At the time of writing, a 55 year old Majorcan schoolteacher called Jaume Sastre has been on hunger strike for 30 days to protest against an educational reform dreamed up by the right-wing Balearic government which would effectively marginalise Catalan in state schools across the islands (polls showed that a significant majority of the population favoured the continuation of the original Catalan immersion system; the reform, finally imposed by decree, insists on 33% quotas for Spanish, English and Catalan; if a teacher doesn't know English he or she is expected to give the class through an English-speaking child interpreter working for free). Last May, 16 left-wing politicians, trade unionists and teachers went on a symbolic 24 hour hunger strike in Valencia in support of Sastre (and also to protest the closing down of all public Catalan-language radio and TV stations in the Valencian area as well as the local right-wing government's ostracising of 14.000 schoolchildren whose parents wanted them to study in Catalan, by shutting down those Valencian state schools which use it as a vehicular language). Although Catalonia occasionally makes the international press nowadays, the fact that Catalan is spoken in many other parts of Spain – and is being persecuted there – is ignored. The ultraconservative Partido Popular (PP), the ruling party in Spain (though it comes fifth in Catalonia) kicked off its harassment of Catalan by putting its bureaucratic boot into the feeblest Catalan-speaking area of all: a strip of south-western Aragon in which the language is widely spoken but has never been recognised as official. In June last year the Aragonese PP decreed that the language spoken in the south wasn't Catalan at all but something they dubbed LAPAO, a Spanish acronym which translates as Aragon's Own Language Spoken In Western Aragon. Then came the Balearic 'trilingual' decree, and after that the above-mentioned linguistic high jinks in Valencia. In short, these are sleazy, deliberate and extremely unpopular attempts by the Partido Popular to marginalise Catalan (they are now starting to interfere with the language in Catalonia itself, but that is proving a tougher task). The EU has a charter proclaiming that one of its jobs is to protect and promote Regional or Minority Languages. Well, it had better get cracking, before the right-wing columnist Román Piña Valls - who announced in the centralist El Mundo newspaper (20/5/14) that he couldn't wait to see Jaume Sastre die – has something to celebrate.
Matthew Tree, Catalonia Today, juliol de 2014