Thursday, September 25, 2014

We can't even cry

by Francesc Canosa
Originally published in ARA. Translated and republished here with permission.

In 1939 the building located at 30 Carme Street in Barcelona was burning. On Xipreret street in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat (just south of Barcelona), there was a bonfire of books. In Terrassa, Figueres, Sénia, Blanes, Cervera, Igualada, Golmés, Móra d’Ebre, Sant Boi, Lleida, Sallent, Gandesa, la Fuliola, Palafrugell, Mataró, Ordal, Sitges, Caldes de Montbui... Let's stop. Our fingers can't go so high. Burning. And among them, the pyromaniacs of plunder: the DERD (State Delegation for Document Recovery). From January 28 to April 3, 1939, 1,690 searches. 25 each day. 160 tons of documentation was the bounty of war. Just in Barcelona. We don't know anything else. We don't know anything. They took it all away: papers, documents, books, frames, tables, chairs, bank accounts... Everything. They occupied buildings, properties. They persecuted, repressed and eliminated people. They performed arquitectural lobotomies. In Igualada they called it National Center. In L'Hospitalet, the Falange headquarters. In Caldes de Montbui, the offices of the Social Aid. In Sant Cugat, in Canet de Mar, in Alforja, in Llagostera, in Sant Adrià, in Masquefa, in Sant Pere de Ribes, in Guiamets... Stop. Some have died. Others limp, or have just one eye. And many have resuscitated. We don't anything about the athenaeums (community centers), the cooperatives, the associations that were smothered in 1939.

The athenaeums are the lungs of the country (today there are about 400). An oxygen pump against asphyxiation. Catalonia begins to breathe in the 19th century. In each town an athenaeum is born. They formed, educated, taught... They were the school, the university, for the Catalan people. They supplied what the State did not provide. Catalonia is a pioneer in creating a state without having a state. This artificial existential respiratory system. The athenaeums of the left, of the right, of the republicans, of the anarchists, workers, conservatives, spiritualists, naturalists... Athenaeums like the one that burned on 30 Carme Street: the Popular Encyclopedic Athenaeum. 25,000 members. They offered from hiking excursions to Esperanto and had night classes for workers. Athenaeums that were left without books (2,500) like the Popular Culture Athenaeum on Xipreret Street in L'Hospitalet: dances, French classes, drafting, calculus, chemistry... Centers like the CADCI (Autonomist Center of Commercial and Industrial Clerks). 20,000 members. It suffered the second worst sacking after the Generalitat: 169 sacks of documentation, 55 buildings decommissioned and dozens still not located today.  Popular Athenaeum of La Garriga, Catalan Athenaeum of Sallent, Acàcia Athenaeum, Athenaeum of Sant Just, Foment Martinenc, Societat Unió Gandesana... We can't stop. We're starting to count. After 75 years, we have a first listing. About 70 athenaeums and associations all over Catalonia could be affected by the smothering of 1939 according to the Athenaeum Network (XarxaAteneu). The figure could double, triple... We don't know anything. The documents, the buildings, the objects, the money, it's all simply unquantifiable... This Saturday at the Barcelona Athenaeum there is a zero moment to begin to breathe: the Table of Entities Affected by the Francoist Regime. We need to know. We need oxygen. The asphyxia of 1939 is also the asphyxia of 2014.

The same day (Tuesday) that the Partido Popular once again asphyxiated us as it rejected the return of more of the "Salamanca papers", Teresa Rovira stopped breathing. The librarian who saved pieces of the country by hiding Catalan books in the "hell" of the library. The children's books: the spark of life. The daughter of journalist and politician Antoni Rovira i Virgili. The 95-year-old woman died without being able to recover part of her father's archive. They have burned us, they have stolen our ashes, and the coffin, the tomb, the stone, the niche and the flowers. We are in a place that has no name. And we are not here for 16 billion euros. We are here because we have nothing. We are here because of a cry that doesn't die: we have no papers, no stones, stained with our tears.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Concepció Soriano, human tower builder in the Wall Street Journal

By Anna Murgadas. Originally published in Nació Digital. Republished here in English with permission.

Concepció Soriano (Barcelona, 1941) is a grandmother and a human tower builder, and member of the Castellers de Barcelona team. Her job as a human tower builder is to serve as a "plug", that is, to fill the holes that are left in the base of the tower between the radial spokes. As far in as they need her, she says. This September 11th, her picture went around the world as the image of Catalonia's National Day. She was one of the Wall Street Journal's photographs of the day.

Concepción Soriano holds a print out of her picture in the Wall Street Journal. Photo: S.C./Nació Digital

Did you imagine all this fuss? Who told you that this photograph had come out?
People were calling me all day on Friday, but I was very busy with my grandchildren since school hadn't started yet and I didn't pick up the phone. In the evening, when I got to Castellers practice, my team members were waiting for me in the street. I was very touched. Everyone was hugging and kissing me! It was really amazing, to tell the truth.

And when you saw the photograph, what did you think?
It made me really happy, but I'm just one of the people on the team...

But it's not just that you're the face of Barcelona's human tower building team, the Wall Street Journal chose you as the symbol of Catalonia's V for Vote demonstration!
Well, that makes me very proud at my age. I'm 73, I won't fool you. I called my son-in-law, who's studying in the US and who knows that country well. "Of course I know what paper it is!" he told me.

And how did you celebrate the day?
We were at the vertex of the V. I went with a friend to hold the banner for the Barça booster club, but I left her for a moment because they needed me for the tower. It was awesome, really nice. I hope we win! On November 8th, my daughter is getting married and it would make me really happy to go vote the next day.

Have you been part of the Castellers de Barcelona team for a long time?
No, no. About six years. Apart from being on the human tower team, I'm a volunteer, since the 92 Olympics. I made a lot of friends there who were human tower builders and after seeing them during the festivals so many years, I decided to join.

What's your job on the team?
I'm a plug, I fill in the holes that remain in the base of the tower [between the spokes], and since I'm really small, I can get really far in.

You also brought another member of your family to the team, a granddaughter...
Yes, when I went to practice, I brought her with me and she just played. But then I saw that she liked it, and she wasn't afraid, and pretty soon she was climbing pillars (one-person-per-storey towers). I signed her up but now she is six and I don't know if she'll want to keep doing it.

What did she say about the photo?
Oh, she just got home from vacation and hasn't seen it yet.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

V for independence

This article was written by Manuel Cuyàs in El Punt Avui. He kindly agreed to let me publish this translation here.


V for independence

I go into Barcelona to participate in the V demonstration, and after wandering about the Arc de Triomf for a few minutes, I find my cousins from Tarragona. I tease them: I thought you wouldn't miss the meeting of unionists in the amphitheater. The unionists hope to convert Tarragona into Àlaba, the most Spanish and castilianized of the Basque provinces, but seated in the stands of the amphitheater, they look much more like schoolchildren on a field trip. Afterwards, I find other cousins and acquaintances and also people I'm not acquainted with at all, as I make my way around the Born, the Fossar de les Moreres, Argenteria street, the Plaça de Sant Jaume, Ferran street, the Plaça Reial, and the Rambla.

People walking across Plaça Sant Jaume about 9:45am, Sept 11

Lots of red and yellow t-shirts in the metro

The impressive photographs of the V will overshadow these other, previous human compositions: people dressed in yellow and red filling restaurants at lunchtime, going in and out of cafés, walking up and down the streets. Today, if you get or give a shove to someone walking by, people are smiling instead of grumbling about where you think you're going. Everyone knows where they're going and is aware that the concentration that awaits them for the afternoon will involve lots of bumping into each other. There are a lot of us and we don't fit in Barcelona.

Catalonia National Day #11s2014 #CatalansVote9N Diada - 04

A red Miquelet reenactor in the metroThe organization, the ANC and Òmnium Cultural, had said that at 4pm, one hour before the climax at 17:14h (5:14pm), everyone has to be in his or her place on the Gran Via and Diagonal. We must be the most disciplined people in the world because between half past three and quarter to four, all of us who had been wandering aimlessly around the streets begin heading to the meeting points.

We are moved by discipline and something more: appreciation for the organizers who had thought of everything and foreseen every possibility. We can’t let them down. To organize much less complicated things, others contract specialists and outside experts. The V requires a profusion of trains and buses, calculations, t-shirt sales, the willingness of men and women to form the four bars of our flag, all of which is the product of the work of many volunteers. I thought that waiting for an hour in the hot sun was going to be a drag, but I hadn't counted on my cousins, acquaintances and non-acquaintances who made it a breeze. Five, four, three, two, one... 17:14.

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The unanimous demand: "independence". Polls say that 75% of Catalans want to vote. Here, with almost 2 million people, that's 25% of the population. I don't know what the others—the ones who at that moment were at the beach, at home, or on a walk—plan to vote. The ones on the Gran Via and the Diagonal want to vote Yes for independence. The ones who simply don't want to vote were in Tarragona's amphitheater.

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Two older yellow t-shirted demonstrators in Gràcia after the demonstration