Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Saturday, 13 march 2010 | New York Times

English

A Public Reply to the New York Times (III)

We would like to commend Mr. John Tagliabue for his informative report from Barcelona (“Trumpeting Catalan on the Big Screen”, March 10, 2010).

The Catalan government’s effort to have at least 50% of films dubbed or subtitled in Catalan must be seen as part of an attempt to restore the language of the land to its proper place in all spheres of public life, thereby redressing an unjust situation that was artificially created under General Franco’s dictatorship. The imposition of the Castilian language was one of the hallmarks of Franco’s rule, and the culture minister’s assertion that the use of Catalan was “discouraged” at the time is to say the least an understatement. For over 40 years the Catalan language was effectively banned from most areas of culture and entertainment - books, the press, films, radio and TV -, learning - from kindergarten to higher education - and, needless to say, state institutions - from the judiciary, the police and the military to local government, the railroads or the post office.

Many of those prohibitions were progressively eased and ultimately lifted, except in the official sphere, but the inertia they created can still be felt today. Spanish governments after Franco still refuse to accept the reality of a multilingual society, and they have all been unwilling to take any action that would compensate Catalans for the harm done. As a result, while the Castilian language continues to be effectively promoted, any measures to protect Catalan have been left to the regional government alone.

On the other hand, a deep aversion to everything Catalan is still common in Spanish official circles, especially among the military and the police. The case of the young conscript who was arrested in 1977 for speaking in Catalan with his comrades is not a thing of the past. Most recently, Mr Alexander Alland, a former anthropology professor at Columbia who has a good knowledge of the situation in Catalonia, brought to the attention of the New York Times, among others, the case of a young mother who was held by the police at Girona Airport and then charged with disrespect for the authorities because she had addressed the agents in Catalan. This was in 2009.

So it’s plain to see that various forms of protection, including positive discrimination, will be necessary for some time to come, even in the face of the central government’s disapproval. As to the more distant future, Catalan is now taught as the main language in primary schools as a way of integrating the huge numbers of immigrants that have come to Catalonia from all over the world in recent years and that represent already close to 14% of the population. It is hoped that learning the local language and making it their own will give newcomers a sense of belonging to the community, and then perhaps it will be those newcomers who will demand to watch movies in the language of their new land.


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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Col·lectiu Emma is a network of Catalans and non-Catalans living in different countries who have made it their job to track and review news reports about Catalonia in the international media. Our goal is to ensure that the world's public opinion gets a fair picture of the country's reality today and in history.

We aim to be recognized as a trustworthy source of information and ideas about Catalonia from a Catalan point of view.
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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia