About the author of this article for Help Catalonia
Josep Bargalló VallsFirst Minister and Minister of the Presidency of Catalonia 2004-2006
Minister of Education of Catalonia 2003-2004
Councillor in Torredembarra Town Council (1995-2003)
President of the Ramon Llull Institute (2006-2010)
From 2010 he is Professor of the University Rovira i Virgili
It must have been in 2004 when I was the Conseller-en-Cap of the Generalitat –that is, the First Minister of the Government of Catalonia, appointed by the President–, when I visited an old manor house on the outskirts of Barcelona. I was received at the door by its current owner, a hotel businessman who holds appointments at several management and industry associations both in Catalonia and Spain. The first thing he said was: "It is my honour to receive the second Conseller-en-Cap to visit this house". "Who had come before me, Conseller Mas or Conseller Carod?" I asked him. They were my immediate predecessors and the only Consellers-en-Cap appointed to the post since the Bourbon King's victory in the War of Succession in 1714.
"No", he replied smiling, "the first was Rafael Casanova".
Casanova was the last Conseller-en-Cap of the Council of One Hundred of Barcelona, –who would now days be the Mayor– and commander of the troops defending the city in 1714, when he was shot and wounded on September 11, date of the capitulation of the city, the abolition of its institutions and the consequent loss of Catalonia's national sovereignty –to put it in understandable terms, though perhaps a little simplistically.
The anecdote, however, is quite symptomatic of the modern history of Catalonia and of who we are as a country: a businessman and industry leader recognising before a member of a left-wing government that, despite all the defeats and losses, Catalonia follows a historical thread of institutional and national affirmation. This is the lesson of September 11. We were, but we also are and will be. We lost our sovereignty, but we do not forgo recovering it. And increasingly so, we do want to recover it.
By the way, my host gave me a publication which narrates, with documentary proof, that Rafael Casanova had spent a night at that house on the way to Sant Boi de Llobregat, having recovered from his injuries and stripped of his rank and appointment by the Spanish occupier.
The military conflict which ended in 1714 with the surrender of Barcelona was not in any way an internal, Catalan, conflict, and not even an Iberian conflict. It was above all a European conflict that was settled in the lands of the former Crown of Aragon, in Catalonia and Valencia fundamentally. In June 1705, in Genoa, the Catalan delegates and the plenipotentiary agent of the Queen Anne of England, Mitford Crowe, signed a pact by which the English crown promised "perpetual guarantee to secure the privileges and laws of the Principality of Catalonia" when our country was already at war with the Spanish and French armies. The English crown, especially after 1710, when the Tories came to power, did not fulfil its commitment to Catalonia and left us to a clearly unequal struggle. In 1714, English MPs made patent their protest to what was called, throughout Europe, "the Case of the Catalans".
In fact, the "Case of the Catalans" is how the collections of discussions and agreements on Catalonia became known. These took place between 1712 and 1714 within the framework of negotiations on the problems generated by the war and which led to the Treaty of Utrecht. The treaty signified the final isolation of the Catalans and cleared the way to victory for the Bourbon troops. The "Case of the Catalans" sprang up again, shortly after, in 1719, with the Anglo-French invasion of northern Catalonia: the French Minister Guillaume Dubois, pressed by the English Lord James Stanhope, proclaimed the restoration of the Catalan constitutional structure. The invasion, however, did not prosper and a new international agreement left things as they were in 1714. A last echo of the "Case of the Catalans" appeared in 1736 with the publication of the booklet "A Reminder of the Alliance made to His Serene Highness George Augustus, King of Great Britain", a message addressed to King George I of England, whereby he was reminded of the alliance pact "for the freedom of Catalonia".
It was therefore an international conflict, which ended benefiting an expansive Kingdom of Spain. And that hurt Catalonia, with almost three hundred years of lost sovereignty and constitutional freedoms. As some historians argue, the Geneva agreement of 1705 was never repealed. No matter, however, as the impossible fit of Catalonia within Spain –more evident than ever today– means the solution must be found precisely a new Europe, that of the citizens, the peoples and of freedom. A new Europe for Catalonia with renewed freedom: this is also for us, the Catalans, the commemoration of 11th September. The end of the "Case of the Catalans".
At the Venice Biennial of Art 2009, Catalonia premièred its presence with its own pavilion – as did Wales and Scotland. The pavilion contained a conceptual art project that gathered the work of several artists under the name "The Unconfessable Community". One of the artists, Daniel G. Andujar, working with images from the internet, placed three small screens in an enclosed, very austere space, each dedicated to September 11: the fall of Barcelona in 1714, Pinochet's bloody coup in Chile in 1973, and the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York in 2001.
Historic matches for three dates on which the freedom and the lives of people suffered a frontal, merciless attack. Three commemorations in one: September 11 is the remembrance of barbarism and a universal cry for freedom.
This article was written and first published in Help Catalonia on september 11th, 2011.
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First published 09/09/2013
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