Saturday, December 13, 2014

Catalans in the world

Throughout history, the Catalan language has been used outside the Catalan region. In fact, it has enjoyed a strong use and was the customary language used throughout the Mediterranean during the Middle Ages up to the Renaissance. From the twentieth century onwards, the associations dedicated to the study of the Catalan language and culture, which were gathered in the ‘Federació Internacional d’Associacions de Catalanística’ [International Federation of Associations Catalanism] (FIAC), and the network of lecturers of Catalan language, which is co-ordinated by the Ramon Llull Institute, have guaranteed and helped to increment the presence of Catalan within the international university world.


Europe

Roger de Flor
Throughout the Middle-Ages up to the Renaissance, the presence of the Catalan language was continuous throughout the Mediterranean and southern Europe. Catalan commerce was quite active in the Eastern Mediterranean and had an extensive network of corn exchanges and consulates. From the military aspect, in the time of James I, an expedition of Catalan crusaders was organised to re-conquer the Holy Land and, in spite of the fact that the squadron was destroyed by a storm, eleven of the vessels managed to reach Sant Joan d’Acre. The Catalan participation in the defence of Constantinople (1453), which is testified to by different literary stories, is also distinguishable. The commercial presence in this city can be traced back to the thirteenth century, and the Catalan consulate is already documented in 1268. This commercial presence was always quite important, especially during the reign of Emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus.

Emblem of the city of Alghero
In the Italian region, especially in the cities which belonged to the Catalan-Aragonese Confederation, the merchants and cultured people knew and used Catalan. This ‘Catalanization’ was especially intense on the island of Sardinia, where Catalan still lives on in the city of Alguer. The linguistic ‘Catalanization’ reached the whole island, as is testified in the old documentation, toponomy, antroponomy and the influence upon the Sardinian language, especially upon the Campidanese dialect on the south of the island.

In the fourteenth century, when Athens and Morea were Catalan possessions, the prestige of the language meant that its use also spread throughout the Aegean Sea. The Catalan Diaspora, after their expulsion, forced them to abandon the language because they became mixed with the large Sephardic community, as occurred with the Portuguese Jews, although they maintained their national identity and some variants of their language. The expansion and prestige of Catalan all over the Mediterranean has left its mark in numerous languages; Catalan words are especially important in the maritime vocabulary.

After the War of Succession, Austrian exiles had different destinations but mainly settled in Vienna, Italy (especially Naples, Milan and Rome) and Hungary. Between 1735 and 1738, some hundreds of exiles were moved to the Banat of Temeswar, where the colony known as New Barcelona was created, although it did not consolidate. More recently, we must point out the Catalan fishermen established on the Galician estuaries, where they encouraged the preservation industry, or the residents of Sitges who settled on Figuereta – nowadays Cristina Island –, in Andalusia. The Catalan gypsies have also spread the use of the language in communities settled in various Provencal populations. In the same way that many exiles and emigrants, from the nineteenth century onwards, who often gathered around cultural or recreational centres, spread the family use of Catalan all over the world.

Roger de Llúria
With regards to the knowledge of Catalan in other countries or by foreigners, the chronicler Ramon Muntaner explains how Italian personalities at the service of the Crown, like the great admiral Roger de Llúria or the rational master Corral Llança, had adopted Catalan as a habitual language. Ramon Llull and Muntaner himself, for example, continuously used it in their various Mediterranean journeys. From the fifteenth century onwards there are numerous testimonies to the popular enthusiasm awoken by the sermons in Catalan by Saint Vincent Ferrer, who was understood and acclaimed in France and Italy and, more surprisingly, also in England and Brittany.

Pope Alexander VI
During the pontificates of the Valencian popes from the Borgia family, that is, Calixtus III (1456-1458) and Alexander VI (1492-1503), in Rome, Catalan was learnt, spoken and written because it was the family language of the pontiffs. At the end of the fifteenth century, a considerable number of German and French printers learnt Catalan in order to set up businesses in various cities all over the Catalan region, where they introduced the press. In the same way, in eighteenth century Minorca, which was incorporated into the British Empire, many members of the British garrison on the island learnt and used Catalan.

The prestige of the language and literature during the Middle-Ages and Renaissance has left traces in various literatures. It was a well known language for the grand old Aragonese and Castilian writers, like Juan Manuel, the Archpriest of Talavera or the marquis of Santillana, and some even wrote in Catalan, like Enrique de Villena or Bartolomé de Torres Naharro. The works of Catalan authors were soon translated into other languages and influences have been found in authors such as Montaigne, Cervantes, Giordano Bruno, Leibniz, Bacon and the grand Scottish philosophers. Furthermore, throughout the twentieth century, the scientific and university studies in the Catalan language and its literature were developed, initially in a European ambit, which gave way to the actual promotion of international Catalanism.

America

Statue of Gaspar de Portolà in Monterrey
The reasonable suspicions about the Catalan origin of Christopher Columbus, who counted upon a notable Catalan surrounding on his American expeditions, are known. The serious limitations to trade with America, which the citizens of the Kingdom of Aragon suffered, extremely limited emigration up to the eighteenth century. However, this continent had nearly a thousand toponyms of Catalan origin. When California was colonised, during the eighteenth century, there was an important presence of Catalans and Majorcans, which was headed by Governor Gaspar de Portolà, Pere Fages and his company of ‘Voluntaris de Catalunya’ [Volunteers from Catalonia] and friar Juníper Serra, who was the head of the religious expedition. In 1768, on the other side of North America, close to Mosquito bay in the then British province of Eastern Florida, a group of Minorcan colonizers settled. This colony of New Smyrna failed, and in 1777 the survivors sought refuge in the old city of Saint Augustine, where some surnames remain, which have been more or less corrupted by English, as well as the odd toponym. We can even find the trace of the old people’s ‘Mahonese’ in the local tongue, next to the elaboration of ‘formatjades’ and the odd culinary recipe.

Fremont USA CA - Mission San Jose,

 Fra Juníper Serra

Throughout the nineteenth century, the island of Cuba was the principal receptor of Catalan emigration, to the point that it is calculated that one out of every five emigrants from the Spanish State and one out of every ten soldiers was Catalan. More than a quarter of the traders in Havana and over half of those of the area of Santiago were also Catalan. In 1840, in Havana, the ‘Societat de Beneficència dels Naturals de Catalunya’ [Beneficiary Society of the Natural citizens of Catalonia] was founded. This was the first Catalan recreational centre which, from then on, opened the way, first in America, and later all over the world, for others to be founded.

Some of these emigrants from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries managed to amass large fortunes and, when they returned to the region, sought the construction of luxurious residences and were known as ‘indianos’ or ‘americanos’. Furthermore, in various Ibero-American countries, there was an important Catalan missionary presence, especially by the Capuchins, but also by other religious orders. Towards the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century, Costa Rica welcomed a group of Catalan traders which became very influential and from where, for example, the progressive politician Josep Figueres Ferrer emerged who was the country’s president several times.

After the republican defeat during the Spanish Civil War, Mexico generously welcomed a large part of the Catalan Diaspora, but also other countries like Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Colombia and Venezuela, amongst others, did the same. This grand migratory wave strengthened the Catalan recreational centres of these countries, gave rise to the apparition of numerous and notable publications in Catalan and made the celebration of the ‘Jocs Florals’ [Floral Games] possible in exile.

The rest of the world

Anselm Abdala Turmeda
aka 
Abdallah al-Tarÿumán
Africa and Asia have only sporadically received Catalan exiles or emigrants. However, the contacts with these continents have existed since times of old. The Islamised Majorcan Franciscan Anselm Abdala Turmeda, for example, was a translator and head of customs in Tunisia at the end of the fourteenth century and beginning of the fifteenth. During the nineteenth century, after the French colonization of Algeria, amongst the colonisers who settled there, and who were, from disrespect, called ‘pierds-noirs’ (black feet), was an important colony formed by north-Catalan, Balearics and Valencians, who basically settled near Orà. At the beginning of the twentieth century, these colonizers started to produce periodical publications in Catalan – which were known there as ‘patuet’ – using French orthography. 
The global migratory wave received by the Catalan region at the end of the twentieth century means that nowadays there are many citizens who come from other continents, as well as from Hispano-America and eastern Europe which have made Catalan their own language in order to integrate into the welcoming society.

Sir Esteve Morell, Melbourne
Without being able to compare with the Catalan presence in Europe or America, more recently Oceania, and especially Australia, has been the destination of certain Catalan emigration. In 1847, the Benedictine Josep M. Benet Serra Julià was nominated bishop of Victoria and, in 1926, Esteve Morell, the son of a Catalan emigrant, was elected mayor of Melbourne, which is a city were, from 1989 onwards, the radio station Ethnic Public Radio broadcasts a programme in Catalan. Sydney has an active Catalan community.


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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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