Monday, April 23, 2007

If we were independent, we would not starve

Due to my eclectic nature, I read (or browse through) 8 or 10 e-newspapers every day: e-noticies, Vilaweb, Raco Català, La Vanguardia, El Periódico , but also ABC, El Mundo, Las Provincias (Valencia) and a couple of international ones (Reuters, BBC, CNN, Haaretz and Le Monde).

ABC always amazes me. When a Catalan does a something that they judge wrong, he is a Catalan, when a Catalan does something they judge positive, the person becomes a Spaniard.

The latest example of that, is yesterday’s report on the latest list of best restaurants in the world (Restaurant magazine S. Pellegrino’s list). According to ABC’s report, El Bulli, owned by the SPANISH cook Ferrán Adriá or Adrià (apparently, ABC also wants to re-write the Catalan grammar, it should be Ferran Adrià, no matter where it shows up in the article) is for second consecutive year, the best restaurant in the world.
According to the article, 6 SPANISH restaurants make it to the top 50 list. Good job Spain!!
But, let’s analyze the location of those restaurants:

Oh! Surprise, surprise. There’s three Catalan and 3 Basque. However, the article does not mention, not even a single time the words Catalan or Basque. I understand, it is hard to tell, El Bulli, Mugaritz, Ferran, Berasategui, Can Fabes, Celler, Arzak, nothing closer to standard Castilian, at least for

Anyway, Catalans and Basques, let’s not take this very seriously. Let’s not allow the single-sided, “Catalans-you-are Spanish-you-like-it-or-not-and-you-shut-up” approach of the Spanish nationalist media to cause us an indigestion.

The only consequence I can get from the article is that when we are independent, we will not starve. Let’s toast with “cava” and “txakoli”.

El Bulli de Ferrán Adriá repite como el mejor restaurante del mundo

El Bulli, propiedad del cocinero español Ferrán Adrià y situado cerca de la localidad gerundense de Rosas, sigue siendo por segundo año consecutivo el mejor restaurante del mundo, según la prestigiosa revista gastronómica Restaurant.
Gracias al voto de la mayoría de los 651 jueces participantes, El Bulli consigue mantenerse en la primera posición de la lista San Pellegrino de los cincuenta mejores restaurantes del mundo que elabora esta revista, a la que España contribuye con otros cinco templos gastronómicos, ha informado hoy Restaurant.
El Bulli, que en los últimos seis años no ha bajado del tercer puesto dentro de ese índice, ocupó el primer lugar en las ediciones de 2001 y 2006. Entre los elegidos de este año, y por detrás de El Bulli, los críticos de Restaurant han reconocido la labor gastronómica del restaurante Mugaritz, de Rentería (Guipúzcoa), que alcanza la séptima posición.
De cerca le siguen el donostiarra Arzak y el gerundense El Celler de Can Roca, décimo y undécimo mejores restaurantes del mundo, respectivamente. El restaurante Can Fabes, de Sant Celoni (Barcelona), logra el vigésimo segundo lugar, mientras que el Martin Berasategui, de Lasarte (Guipúzcoa), alcanza el puesto veintisiete.
Gracias a estas seis representaciones, España es el cuarto país, junto a Italia, con mayor número de restaurantes de alta cocina del mundo, superados por Francia, con doce; EEUU, con ocho, y el Reino Unido, con siete.
El brasileño DOM, de São Paulo, en el puesto 38, es el único restaurante latinoamericano que logra hacerse un hueco en esta lista de los cincuenta mejores, en la que el año pasado ocupaba el último lugar.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Future in our hands

We, Catalans, cannot simply complain about the Spanish government not doing this or that to grant Catalonia the rights it deserves.

It is also true, however, that so far nothing has been done to make of the Kingdom of Spain a place that Catalans (real Catalans, those Catalans from all origins who feel our culture, language and philosophy of life has a value) can call their country.
Those who, like me, live overseas, know that in the Spanish consulates and embassies, there is absolutely no sign or indication that Spain is a multicultural, multilingual country. With a minimum investment, it would have been possible to have the key signage in Spanish and Catalan (most probably they should have had it also in Galician and Basque too), and in those locations where there is Catalan speaking personnel, a sticker on the counter saying: “es parla català”.
It would have been a great gesture by the Spanish government to push to have Catalan recognized as an official language of the EU, based on the fact that is the EU language without state that has highest number of speakers and is used at all levels of society (education, communication, literature, business, etc.). It would have been easy to make the case, or otherwise refuse to pay for those languages that are not even exclusive of their countries and used by orders of magnitude less that Catalan, like Gaelic or Maltese.
They could have supported the Catalan national teams in those sports where Catalonia is a world leader (roller hockey, waterpolo, ...), the same as Great Britain with soccer, rugby and others, instead of spending public money to avoid it.
They could have favored multi-language labeling for products with distribution nation-wide. They could have included Catalan (and also Galician and Basque) as languages that can be used to represent Spain in any foreign cultural event (even the Eurovision, I do not think that by singing in Catalan, we would be worse off).
They could have encouraged the use of the 4 national languages in Parliament, just by investing a little bit in interpreters, a small investment to show that they care.
They could have fought to get the bullet train connection Valencia-Barcelona-Paris, far earlier than the Madrid-Seville. They could have pushed to get an international airport hub in Barcelona to support the “still now” leading economy in the Iberian peninsula.
They could have used the traditional Catalan industrious and reserved character, to counter the Hispanic stereotype flamenco-party-fiesta-macho-ole that people outside Spain have in their minds.
The could have endorsed the fact that Catalan and Valencian are the same language, something that is clear as water, but they never did it because they wanted on one side, to undermine the Catalan culture, and on the other side to score points with the Valencian Spanish nationalist. The scientific truth to hell if we get the majority in congress, that’s their approach. In the 70’s, for instance, the Belgian government issue a law that stated that Flemish and Dutch were the same language (Neederlands), something unthinkable in Spain.

During the 30 years of democracy, I thought that there was hope for a federal monarchy, where Catalonia, its culture, language and personality would be valued.
As per today, I have totally lost hope, especially today after watching a hate- speech program in Telemadrid. We need to go a different route. It is all in our hands, Catalans at home, in Europe and overseas. The biggest handicap is also within ourselves. The current Catalan politicians are a scam.

I hope that one day, we will act united as Catalans and not in a partisan way. Before that happens, I have no hope.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

2024 (re-print)

More than a year ago, I posted a political fiction post called 2024. I am publishing it again to remind us how things change depending on where we stand.

Today, February 12th 2024, the European Parliament has rejected a proposal by the Spanish representative to the European Council to re-create the Spanish tax collection agency that was eliminated in the year 2014, when the European tax collection agency was founded with the objective to collect all European taxes, except those from Germany, France, Italy and the Benelux, countries that have kept till today their own tax collection entities, claiming historical rights as founding members of the European Union.Behind the Spanish proposal, we can find the fact that only 75% of the taxes collected in Spain, come back, while countries like Turkey are taking advantage of the solidarity funds due to partisan reasons, since the votes of its 120 million citizens (one forth of the European Union population) are key to keep the EPP (European Popular Party) in charge of the European government.Due to its current fiscal deficit, Spain has been obliged to restore the inheritance tax, reintroduce tolls at all statewide highways (that had been eliminated in 2002 in the whole country, except for Catalonia) and institute a 20% co-payment for medical assistance, among other measures.
The Spanish representative explained that after the tax redistribution, the per capita income in Spain dropped four places in the European ranking, after being taken over by Portugal, Czech Republic, Hungary and Latvia. These four countries that still enjoy the solidarity funds, have been able to eliminate the inheritance tax, all medical co-payments and have even introduced free dental coverage.
The Spanish proposal has provoked violent reactions, especially in those four countries and Turkey. Since Spain started to publicize its proposal, several organizations in those countries have called for a boycott to Spanish products, especially, Rioja wine, olive oil and, of course, “cava” (Catalan sparkling wine). Sales of those products in Europe have dropped significantly (about 7%), although the selling season has been saved thanks to the marketing efforts in Asia and the USA, as well as, the sale of non labeled wine and olive oil to Italian companies.
At the same time, some groups in Madrid have started a boycott against products labeled in English, which are invading the shelves of the supermarkets, due to lower distribution costs. England has sent an official complaint to the Spanish regional government and has qualified the attitude of the Madrilenian citizens as racist.
Meanwhile the dispute between the Seville archdioceses museum and the Moroccan government continues. The Moroccan government is demanding the return of all religious objects (Christian and Muslim) that came from the Spanish ex-colonies of Ceuta and Melilla. As you will remember, those colonies were returned to Morocco in 2018, as a result of the pressure from the Turkish government to the European conservative party that needed the support of the Turkish parties to overcome a non confidence vote in the European Parliament. The leader of the Spanish conservative party, who initially signaled his disagreement, was called to Brussels for consultations and despite the fact that there were many rumors about his possible resignation, he finally accepted the party line and voted for the return of the two enclaves to Morocco.
The only positive event this year has been the return of the documents stolen from Madrilenian institutions and private owners by the French troops during the War of Independence in 1808, and that were located at the French National Museum in Lyon. The documents left Lyon in the middle of the night and with heavy escort. The mayor of Lyon has filed an injunction against the Spanish regional goverment that has been accepted by the European court.

A close aide to the expresident of the Spanish government at the beginning of the century, José María Aznar, has indicated that the expresident, in view of the situation, exclaimed in privacy and in Catalan: “We should have learnt from the Catalans”.