Saturday, March 28, 2015

Hate Speech against Catalans after Plane Crash

The recent tragedy around Germanwings flight 9525 crash that killed all 150 people has elicited shocking hate speech on Twitter and other social media aimed mostly at Catalans—but Germans and French are on the receiving end as well. In the small sample of hate tweets we are posting here, written by people in Spain, the users congratulate themselves on the fact that many Catalans died in the crash, going as far as wishing them slow and painful deaths. Anti-Catalan hate speech lawyer association Drets (Rights) announced that it has already pressed charges against 38 Twitter users responsible for 55 hate tweets.


Here is a translation of a small sample of the tweets:


“The plane crashed because fuel is expensive,
and, good catalufos (despective for Catalan) that
they are, they peed in the fuel tank cause it's cheaper.”

“Volareee uooo Volareee uooo, except if I'm Catalan,
then I crash and crumble.”

“Three hundred and twenty (sic) cheapskates less that
will boo at the anthem during the final.”

“About the plane crash, I think it's great if there were Catalans in it.”

“Plane full of Catalans and Germans crashes in France. #winwinwin.”

“@Pianelo: Let's see, let's not over-dramatize, cause the plane was
transporting Catalans, not people. SPAIN”

“I hope that plane ran over a few Frenchmen as well.”

“I think it's great if 42 Catalans are dead.”

“I hope a plane full of Catalans crashes against a rock and they
all suffer a slow and painful death @apuntem CATALUFOS.”
Note: @apuntem is a Twitter account that tracks anti-Catalan
hate speech.

“I don't know what happened with the damn plane
full of Catalans, but too few died.”

“I hope all those Catalans in that plane #Germanwings.”

“What's 1000 Catalans dead in a plane crash?
TOO FEW.”


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Monday, March 23, 2015

Political Persecution of a Catalan Judge

Santiago Vidal is a Catalan judge specialising in penal law and a magistrate in the Barcelona Provincial Court. He is also a lecturer in Penal Law and Criminology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. He has become a widely recognised figure in Catalonia, where, apart from having been the Catalan spokesman for the Association of Judges for Democracy for several years, he is well known for the progressive nature of sentences passed regarding racial and sex discrimination and the protection of minors. He is a keen defender of the use of the Catalan language in the judiciary. What’s more, he is in favour of the right to self-determination and of independence for Catalonia.



But now Judge Vidal is unable to practise law because, on 26 February 2015, the CGPJ (Consejo General del Poder Judicial, the General Council of the Judiciary), the body that governs all justice in Spain, suspended him as a judge for three years without pay.

The reason for this severe punishment is that Judge Vidal was the leader of a team consisting of jurists and other judges, who preferred to remain anonymous in order to avoid reprisals, which drew up a draft constitution for a possible future Republic of Catalonia. It made no difference that this draft constitution was drawn up in a strictly private and personal way by citizen Vidal, unremunerated and in his free time, without it interfering in any way with the exercising of his profession, which is recognised as excellent.

Judge Vidal is accused of a very serious breach of discipline: disloyalty to the Spanish Constitution and to the Kingdom of Spain for expressing his thoughts and convictions in the form of a hypothetical constitution and also for participating publically in acts in favour of an independent Catalonia.

This sanction is clearly repressive and politically motivated. The CGPJ is not a politically impartial organisation, as 20 of its 21 members are chosen by the Spanish legislative body (the Spanish Parliament and Senate). As a result the majority of the CGPJ are conservatives with strong affinities to the current conservative Spanish Government. It is ironic that this political sanction comes from the CGPJ, the very body whose main function is to ensure the independence of judges and magistrates in the face of other State powers. The voting of the CGPJ divided on party lines: 12 in favour (conservatives chosen by the governing Partido Popular), 9 against (liberals chosen by other parties: PSOE, IU, PNV). So, Judge Vidal has been sanctioned for using his freedom of expression to voice his political ideals by other judges who all voted according to their political ideology, based solely on the political parties which selected them for the CGPJ. Today more than ever we can see that separation of powers does not exist in Spain. We are very far from Montesquieu’s idea that the independence of the judiciary must be real and not merely apparent.

This sanction infringes the fundamental rights of citizen and Judge Vidal: his rights to freedom of thought, opinion and expression, as recognised in the Spanish Constitution itself, in the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (For more details see: www.echr.coe.int/documents/convention_eng.pdf)

That this is a political persecution can be seen in the statement published on 12 February 2015, by the Association of Judges for Democracy. This was prior to the CGPJ verdict, when Judge Vidal was facing a possible life ban from the judiciary, The Association strongly criticised: the political nature of the process as incompatible with the necessary impartiality of a disciplinary body; the infringement of citizen Vidal’s freedom of expression, saying that the proposal to debar him for expressing his opinions was without precedent in the country and was clearly out of all proportion; while not defending his views on independence they defended his right to freedom of expression and creativity and opposed these inquisitorial persecutions. This Association is made up of judges from the whole of Spain and is in no way pro Catalonia or pro Catalan independence,

(For a full text of the statement in Spanish see www.juecesdemocracia.es/txtcomunicados/2015/12febr15.htm)

The politicisation of the Spanish judicial system is well proven . On 11 March 2015 the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (cepej) published a study on the quality of the European judicial system. According to this study Spain is the third lowest EU country with regard to the perception of judicial independence from other powers. It was rated 3.2 in 2013/14, as compared with 4.0 in 2012/13 and 3.7 in 2011/12. In addition Spain is 97 out of 144 in the international ranking for this.

There is no doubt that Judge Vidal, who is noted for his fighting spirit for justice, will explore all avenues in his appeal against the sanction, including, if necessary, going to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg, where the Spanish State has already been sentenced on too many occasions for not respecting the fundamental rights of citizens. 

In the meantime, as he is out of a job, Judge Vidal plans to devote the next six months to using his legal expertise to help prepare structures of State, prior to the crucial Catalan elections on 27 September 2015. Perhaps the General Council of the Judiciary has done the cause for Catalan independence a big favour.

Read this article in French, Spanish and Italian

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Catalonia’s Leader Plays Down Talk of Secession Crisis (The New York Times)

Interview with Artur Mas, President of Catalonia: “The plan is to vote on November 9″ (08 October 2014)


The Catalan leader, Artur Mas, says Catalonia remains on track for its scheduled vote on whether to break from Spain, but he suggested in an interview on Tuesday that he would not push the country to a constitutional crisis by holding the vote if it were deemed illegal.

The remarks provided the first glimmer of willingness by Mr. Mas, a late but staunch convert to secessionism, to ensure that Catalonia would not be responsible for provoking a crisis in Spain. Catalonia, Spain’s economic powerhouse, is trying to go ahead with a secession vote that the central government in Madrid has vowed to block.

Mr. Mas nevertheless indicated that if he could not hold a legal vote on separation, he would pursue a longer-term strategy to achieve an independent Catalonia by calling for new elections for the regional Parliament “as a plebiscite.”

Mr. Mas, who signed a decree last month approving the Nov. 9 vote, insisted in the interview that his position had been made untenable by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s refusal to discuss the vote, even after a failed referendum on Scotland’s independence last month.

He said that his government had initially hoped to follow Scotland’s example and persuade the government of Mr. Rajoy to allow a vote on independence. Mr. Rajoy’s government has steadfastly refused, and, if anything, it has been emboldened by the failure of the Scottish vote.

Mr. Mas said that he would hold a vote without Mr. Rajoy’s approval, but not illegally, though he complained that the Spanish judiciary was biased against Catalonia’s interests.

“The only plan is to vote on Nov. 9, and we will consider all the possible ways that take us within the law toward that point,” he said.

(…)


Full original article here

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

The concept of Spanish Unity

'The concept of Spanish unity in neither sacred nor biblical.' Mas went further, 'I am democratically shocked that before approving the consultation law and before the decree was made they were already saying it was illegal. How can this happen in a democracy? This is manipulation of a legal framework, not the work of jurists but rather of politicians.'

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

‘Spain’s government is close to you’ - Really?


This is how the Delegation of the Spanish Government in Catalonia introduces itself to all citizens in its website (on top of the text, by the way, there is a photo of Ms Llanos de Luna, the current delegate, but the signature of Mr Joan Rangel, the former one, is still at the bottom). This shows how important being close to citizens is for them.

Mrs Llanos de Luna
Maria de los Llanos de Luna is a lawyer from Seville who has been holding public offices in Catalonia for several years. She was vice-director of the National Institute of Social Security (1996-2003), president of the Assessment Commission for Labor Disputes in Barcelona, and advisor for the Social Security’s General Treasury in the same city. She was also vice-delegate of the Spanish Government in Barcelona (2003-2004), representative at the Catalan Parliament (where she never uttered a single word in Catalan), and attaché spokesperson for PP’s parliamentary group, as well as member of the executive board of the same party, among other posts. Since 2012, she has been the delegate of the Spanish Government in Catalonia.


Being her mission, therefore, to bring Spain’s government close to all citizens in Catalonia, Ms Llanos de Luna has surprisingly taken as her main duty putting a stopper on independence, and has also taken a close look at town councils. So far, after just two years in office, she has already filed nearly 200 lawsuits regarding mainly five aspects:

Law on flags: As many as 62 Catalan town councils have been sued for not displaying the Spanish flag on the façade of their town halls. There are no reports of similar lawsuits against other official buildings belonging to the Spanish government, such as police stations or Military Headquarters, where only the Spanish flag can be seen but not the Catalan one, which is also against the law. 

Support of a Declaration of Sovereignty: so far 43 town councils that had previously approved motions giving support to the Catalan Parliament’s Declaration of Sovereignty, after its approval on 23rd January 2013, have also been sued by the Spanish Government Delegation, even though 13 of these lawsuits have already been dismissed by the judges. 

Use of premises: some city councils, such as the one in Vic, allow their premises to be used for organizing and holding activities relating to the self-determination process; others even chartered trains, and that was the case of Girona’s city council, so as to make it easier for their citizens to take part in the big September 11, 2013 demonstration in Barcelona. 

Fiscal sovereignty: Ms Llanos de Luna has sued 75 towns for their public support of fiscal sovereignty by encouraging their citizens to pay their taxes directly to the Catalan Treasure. Already 3 of such charges have been dismissed. 
− Paying fees to AMI (Municipal Association for Independence): Up to 14 towns have already been sued, since Ms de Luna considers this to be a “misuse of public funds”. In some cases the annual reported fees amount to 75€. 


In order start this large number of lawsuits, Ms Llanos de Luna has been using two kinds of procedures. The first one implies the revision of all the agreements taken by all the councils all over the country, which must be sent to the Spanish Government Delegation by law. If any of them is found to be against the law, it is sent next to the Attorney General’s office, and if they confirm any irregularities, then the Delegation goes ahead with the lawsuit. The second one requires a permanent surveillance to find out if any municipal representative does not obey any particular regulation. In this case disqualification is required from the court. All cases, if possible, are reported and taken to court so the political nature of the conflict can in this way be disguised as having a pretended criminal base.

Regarding it all objectively, Ms Llanos de Luna could be seen as a loyal and faithful public servant who only obeys and enforces the law. However, none of the previous delegates of the Spanish Government was ever so intensively scrupulous; never before had the Spanish Government tried to impose the Spanish flag to the schools as she has tried to do in Corbera de Llobregat; never before had they acted so ferociously against town representatives in any Catalan city or town. Never before did a delegate of a democratic Spanish Government dare attend an ceremony to honor the División Azul (a division of the Spanish Army that was sent to help Hitler’s army in Russia during World War II), held in the Guardia Civil’s barracks in Sant Andreu de la Barca. For all these reasons the Catalan Parliament approved, on 14th March 2013, a political motion demanding that she be removed and replaced, due to an “obvious hostile behavior and an absolute lack of respect towards the Catalan institutions.” Ms Llanos de Luna was also declared persona non grata by several town councils such as Girona. The Barcelona City Council even demanded that she be immediately dismissed. 

In March 2014, one year later, Ms Maria de los Llanos de Luna is still heading the Spanish Government Delegation in Catalonia “to guarantee a most efficient service to all Catalan citizens, men and women alike.” What kind of an awfully bad joke is that?




Source: Catalan Wikipedia and newspaper Ara



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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

New counter-terrorism proposals would infringe basic human rights

Proposed amendments to the Spanish criminal code that would expand the range of crimes defined as “terrorism” to include vague language and overly broad categories of offences would infringe people’s basic human rights, said Amnesty International ahead of a parliamentary debate today.
“The proposed definition of terrorism includes so many crimes that it is rendered virtually meaningless. The parliament should reject any proposals that would violate basic rights,” said Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s expert on counter-terrorism and human rights.
“It would seem that anything from certain forms of expression and association to hacking and travelling could be labelled and prosecuted as terrorism. The suggested definition is overly broad and some elements so vague that even a seasoned lawyer would have trouble knowing for certain what would constitute a terrorist act.”
“What Spain needs to fight terrorism is the exact opposite: an exact and legally precise definition of what crimes constitute ‘terrorism’.” And any new measures must be necessary and proportionate to the actual threat.”

The proposed amendments, if adopted, could threaten the rights to freedom of expression and association, the presumption of innocence, freedom of movement, the right to privacy, and the right to leave and return to one’s country.
“In the aftermath of the Paris attacks and stepped up counter-terrorism initiatives across Europe, governments must remain vigilant to ensure that their efforts to thwart future attacks do not come at the expense of human rights,” said Julia Hall.
“Respecting human rights is essential to maintaining security and not an obstacle to keeping people safe.”
Among the numerous amendments up for debate is an expansion of the definition of terrorism to include acts such as “disruption” of public order; “resistance” against public authorities and “reckless”, including unwittingly supporting a terrorist enterprise.
One new proposal would outlaw travelling, or planning to travel, outside Spain to collaborate with militant groups or to train with them, even if no such training occurs or no so-called terrorist act is committed. Information sharing, including from foreign intelligence services, raises the prospect of evidence extracted under torture being shared and used for intelligence purposes.
Making a statement on social media that could be perceived as inciting others to commit violent attacks would now also be outlawed in Spain, even if the statement could not be directly linked to an act of violence.
The penalties associated with the already existing offence of “justification” of terrorism, which includes the “humiliation” of victims of terrorism or their families, would be increased. Aggravating circumstances would include dissemination of messages across the Internet or through the media.   

Amnesty International

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Interview with the Coronela (Barcelona's militia) taylor

As Catalonia moves to recover her freedom, lost by force of arms in 1714, she is also working hard to recover her military traditions and values. Liberty and responsibility are but two sides of the same coin, one cannot exist without the other, and any nation seeking to rejoin the international community as a free and equal member must be ready to do her duty when it comes to contributing to peace and security. One of the aspects of Catalonia's normalization is the return of the Coronela, her capital's militia, currently in the shape of a military re-enactment group, with the support of Barcelona City Council.

The "Coronela": Barcelona City's Militia. Made up of reservists, civilians under military discipline when called up to serve. Manning was in the hands of the city's guilds, while responsibility for equipment was shared with the Crown. Each guild provided the personnel for a company. The Coronela expanded to five battalions during the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714), in which it played a key role in the defence of Barcelona. Other Catalan towns had similar units.

One of the key aspects of military re-enactment is the provision of accurate, historically faithful, uniforms. The following is a brief interview with Maria Victòria Verderes i Blach, who serves as taylor for the Coronela.



What is the main difficulty involved in tailoring historical uniforms?

The main one is being faithful to their design and function. The reason is that they were not just a dress to cover one's body. Instead, many also served to protect weapons, for example.
Another problem is the difficulty in finding certain items. For example, it is nowadays difficult to find stripes of a colour resembling copper, or rusty metal, which were in widespread use at the time. What we then do, in order to get this tone, is to dye them with copper-colour shoe cream. We also try not to make the excellent sewing machines we currently enjoy conspicuous. We rather try to hand-sew as much as we can. Whenever possible, we follow the patterns that we are lucky to still find, half lost and half buried, in for example some Italian museums, translating their contents to a comprehensible language.

Are you happy about your work with La Coronela?

I have only spent a short time cooperating with this institution, but I am very proud of being able to contribute with my work to help a group of people passionate about history, to make known to the public a series of deeds that until now had been buried and forgotten. Above all, we are motivated by a Patriotic feeling, a duty towards our country, so many times treated unjustly. La Coronela's goal is to reach 3,000 members, as the city guilds used to bring together united by the same wish: to fight to defend our liberties!










Are you sensing a growing interest in Catalonia's military heritage, uniforms included?

I can feel a growing interest in our historical heritage, indeed, and not just our military heritage. More widely, in our traditions, be they dances, cuisine, customs, festivals... However, what the Coronela wants to avoid is to be considered part of Catalan folklore, since we are trying it to be what it used to be: an organization under military discipline, with military ranks and rules. We want the Coronela to become, in the future, the city's honorary guard. This would amount to paying homage, 300 years later, to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend Catalonia from the overwhelming attack by absolutist forces.

 

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Friday, February 6, 2015

Catalan Committee in Solidarity with Kurdistan to rally in Barcelona




We, people from KurdisCat – Comitè Català de Solidaritat amb el Kurdistan (Catalan Committee in Solidarity with Kurdistan), have called a demonstration in Barcelona co-ordinated with other actions taking place worldwide.

When
Day: February 7th.
Place: Passeig de Gràcia, 7.
Barcelona
Time: 17 p.m.

The international demonstrations, encouraged by Kongreya Civaken Demokratîk a Kurdîstanî yen Ewropa (KCD-E, Democratic Society Congress of Kurds in Europe) are based on three claims:


• Make a call for international solidarity with Kobanê (Syria) and Sinjar (Iraq), currently under siege by the Islamic fundamentalists of ISIS.

• Demand the end of the EU ban on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the release of Abdullah Öcalan.

• Claim and give support to the role that women are playing in the Kurdish movement. The Barcelona protest will take place alongside actions in València and Madrid the same day. With this three claims we would like to show the Catalan people’s solidarity with the Kurdish resistance in Kobanê and make a call to our society to take an step forward in helping Kurdistan.

The demonstration is supported by the civil society. (1)

Find us: Twitter: @KurdisCat – Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Kurdiscat – Blog: http://kurdiscat.blogspot.com

Facebook page of the event: https://www.facebook.com/events/365462886970393/?pnref=story


(1) Up to now : Intersindical-CSC, Solidaritat Catalana, Esquerra Unida i Alternativa, Estat Català, Comitè Català de Solidaritat amb el Tibet, Ateneu Sa Fera Ferotge, Assemblea Llibertària Vallès Oriental, Reagrupament Independentista, Candidatura d'Unitat Popular - Mataró, Assemblea Llibertària L'Oca de Gràcia, Help Catalonia, Candidatura d'Unitat Popular - Barcelona, Arran - Sabadell, Endavant (OSAN), Associació Salut i Ecologia, Procés Embat, Barcelona Radical, Comissions Obreres, Plataforma No-Sí, Partisans Bohemis

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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Interview with Afshin Berahmand

Interview with Afshin Berahmand, a Kurdish journalist based in Denmark who is writing an article on Catalan independence. Afshin has asked KurdisCat fou our opinions because he is writing an article for a Danish newspaper on the right to independence for Catalunya. We asked him too about his personal opinions, Catalonia and, of course, Kurdistan.

Which part of Kurdistan are you from?
I was born in Iran, which makes me officially and Iranian Kurd. However, growing up in Denmark makes me loose my "Iranian"hood. I feel kurdish and only kurdish in that sense.
Did you travel to the country there?
I have never been in Iran because my family members are political refugees, so when I go to Kurdistan I go to the parts in Iraq or Turkey. My favourite city is Diyarbakir.
It is difficult to live with two identities or you don't? 
I have no problem with identity, I am Kurdish, Danish, European, middle eastern, and I am not bothered so much by not having a country, I just don't want to be Iranian or Turkish or Arab because I am none of that.

Can you, shortly, explain your personal experience being Kurdish but living in Europe?
I am more European than anything. European Danish Kurd maybe, but not Iranian. Also I see Diyarbakir in Turkey or Erbil in Iraq as my own historic home country. I am sad that there is so much reluctance towards people from the Middle East in Europe. We are not the same. There are problems within immigrant communities but in my view they are to a larger extent socio-economical problems than religious for instance. And kurds, Turks, Arabs, Persians, even Arabs from different countries are not the same, so I don't want to take blame for something that many Arabs do that kurds don't or the other way around. 

Which perspectives for Kurdistan did you see as possible? Could end tne endless suffereing of this country?
Well, in a fantasy world an independent Kurdistan would solve many things, but not all. In my view perhaps Iraqi and Syrian Kurdistan can become a country and Turkish Kurds can form some sort of self-government.

During the late 1800's the Kurdish nationalist movement had two fractions, one pro-iranian with a country with equality between all indo-Arian people, Kurds, Persians, lur, baloch, and other groups in modern day Iran, but the Persians made everything Iranian Persian, a lot like the spaniards. They say we are all spaniards or Iranians but everything is Castillano and Persian.
How did you know about Catalonia and what's your opinion of her own process?
I knew about Catalunya through the basque question actually. I have some basque friends and they introduced me to the issues in Spain and I came to like the works of Pau Casals and later read books and documentaries on Catalan identity, I felt I could relate and have a warm heart for both Catalan and Basque people, culture and languages. One Catalan artist told me that he felt like being Spanish also meant being anti-Catalan, and I could relate to that 100%.

As far as Catalan independence goes, I stress the fact that any government should allow the people to express its free will. If 80% want independence the central government has to listen to its people if it wants to be perceived as legitimate. Some activism in the EU is also a possibility.
We are fully compromised in solidarity between Catalonia and Kurdistan, which way you would find better to express this solidarity?
We have two very rich countries in spanish Catalunya and iraqi Kurdistan. I hope the two regions will develop strong bonds, through sports, business, culture and political ties. Also show the world that Christian and Muslim people can feel like brothers and sisters. I am myself in my last year in law school and I worked for the Danish ministry of foreign affairs at the United Nations in New York iPad realized there is no international human rights platform to discuss the issues pertaining to situations like ours. There should be forums like that and the governments of both Catalunya and Kurdistan should fund scholarships for young people that want to educate and evolve the doctrine of self determination, so we will be the best at providing legal arguments for our freedom to choose our political identity.

Interview by KurdisCat - Catalan Solidarity Kurdistan Committee (Desteya Katalan ji bo Piştgiriya Kurdistanê)

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Castellers - the human towers

The origins of this Catalan tradition of building human towers dates back to the 18th century. It was in the small town of Valls, about 40 km west of Barcelona, that the inhabitants started building the towers, The individual groups (colles) started to compete in sporting events. Thus, not only the building itself was invented, but also the competition.
 

Building castelles is still a young tradition in Barcelona.

The different levels of a castell

The towers at that time resembled very much the ones of today, the basic structure of a castell, as they are called in Catalan, having barely changed. Such a tower always consists of three parts. The basis is the so-called "Pinya", a relatively large ring, onto which the weight of the load above is distributed, and which stabilizes the structure. This ring also softens the fall of the castellers, when the tower falls apart.
Depending on the height of the tower, one or two additional ring-shaped floors ("Manilles") are put on top of the pinya.

On top of this, the actual tower is built. The "tronc", Catalan for trunk, consists of several levels with a specific number of people. Depending on the number and distribution of the up to 9 people of a ring, each castell has a name of its own.
Climbing to the top of the tower is only allowed for kids, because of their low weight. They form the "pom de dalt", the tower dome.
Hierarchy of the castell

The technique of building a castell is frequently trained. Each casteller has his own position and function within the castell, even if the pinya seems to form at random to an outsider. Once the pinya is set up, the members of the manilles climb up in a pre-defined order and form the first rings. The strongest have to carry most of the weight at the bottom, and the lightest go up into the tower.

Finally, the "anxenta" climbs up to the top and remains there only for a few seconds to raise his or her arm to salute the crowds. The tower is crowned and the goal is almost reached. The castell now has to be de-constructed without falling apart, a procedure as tricky and trained as the build-up. Nowadays, children often wear a foam-padded helmet.

There are some special variants, in which the trunk is built in the opposite order. A level is set-up and then lifted up from below, where the next lower level is formed.

During the building process, a flute and a drum play the "Toc de Castells", a melody that is to indicate the different construction phases of the tower and to stir up the emotions and which also accompanies the castellers upon their entry and exit to the scene.

Performances

Traditionally, the castellers perform their tower building during the main parts of larger festivals. Usually, three colles come together and build their human edifices. Nowadays, the towers are also often built outside of the festivals – the actual season goes from June to November.
Check the website of the Castellers de Barcelona for an updated schedule. If you have the chance to watch the building of a castell, do so as it really is a very special event.

The castellers in Barcelona

The building of castells is a rather rural tradition, which also explains why the first club in the city, the Castellers de Barcelona, was founded quite late in 1969. The founding members of the coll are mostly former citizens of Villafranca, not far away from Barcelona. There were some earlier groups, but they remained unsuccessful and no longer exist.
The Castellers de Barcelona kept on refining their technique and the towers became higher and higher.

While in the 1970s, 7-level castells were built, the already have 9 levels today. This level of difficulty has only been achieved by 10 of the colles of the casteller association. The "Coordinadora the Colles Castelleres de Catalunya" comprises 60 colles.

Origins of building castells

The castells have their origins in a traditional folklore dance in the city of Valls. The steps of the dance were accompanied with the flute, as it is still played today during the tower building. At the end of the dance a small human tower was built. This probably has encouraged the ambitions of the dancers: the towers started becoming a phenomenon of their own, and rivalling groups started building higher and higher towers. It is assumed, that the castellers were officially separated from the traditional dance by the end of the 19th century.

Source: http://barcelona.de/en/barcelona-castellers-human-towers.html

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Inside the Austrian monarchy.

In the sixteenth century, the house of Austria ascended to the Spanish thrown. Catalonia struggled to conserve its laws and institutions in front of a markedly absolutist monarchy. The Count Duke of Olivares, who was the legal representative of Philip IV, was especially aggressive with Catalonia by insisting that this region subject itself to the style and laws of Castilla.
In 1516, with the ascension of Charles I to the thrown, who was the grandson of the Catholic Kings, emperor Maximilian of Habsburg and Maria of Burgoyne, lady of Flanders and of the Franc County, the instauration of the house of Austria in Catalonia was inaugurated. The union of the Kingdom of Aragon with Castilla was purely dynastic; that which was common to the different kingdoms was their monarchs, who were known by differing forms of address: of Castilla, of Aragon and counts of Barcelona. The progressive isolation of Catalonia in the international scene commenced with this monarchy composed of diverse states, having its own governing systems and laws.

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, Catalonia conserved its own laws, privileges and institutions, which is a fact that absolutely limited the royal power. However, it found itself in a very weakened, demographical and economical situation. This was the origin of the permanent conflict between the institutional authorities of Catalonia and the king: on the one hand, the limitation of royal authority and, on the other, the growing demands for subsidies in the Corts.

The recently constituted Consell Suprem d’Aragó [Supreme Council of Aragon] was the bridging organism between the king and his representative in the kingdom, the viceroy. This mechanism of government was the link, which was in permanent tension, between Catalonia and the Hispanic empire. The conflict increased as the royal wish found itself hindered by the laws and institutions of the region.

After a century and a half of penuries, an economical recuperation in the countryside was initiated, where the integration of the abandoned farmhouses and the consequent amplification of the land of the country houses started to bear fruits. Commerce and manufactured goods, mainly textiles, also saw a revival and, in spite of the prohibition to trade directly with America, Catalan traders found alternative ways to do it.

However, the relative prosperity coincided with the diffusion of bandits all over the region. Amongst the bandits there were marginalised farmers and impoverished rural noblemen who gathered in groups affiliated around two major parties: the Nyerros and the Cadells. The real adscription to these two grand parties, however, was not all that clear. The truth is that this phenomenon channelled the economical and social discontentment, in spite of the incipient recuperation, which affected different social classes, privileged and ‘poble menut’.

In parallel, during the sixteenth and seventeenth century, the Generalitat fully acted as the governing organ of the Principality, guarantor of some constitutions and laws in before the monarchs of the house of Austria. With Philip III and Philip IV, the economical difficulties of the monarchy reached their most critical point and it was during the reign of this last monarch that the unease of the Catalans and their institutions finally exploded. One of the principal protagonists of the royal aggressiveness towards Catalonia was the legal representative of Philip IV, the Count Duke of Olivares, who was the author of a centralising policy and of the subjecting of Catalonia to the style and laws of Castilla. The political parameters of the monarch and the count duke were completely different from those of the Catalan institutions.

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Floral games

The Floral Games were Catalan literature’s most important launching pad in the third quarter of the nineteenth century, and an axis about which revolved a large proportion of the literary creation of the ‘Renaixença’ period. Different lines of thought can be found at the root of its conception: the ‘troubadour’ genre fashion, the discovery of a Barcelona medieval competition in books and, probably, the influence of the Rousillon writers Josep Tastú and P. Puiggarí.
The project, which would finally result in the celebration of the Floral Games in 1859, thanks to A. de Bofarull’s tenacity and the support of Barcelona’s Town Hall, would first be tried out by the ‘Acadèmia de Bones Lletres’ (ABL) [The Academy of Good Writing] (1841/1857). The competition would restore the figure of the adjudicator (A. de Bofarull, J. Cortada, V. Amer, Milà Fontanals, J. Ll. Pons Gallarza, J. Rubió and V. Balaguer). However, this re-establishment of a tradition of literary contests should be seen more as a historically guaranteed essential adaptation, more than a restoration of an old custom which would find an essential social complicity. For this reason, Barcelona’s ‘Consistori de la Gaia Ciència’ would be appealed to and, by coincidence, the name ‘Floral Games’, which corresponds to the literary competitions held in Toulouse since 1515, would be adopted. The historical feel of the contest would upset the members of some literary sectors, who would delight in parodying them and calling them old-fashioned: Santiago Rusiñol would satirise them in ‘Lo Niu Guerrer, els Jocs Florals de Can Prosa’ [War’s nest, the Floral Games of Prose’s House].

In spite of the above, the Floral Games would become a first class cultural and social event: if we examine the list of the contest’s presidents, adjudicators or assistants we can see that practically all of the classes of Catalan society of the time had some part to play with the games. Even those who had delighted in criticising the idea would eventually take part, more or less with enthusiasm, from 1866 onwards. The Floral Games would also become a focal point of reference for all of the artistic creation of the Region. The creation of the Floral Games of ‘Lo Rat Penat’ (1879) in Valencia, or the proliferation of floral contests all over the Catalan Region, were very good indicators that the project was well accepted in the society of the time.

The progressive consolidation of the contest also enabled the inception of a series of prizes that would greatly contribute to the encouragement of participation and the writing of other genres, different to the well-known triplet: faith, fatherland and love. At the same time, this consolidation would mean that the aesthetical tenet of the Games would widen and develop in accordance with the Catalan literary models and movements, as can be seen if we review the list of different masters in ‘Gai Saber’: Balaguer, Guimerà, Verdaguer, Costa Llobera, Maragall, etc. Furthermore, the social projection attained by the Floral Games favoured the recovery of readers of the new literary works written in Catalan, and would also favour a series of incipient editorial ventures coupled with a certain amount of commercial endeavours: the annual volume of the ‘Jocs Florals’ [Floral Games], ‘Lo Gay Saber’, and ‘La Renaixença’.

Floral Games edited in Mèxico during repression
The Floral Games became a competition that promoted the continuity of Catalan culture, enabling it to face many difficult moments. Thus, as a result of its suspension, ordered by the military authority in 1902, the Floral Games were held in Sant Martí del Canigó; later on, during Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship, they found refuge in Toulouse (1924) and in private households. Only the Civil War would manage to put an end to the historic continuity represented by the Games which, after 1941, would be reconstituted, in exile, under the name ‘Jocs Florals de la Llengua Catalana’ [Floral Games of the Catalan Language], and would be continue to be held until the present time in different European and American cities. The last Games celebrated in exile were held in Munich (1877); the following year they were again celebrated in Barcelona, coinciding with those that, since 1941, were to be held clandestinely in that city, although since 1971, publicly. With the changes introduced to the original conception of the Games in 1992, they have become a part of the ‘Setmana de la Poesia de Barcelona’ [Barcelona’s Week of Poetry].

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Great Britain and the Anglo-Catalan Society

Catalan studies began in English-speaking counuiesl in the 1920's, in Great Britain, with professors Ignasi González-Llubera, at Queen's University in Belfast (Northern Ireland), and Edgar Allison Peers, at the University of Liverpool. González-Llubera and Peers opened the doors of British university studies to Catalan literature and linguistics. While at Liverpool, Peers began the journal Bulletin of Hispanic -initially Spanish- Studies. 

He was particularly interested in Ramon Llull, and he also published severa1 books on the Spanish Civil War, such as Catalonia Infelix (London, 1937). In 1948 he created the first lectureship in Catalan. The group of British scholars interested in Catalan grew, and others such as W.J. Entwistle and J.B. Trend became involved. Josep M. Batista i Roca, a Catalan exile who became a professor at Cambridge, coordinated everyone's efforts and the result was the founding of the Anglo-Catalan Society (ACS)*in 1954. Since then, the first intemational organization dedicated to Catalan studies holds a conference each year. Although the first meeting was held in Oxford in 1955, since then the majority have been held in London. 
It goes without saying that the ACS played an important role in organizing the Third Intemational Conference on Catalan Language and Literature3, which was held in Cambridge in April, 1973. in addition, from its beginnings the ACS funded one of the prizes given at the "Jocs Florals de ,la Llengua Catalana" when they were held in exile. Currently, it funds a scholarship for young Catalan scholars who want to study at a British university. Regarding publications, the ACS edited the proceedings of the Cambridge conference4, and in 1977 organized a special issue on Catalan culture of the joumal Vida Hispanica (the joumal of the British Association of Spanish and Portuguese Teachers) as an introduction to Catalan culture for British Hispani~ts.i~n 1980, the ACS began publishing a series of monographs on Cataian topics: the Anglo-Catalan Society Occasional Publications (ACSOP).6 In addition to these activities, of course, the ACS also works toward incorporating Catalan studies into the curricula at British uni~ersities.I~n the past few years, with the help of the Generalitat de Catalunya's Comission to Promote the teaching of Catalan in Universities Outside Catalonia, new teaching assistantships have been funded at some universities, such as Salford-Manchesterand Oxford, and the chances are that it ail looks as if applications received from the University of London and other universities as well will be funded in the future. 

THE UNITED STATES, CANADA, AND THE NORTH AMERICAN CATALAN SOCIETY 

Catalan studies in North Arnerica, as one can well imagine, began later and on a much smaller scale, which makes the increase in interest in the past ten years al1 the more remarkable interest in Catalan began with Josephine de Boer, after her visit to Majorca in 1927. Some years later, in the 1940's, Joan Coromines became a professor at the University of Chicago, and he became part of a group of young scholars who for many years worked to awaken an interest in Catalan
at several Universities in the United States and Canada. 

Their work, . combined with the efforts of Professor de Boer8,resulted in the first section on Catalan-Proven$al at the 1958 annual meeting of the Modem Language Association. This section, which in many ways can be considered as the forerunner of the North American Catalan Society, became much more active in the 1960's, when several European professors in the field, most of whom were Catalan, took jobs in the United States and Canada. 

These professors created programs, and as a result their former students are now working on and publishing in Catalan studies. This increase in both teachers and scholars has been primarily in the fields of philology, linguistics, and literature, although other scientific fields have also been represented; the architect Josep Lluis Sert,
the doctors Folc Pi, Giner Sorolla, and Pi Sunyer, the scientist Joan Oró, historians such as Robert 1. Burns, Gabriel Jackson, and Thomas Bisson, the art historian George R. Collins and the philosopher Josep Ferrater Mora al1 come
to mind. In addition, prestigious figures such as Pau Casals, Joan Miró and Antoni Tapies, to name but a few, were al1 directly tied to Catalan culture in North American art circles. Al1 of this led Josep Roca-Pons, professor at Indiana University, and Albert Porqueres-Mayo, professor at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, to organize a conference with the hope of formallyestablishinganassociationforCatalanstudies. 

The long-awaited First Colloquium on Catalan Studies in North America was held on March 30, 31, and April 1, 1978 at the University of Illinois. The conference directors were Professors Roca-Pons and Porqueras-Mayo, and the honorary president was Dr. Antoni M. Badia i Margarit, who at the time was the Chancellor of the University of Barcelona. The meeting was a great success: close to 100 people from five Canadian and twenty U.S universities attended, 38 papers were presented9, and the statutes of the NACS were approved1° The prirnary goal of the association is to promote Catalan culture and encourage the teaching of the Catalan language and its culture in U.S. and Canadian universitiesl1, and as such as the Champaign-Urbanameeting it was also agreed to hold future conferences and to publish the proceedings. Since then four conferences have been held: at the Yale University (April, 1979)lZ at the University of Toronto (April, 1982)13, in Washington, D.C. (end of May, 1984)14,and at the University of South Florida at Tampa (March, 1987)15 Currently, the NACS has over 300 members and will hold its sixth meeting in May, 1990 at the University of British Columbia inVancouver. 

THE "CATALAN REVIEW" 

The interest in Catalan studies in North America led the NACS at the 1984 Washington conference to consider a new challenge: starting an intemational journal of Catalan studies. Entitled The Catalan Review: International Journal of Catalan Culture, this multi-disciplinary, bilingual (Catalan and English) joumal appears twice a year and is open to al1 scholars interested in the language and its culture. The first issue appeared in June, 1986. In addition to articles, which are the bulk of the joumal, there are literary selections translated into English, bibliographic information, and information on cultural events held in Catalan-speaking areas. In addition to the regular issues, two special, monographic issues have appeared to date: 

the first on the writings of J.V. Foix (1, l), and the second on the novelist Merci? Rodoreda (11, 2)16. 

NOVES PERSPECTIVES 

In addition to Great Britain, the United States and Canada, Catalan studies are slowly gaining ground in other English-speaking countries and in other continents. Specifically, 1 arn referring to the new tradition in Cataian studies (since the 1970's) at the La Trobe University in Bundoora (Victoria), Australia, which has expressed interest in creating an assistantshipinCatalan, and at the University of Auckland (New Zealand), which has aiso expressed interest in establishing an assistantship. 

The Office of Language Policy of the "Generalitat de Catalunya" will soon publish the results of a survey on the current situation of Cataian studies around the world. There, the reader will be able to find additional, up-to-date information on Cataian studies in English-speaking countries. 




CATALAN STUDIES IN ENGLISH-SPEAKING COUNTRIES 

August Bover i Font Universitat & Barcelona 


1.-For relatively cment information on the spread of Catalan studies abroad and not only in English-speaking countries, see the papers published in "Estudis de la Llengua i Literatura Catalanes". V (= El Catala a Europa i Adrica) (1982) and my summary articlesLa Difurió Internacwnai dels Estudis Catalans,"Revue des Langues Romanes" (in press), and La Catalanística y su Difurión Internacional en la Actualidad, in the proceedings of the 1 Simposio Internacional Hispanica Posnaniensia-89, organized by A. Mickiewicz University in Poznán (Poland), which will soon appear as the third and fourth volumes of the journal "Hispanica Posnaniensia". 

2.- See Robert Pring-Mili, TheAngfo-CatdanSociety. "Buiietin of Hispanic Studies". Liii (1976). 99-100, Alan Yates. L'Angfo-CatdanSociety, "Serra d'Or" (July-August 1978), 53-54. the booklet TheAnglo-Catalan Sociefy, 1954-1979 (Sheffield 1979). and Geoffrey J. Walker. Llngfo-Catah Society, 1954-1981. in "Estudis de Llengua i Literatura Catalanes". V (= El Cata16 a Europa i a A d r i c a ) (Montserrat 1982). 21-38. 

3.- SeeFrancescValiverdÚ,Abril a Cambridge.UnEncontreInternacwnaiSobreLIengua i Literatura Catalanes, "Serra d'Or" (May 1973). 33-34. 
4.- Actes del Tercer Col.loqui Internacional de Llengua i Literatura Catalanes. edited by R. B. Tate and Alan Yates (Oxford 1976).
5.- G. J. Walker. TheCatalanConnection.VidaHisphica, XXV, 2 (1977).
6.- To date five volumes have been published: 1) Salvador Giner, The Social Structure of Catalonia (Sheffield 1984). 2nd. ed.; 2) Joan Salvat-Papasseit, Selected Poems, edited by D. Keown and T. Owen (Sheffield 1982); 3) David Mackay, Modern Architecture in Barcelona (Sheffield 1985); 4) Forty Mo&rn Catalan Poems. Homage to Joan Gili, edited by Arthur Terxy (Sheffield 1987); and 5 ) Eliseu Trenc Baiiester and Alan Yates, Alexandre de Riquer (1856-1920). The British Connection in Catalan Modernism (Sheffield 1988). This year another volume wili appear: the translation of Salvador Espriu'sPrimera HLrtoria d'Esther. 

7.- See Alan Yates. L'Ensenyament del Catalá a les Universitatsde la Gran Bretanya i Irlanda, in Actes del l e r . Symposium sobre I'Ensenyament del Catala a No-Catalamparlants (Vic 1982) and Max W. Wheeler - Alan Yates. Els Estudis Catalani a les Universitatsde les IIles Brithniques (Regne Unit i República &Irlanda). "Estudisde Llengua i Literatura Catalanes",V (= El Catalá a Europa i Amirica) (1982), 179-194. 
8.- North American Catalan scholars dedicted a posthurnous volume in her honour: Catalan StudieslEstudis sobre el Catala. edited by Joseph Gulsoy and Josep M. Sola-Sol6 (Barcelona 1977).
9.- See Carme Rei-Granger and Jaume Martí-Olivella, I Col.loqui d'Estudis Catalam a Nord-Adrica, "Sena d'Or" (September 1978). 33-35, and the volume of conference papers: Estudis de Llengua, Literatura i Cultura Catalanes, edited by A. Porqueras-Mayo. Spurgeon Baldwin and Jaume Martí-Olivella(Montser~at1979). 

10.- For information on the background of the NACS and its conferences, see A. Porqueras-Mayo, Els Estudis Catalaas i la North American Catalan Society (NACS), "Estudis de Llengua i Literatura Catalanes". W (= Miscel.kinia Antoni M. Badia i Margarit. 4 ) (1986). 231-243; Carme Rei-Granger and Jaume Marti-Olivella, 1 Col.loqui d'Esrudis Catalatu a Nord-Akrica. "Sena d'Or" (September 1978), 33-35; Josep Roca-Pons, La NACS (NorthAmerican Catalan Society), "Estudisde Llengua i Literaura Catalanes", XII, 43-54; Nathaniel B. Smith, La Catalanistica Nord-Americana ha "Sortit de 1Armariv, "Serra d'Or" (January 1985) 37-40; i August Bover i Font, The North American Catalan Society. "Catalonia culture", 8 (March 1988), 15. i North American CatalanSociety: Des6 Aniversari, "Revista de Cataiunya", 24 (Novernber 1988), 141-144. 
11.- For information on the teaching of Cataian in North America, see Joseph Gulsoy, Els Estudis Catalans a Nord-Adrica, "Estudis de Llengua i Literatura Catalanes". V (= El Catala a Europa i a A d r i c a ) (1982). 246-267; N . B. Smith. La Catalarústica Nord-Americana ha "Sortit de Iürmari", "Serra d'Or" (January 1985), 37-40; A. Porqueras-Mayo, Els Estudis Catalans i la North American Catalan Sociefy (NACS), "Estudis de Llengua i Literatura Catalanes". XII (= Miscel.lhia Antoni M. Badia i Margarit, 4) (1986). 231-243; i Milton M. Azevedo. Lu Projeccib dels Estudis Catalans als Estats Units. "Butlleti del Col.legi Oficial de Doctors i Llicenciats", 62 (April 1988), 66-69. 

12.- See Actes del Tercer Col.loqui d'Estudis Catalans a Nord-Amirica, edited by Manuel Duran, Albert Porqueras-Mayo and Josep Roca-Pons (Montserrat 1982).
13.- See Actes del Tercer Col.loqui d'Estudis Catalans a Nord-Amirica (Toronto. 1972) Estudis en Honor de Josep Roca-Pons, edited by Patricia Boehne. Josep Massot i Muntaner and Nathaniel B. Smith (Montserrat 1983). 

14.- See Actes del Quart Col.loqui d'Estudis Catalansa Nord-Adrica (Washington,D.C., 1984) Estudis en Honor düntoni M. Badia i Margarit. edited by Nathaniel B. Srnith, Josep M. Solk-Solé, Mer& Vidal Tibbits and Josep Massot i Muntaner (Montsenat 1985). 

15.- See Actes del Cinqué Col.loqui d'Estudis Catalans a Nord-Amirica (Tampa-St. Augustine. 1987), edited by Philip D. Rasico and Curt J. Wittiin (Montserrat 1988). 


16.-VolumeIii(no. 1)issetto appearinJune. 1989.




The study and learning of Catalan outside the region


With Franco’s victory, many intellectuals and scholars of Catalan went into exile and set-up centres aimed at maintaining the culture in many points of the world. It was a new impulse for the study and learning of Catalan which continues to this day. In 2000, the Ramon Llull Institute was created with the aim of promoting the Catalan...
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