This is insult and public contempt, such as when Ana Rosa Quintana directly calls the vice-president of the Catalan government, Oriol Junqueras, “asshole” or when Eduardo Inda calls the president of the Catalan government, Carles Puigdemont, a “shit” on live television. To this list one can add all the other presenters of dubious talent and reputation, across various platforms, who seem locked in a race to the bottom, via insulting and injurious statements.
Photo: Image by Margaret Duncan Coxhead, called “The conquistadors arrive in Tenochtitlan, to the sounds of martial music”, from her 1909 book, The Romance of History – Mexico.
The second face of this shame, and perhaps the worst, is the manipulation of the media. This is heavily orchestrated in the press, in opinion pieces, editorials and exported in excess to all news agencies. Coordinated as it is, the anti-Catalan repertoire is fairly unanimous in the terminology used: “independence challenge”, “illegal referendum”, “coup d’état”, “cowards”, “anti-government indoctrination”. The violence of the attacks, the shameless lies and the permissiveness of the authorities in the face of this situation, which is worthy of a great many criminal cases for defamation, shows how low the government of the hidalgos (upper class) of Madrid is willing to sink, to humiliate the Catalan people, seemingly beyond any reasonable ethical limits.
Faced with this medieval desire to dishonor the enemy, we recognize the powerlessness and weakness of the Spanish government. While it does its best to kill Catalonia by humiliation, it remains doggedly blind to the fact that its values are not those of the Catalans. The Catalans are obstinate, cautious and resistant. It has been three hundred years that Spain has tried to coerce them by force. But it is inescapable: Catalonia will be independent or it will not be. The Catalans are attached to the idea of republic at least as much as the Spaniards are attached to that of a dictatorship. The Catalans know, and especially feel very deeply in their souls, that their salvation is in independence. They will not be able to live in Spain because its government will always treat them as a colony. The Catalans know that one day they will live, they or their children, in their country and that they will share their democratic values and respect with all those who want to be Catalans.
And the Spanish know it too …
Original Post (French): https://1dex.ch/2018/01/catalogne-lignominie-marche/