When you go out of Catalonia to travel around the world, it is easy to realize that most of the people you find in your way have not the slightest idea of the name of your country. Well, thankfully the ignorance of some people justifies many things, some do not either know about Croatia, Kosovo or Lithuania... For Catalans when we travel and somebody asks us “where do you come from?”, we found ourselves in front of several options, unfortunately. One of the options is to say you come from Barcelona, it does not matter you live in Tortosa or Manresa, even if you live in the Pyrenees, it does not matter, the brand of Barcelona sells. Not sure it is for FC Barça, for Gaudí or for the city itself... And indeed it sometimes turns out to be the best option to help your ignorant audience identify Barcelona citizens as different than the Spanish to start with.
The second option is to be persistent and insist that Catalonia is a nation, with a milenary culture, a language, a gastronomy... but when you get to the geographical points, and mention the Mediterranean and Barcelona, you go again to the first option, along with all the touristic spots like Lloret de Mar, Blanes or Sitges. The third option is to say you are Spanish, but of course, this one does not work for those who believe that Catalonia deserves to be a state too as well as the international recognition as a nation of this planet. Nevertheless, in the very first conversation with any new stranger around the world, we Catalans are inevitably obliged to take political position about the current situation of our country. Though for those who believe Catalonia should be free and independent, it is also the best oportunity to create some awareness about Catalan identity around the globe.
I admit that some years ago, when I worked from Barcelona but travelled mostly for business, I used Barcelona branding on the first place a lot. I must confess I still use it in front of analfabetized absolutists or in potenially conflictive professional encounters (like for example, a visit to clients in Madrid). But for over 4 years I decided to be determined in explaining the whole thing to each single individual, also because it bugs me to be called Spanish all the time... Here is an example of what I must explain to those who are completely ignorants most of the times:
-Where are you from?
-I'm from Catalonia;
-Hmm, Catalonia? Where is that?
-In Europe, by the Mediterranean, like Italy, but on the other side...
-Oh, really? I don't recall I have heard of it, where is it exactly?
-It's between France, Spain and the Mediterranean... do you know the city of Barcelona?
-Oh yes, I love Barcelona!
-Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, my country.
-Oh, I did not know it was a country, I though it was Spain!
-Oh, no, it's not. Barcelona is not in Spain, but in Catalonia.
-You mean Catalonia is a region of Spain?
-Well, no, I mean Catalonia is a nation but not a state, like the Scottish with the United Kingdom.
-I had no idea of such thing hapening in Spain; so you do not have a Spanish passport?
-Well, yes, actually my country is not allowed to have passports for our people, so we have no choice but to use the Spanish one if we want to travel.
-So you have a Spanish passport but you are not Spanish?
-Exactly, but we will have Catalan passport soon because we are voting for having our own state this year. We are to have a referendum 9th of November to decide if we want to be an independent state and there is a high chance yes wins.
-What? Well I'm sorry to tell you, but until you win, you all are Spanish. Furthermore, I have been in Barcelona, and the food was Spanish tapas everywhere...
-Well, that is the food for tourists, in Catalonia we have an impressive gastronomy the size an importance of the French or Italian cuisines; some of the best chefs in the world are Catalan, do you know Ferran Adrià?
-No, I'm sorry, but I know Gaudí...
-Gaudí was an architect and a visionaire, not a chef, and you must know Gaudí was Catalan not Spanish.
-But what is the difference right now?
-There is a huge difference. It is not a state that defines a person's nationality. I am Catalan, that is my nationality. I have a Spanish passport because I am not allowed to have a Catalan one, which is unfair. Palestine is a nation but inside the state of Israel, and nobody dares to call them Israelís, right?
Such conversation can go on until the person you are talking to comes to terms of understanding and agrees not to call you Spanish anymore. Yet they will be tempted to tease you by calling you Spanish now and then, just because they know you do not like it. You will need to be patient and follow four simple tips if as a Catalan you feel in need to defend your true nationality:
1.Give examples of other nations without state or states without nation in the current times. Recalling the difference between nation a state is essential.
2.Then identity: Gaudí, el Barça, the culture and geography and gastronomy, do not forget to mention some internationally known Catalan personalities.
3.Later, history: explain how we fell into Spanish domination and plundering for 300 years. If necessary, recall Franco and that nobody in the world has judged in an international court the war criminals for facism in Spain, while the world did so with the nazis in Germany.
4.And for the last, the future: we want a new country in a new state through a democratic process, we want freedom!
Cooperating with this blog by translating, adapting and writing articles in English is hopefully a good way to explain many other people of other countries what is really going on in Catalonia, condemn all Spanish abuses publicly and obtain support from all those people living in the world that believe in democracy and human rights.
Deborah Jusmet, Netherlands