dilluns, 12 d’abril de 2010

Eyeless in Fraga

Fraga is the capital of the Franja de Ponent: a strip of territory running along Aragon's border with Catalonia, in which Catalan is spoken by a higher percentage of the local population (a total of some 50,000 people) than anywhere inside Catalonia itself. Among these Aragonese Catalan-speakers is Joaquín, a Fraga-born friend of mine, who – when I visited his home town in March - told me about a new problem at work: he has a fixed stand at the ecological fruit and vegetable market held in Saragossa, the capital of Aragon, every second Saturday. As he buys his apples from Lleida, they arrive in boxes marked 'Fruita de Lleida'. For months, customers had been berating him noisily for daring to serve this blatantly Catalan produce, until the fair's organisers asked him to do something about it. So he put his apples in boxes marked 'Plátanos de Canarias' and since then has had no complaints. This taken-for-granted loathing of everything Catalan is, he says, getting worse, in Saragossa and elsewhere. As some friends of the journalist Patrícia Gabancho found out last year when they went to the El Prado gallery in Madrid: while commenting on a painting (in Catalan), a passing Spanish art-lover loudly informed them they were 'Catalan bastards'. The radio presenter Sílvia Tarragona got a similar reception in Madrid from the pickets at Radiotelevisón Española when she turned up for work during their 24 hour strike on March 3rd: 'you shitty Catalan!', screamed the workers. This quasi-racial hatred blowing ever more strongly in from monolingual Spain, could well be the real reason why so many Catalans are quickly and quietly organising their multiple referendums for independence. Before I left Fraga, Joaquín told me about a Catalan girl who recently started going out with an Aragonese friend of his. When she visited her boyfriend's village, an elderly man came up, stuck a finger representing a gun barrel to her head and said 'Catalan: bang, bang!'. Let's hope Catalans will be able to enjoy the protection afforded by an independent state before such violent sentiments are expressed in - how shall we put it? – more physical terms.

Matthew Tree, Catalonia Today, abril de 2010

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