diumenge, 28 de setembre de 2014

History in the making

So, at 10.35am on Saturday 27th September 2014, in a solemn act within the walls of the historic Catalan governmental palace in Barcelona, the 129th Catalan  President - Artur Mas - signed the decree calling the Catalan "independence referendum" for 9th November. And here he is:

Artur Mas speech in English por vilawebtv

divendres, 26 de setembre de 2014

What happened on 11th September?

So, finally, what happened on the 11th September?
Well, firstly, why is Catalonia's "National Day" on the 11th ? A long story, better explained by Wikipedia or some of my previous posts but in a nutshell; in the War of The Spanish Succession, Catalonia backed the wrong guy, the guy from Austria - with the support of a variety of other European countries such as England and Holland. They lost. England do not come out of this very well, as seeing they were losing, they cashed in their chips with the Treaty of Utrecht, got some gains such as Gibraltar, and left the Catalans in the lurch. They held out alone before Barcelona finally fell, after an epic year-long siege, on 11th September 1714. This was effectively the end of the war and any kind of independence Catalonia had enjoyed within the confederation of the Spanish kingdoms. This day is now commemorated as Catalan National Day with a series of emotive acts during the day, and some kind of independence reivindication act in Barcelona. These events have got bigger and bigger over recent years, with over a million people in 2012, perhaps 1.5 million in 2013 (when they/we formed a 400km human chain), and this year....

.... police estimates say there were 1.8 million people there this year! That is one hell of a load of people (out of a population of 7 million) but who am I to argue with the police! Just looking at the pictures and maps it is clear that there were at least a million, probably a lot more.
To spice things up this year, the idea  was to occupy the two main avenues/boulevards/streets which go through the centre of Barcelona diagonally before intersecting. These roads are about 30 metres wide and we did 12km of them, thus occupying a minimum of 360,000 m2 - plus huge pavements and the many people spilling into side streets away from the crowd, and intense sun. As experts seem to think you get between 2 and 4 people in a square metre on a typical demo, then do the numbers. Anyway, perhaps between 10 and 20% of the population of Catalonia were there. Can you imagine something similar in another country? And the organization? 7000 volunteers got this organized, registering people, selling t-shirts, publicizing it, finding parking spots for 1000 coaches, ensuring the red/yellow effect came off, organizing concerts, stages, speeches, covering press needs etc... This was not a government or political party organized event, just one more example of how the independence movement here is the best example in 21st century Europe of a bottom-up movement pushing its "leaders" onward!
We each had to wear either a red or yellow t-shirt and find our allocated strips in the street so as to form a huge V shape in the colours of the Catalan flag.
Here are some news articles and videos on these links. What you will notice is that, much more important than the numbers are the smiles. A beautiful, emotional, peaceful time was had by all.

Excellent photos

More cool photos.

Videos and photos - aerial shots.

La diada de Catalunya from Alexandru Costin on Vimeo.

dijous, 18 de setembre de 2014


Problemes amb internet tota la setmana m’ha impedit publicar un anàlisi calmat sobre lo que està passant avui a Escòcia, i així ara només faré aquestes 4 ratlles....

Comencem amb un contundent, Catalunya no és Escòcia i visa versa.

Parlant des de la distancia, i així potser m’equivoco, però tinc l’impressió que a Escòcia el tema de l’independéncia és top-down, o sigui un idea que bàsicament ve de “dalt” i després mou les masses. Crec que l’idea del referendum, encara que fos el somni per una minoria (?) de gent, rep la espenta gran bàsicament del partit SNP i sobretot del seu líder, el Alex Salmond. A les eleccions del 2011, el SNP va obtenir un 45% del vot però una majoria de diputats – 65 dels 129. Així van complir la seva promesa electoral i van posar en marxa el referendum – amb l’acord de Londres, ja que el govern britànic ha respectat la majoria democràtica. Des de llavors que han passat per mil debats civilitzats i la publicació de tot tipus d’informes sobre els pros i contres, i poc a poc, la gent s’ha anat sumant – fins arribar a avui, que ja deuen rondar el 50% a favor del Sí. 

També hi ha molt de motiu polític en la campanya del SNP. Pel que entenc, un dels arguments principals és que a Londres sovint surt un govern conservador (Tory) i ells mai voten conservador. Trobo que aquest argument fa aigües, perquè un cop independent, que pensen? Que Escocia mai tindrà politics de dretes ? Trobo que d’aquí xx anys els empresaris o conservadors escocesos muntaran el seu partit i serà un país “normal”, ple de dretes, d’esquerres, de gent bona i dolenta. No serà una utopia, sinó un país “normal”. 

A Catalunya està més que clar que és al reves. Un bottom-up moviment, on centenars de milers de persones, i entitats de base, han pressionat fins fer esclatar la política tradicional catalana i aconseguir que un grapat de partits, representant 2/3part del parlament han decidit organitzar un referendum. Però no està acceptat pel “Londres espanyol”, Madrid, ni s’ha pogut tenir cap mena de debat o campanya civilitzat. Una altra gran diferencia és que aquí els partits pro-referendum sí que son de dretes i esquerres i no passa res, ja que saben que tots cabran en el nou país.

Per que mirem a Escòcia, doncs? Crec que simplement per 2 motius; 1. enveja, que ells poden votar.  2. Si acaben votant Sí, obligarà la UE a pronunciar-se per fi sobre el futur de “nous” estats dins de la UE. Evidentment els acceptaran i així veurem més clar les mentides de Madrid.

Que votaria jo? Ni idea. No tinc prou informació ni he seguit el debat de prop, per saber com els anirà millor al futur. De vegades és millor poder portar endavant el teu país, però també sortir d’un gran (per mi) país com és el Regne Unit, pos, fa mal. Escocia no és Catalunya, però les diferencies entre Espanya i el Regne Unit encara són més grans. Catalunya no té res a pelar dins Espanya i hi ha mil motius per marxar, però és diferent allà, on la democracia encara funciona, relativament. Repeteixo, lo millor és que deciden els escocesos!
Well, I was going to write a couple of well-thought-out posts on the Scotland vote, but we’ve been without internet for almost a week and the voting is already on us. So here’s just a quicky before the celebrations (?) start.
Catalonia is not Scotland, and visa versa. Yes, I know half of Catalonia is in Edinburgh tonight and the other half is home praying but I just thought I’d point out a couple of differences. Or at least the way I see it, though I could be wrong, being more than 500 miles away....

The Scottish independence process is basically a top-down movement. Although many Scots have probably dreamt of the idea of independence for years, I think the whole idea of actually going for it now comes from one party (or even one person, according to a buddy of mine), the Scottish National Party. The SNP won the 2011 elections with 45% of the vote but a majority of MPs (65 out of 129). So they carried out their campaign promise to organize a referendum, and the British government went along with it. It’s called democracy and is, apparently, the least bad political system known to man. Over the last couple of years, Scotland has been able to hold civilized debates and carry out Yes and No campaigns to ensure everyone has enough information to be able to make a decision. Little by little the Scottish govt seems to be winning and bringing more and more doubters over to its side, to the point where it is something like a 50/50 Yes/No split now, with the results coming out in a few hours.

Besides this, another point I think I’ve picked up on is that the Scottish process is a very political one. A chief argument seems to be; if they go independent they won’t have to put up with any more conservative governments (and will live in a left-wing utopia forever?). Personally, I think this is a weak point as I’m pretty sure that once a few years have gone by, a right-wing Scottish party will appear of course. 99% of “normal” countries in the world have both left and right-wing politics and I don’t see why Scotland will be, or should be, any different.

The Catalan process is as different as chalk and cheese. It’s definitely a grass-roots bottom-up movement where it’s the consistent force of hundreds of thousands of citizens which has forced the politicians in power to make a move. To the point that in just 4 years, we now have a 2/3 majority of MPs in favour of independence, and organizing a referendum. The “Spanish London”, Madrid, though, refuses to allow it and so any hope of a calm and collected debate and campaign is out of the question. Basically if it goes ahead, it will be a unilateral referendum, whatever the consequences...  Another difference is that here the pro-indy parties are from across the political spectrum; right-wingers, radical left, greens, republicans, you name it, they’re included!

So, what’s with the Scottish obsessions this week? 1. Envy. All we wanna do is vote too!
2. If Scotland does vote Yes, this will force the EU to explain whether “new” states will be allowed in the EU or not. Obviously they’ll say yes (can you imagine EU wanting to get rid of economically stable democratic countries?), so Madrid will just have to take another slap in the face!

And yours truly? What would I vote? No idea, I haven’t followed the question closely enough to be able to judge what’s for the best. Obviously I know the benefits of small countries governing themselves, but I also know that the United Kingdom is still a comparatively great country to belong to. Catalonia is not Scotland, but an even bigger difference can be found between Spain and the UK. I can see a thousand reasons for Catalonia to get the hell out of Spain, but the UK is different - it's a country where basic ideas like respect and democracy are still, relatively, intact, and maybe they can still get on together.... who knows? Let the Scots decide, is the best option... and may the most convincing arguments win!

dimarts, 9 de setembre de 2014

Big day on 11 September in Catalan independence process

So, you're wondering what's happening in Catalonia? 
Well, the Catalan government is still promising an independence referendum on 9 November. And the Spanish government is still saying this isn't going to happen. Meanwhile all eyes are on Scotland (more on that another day) and on this Thursday, 11 September. This day is Catalonia's National Day - when they remember losing their independence through the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714. Different activities are always organized and over the last few years a key component has been the huge gathering in Barcelona in favour of independence. This year, they hope for a million people to come together - and to complicate matters, position themselves in yellow or red shirts so as to make a 12km V-shape in the colours of the Catalan flag!! Watch this space to see if they can pull it off - or we, as we'll also be there !
They/we will be occupying the two principal roads crossing Barcelona which form a V-shape; that's V for voting, voluntat (will power), and victory as in Winston Churchill's famous gesture. In England we also give another meaning with a different V-shaped gesture which may actually be a clearer message to send to the Spanish government...

dilluns, 8 de setembre de 2014

September gurls - Big Star

Encara mig de vacances - només treballo de tarde fins que comencen les classes el dia 15 - aprofitem per fer coses per casa i estar en els xiquets. Podriem estar recollint les garrofes que, encara que no hem de guanyar ni un euro, ens cauen al mig del jardi i algù les ha de netejar - però preferim anar en bici o anar a les festes de Tortosa o anar a la platja....
Still half on holiday, as I'm only working afternoon-evenings till the kids go back to school and our students start on the 15th. We should be doing the traditional activity in September - picking up our carob beans but... the thing is that this used to be an important task back when people had very little and everything counted. Carob beans provided a good source of food for livestock in the winter. When people stopped depending so much on the land, the next generation would still collect them to sell as apparently they are used for interesting processes. The seeds from the bean, correctly processed, provide an interesting thickening agent for ice cream and many medicines apparently. Nowadays, though, even this market has fallen through the floor and you'd be lucky to get a couple of €uros for a sackful of beans despite the back-breaking work it entails, in hot sticky September weather. I'd leave ours on the ground but the problem is they fall on our "nice neat gravelled" patch of the garden [see photo] so need collecting anyway, whether we sell them or not. Plus they attract rats. Rats just love to eat them.
However, given my back and leg problems, I'm gonna take it easy - in 15-minute sessions (probably still be after them when next year's harvest comes along!). Much prefer to go to the excellent secluded beaches we have around here...

dimarts, 2 de setembre de 2014

Sort of back to work now...

Ok, ja tornem a estar aqui, almenys en cos. La ment encara està mig de vacances - i si afegim que fins el 15 de setembre els xiquets no comencen l'escola i jo només treballo de tarde-nit, pos, encara farem alguna cosa més; festes de Tortosa, platja, alguna piscina ....
Hem passat 3 setmanes a Anglaterra, i ara toca tornar a adaptar-nos als horaris/menjar/ritme de vida/temps aqui ja que 3 setmanes donen per molta desconexxio!
Finally back here again - back home? Who knows, as "home" is a tricky concept! After 3 weeks in England where we completely disconnected from our normal life, now it's the time to adapt once more to timetables/eating habits/work hours/weather etc here. Luckily it's a soft landing for me as, even though I started work yesterday, the kids are still off till the 15th and I am only working afternoon-evenings until then, so there'll be plenty of time for beaches and playing still... and maybe a bit of blogging as we have many things to mention regarding our holidays!