Passport To Arenys

'Passport to Pimlico' was one of sixteen Ealing Comedy films made in England between the late 40s and the late 50s, their plots characterised by the occurrence of outlandish events in markedly uneventful places. In recent weeks the inhabitants of Arenys de Munt, a village near Mataró, have found themselves plunged into a situation the Ealing scriptwriters would have rejected as way too implausible: the Village Council decided to hold a ballot to determine if the local citizens wanted Catalonia to become an independent state or not; it was then threatened with a potentially violent protest by the Falange de las JONS, a (Spanish) ultra-nationalist organisation which had flourished under Franco before withering into a weed of its former self under democracy; the Spanish government not only authorised this far-right demonstration, but ordered an (ex-Falangist) judge to ban the little village ballot. This generated so much media attention that on the day the latter was held (September 13th), Arenys de Munt had become a household name to millions and was duly flooded by thousands of independentist well-wishers and three hundred journalists and less than a hundred Falangists who gave the fascist salute protected by four hundred Catalan policemen while two thousand six hundred and seventy-one villagers voted a resounding ninety-six per cent 'Yes' to an independent Catalonia, a result reported the day after by the New York Times, Le Monde, Zeit, De Telegraaf and Reuters. The day after, a whole flock of Spanish and pro-Spain Catalan politicians, their feathers ruffled into dishevelment, clucked jumpily about how the Catalans had to embrace only moderate political options. Presumably in order to demonstrate the desirability of such options, a think-tank affiliated to Spain's conservative party formally recommended armed intervention in Catalonia, with all that would inevitably entail: tanks in the streets, mass arrests, sealed borders... All because of a village opinion poll! As a visiting English friend put it recently, 'Spain's a fallacy, in the end.' And the end, think many, is nigher than it ever was.

Matthew Tree, Catalonia Today, octubre, 2009

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