Friday, September 29, 2006

Random thoughts while listening to Van Morrison:

The latest frenzy of Catalunacy broke out last week over the official address kicking off Barcelona's fiesta mayor, the Mercé; for some reason, they invite somebody famous to read a speech every year. This year those responsible chose Elvira Lindo, a Madrid writer best known for the Manolito Gafotas series of children's books, and it was announced that she would make her speech in Spanish, which makes perfect sense since that is the language she speaks and everybody in Barcelona understands it. However, Esquerra Republicana, a National Socialist party, pitched a fit at the idea that Ms. Lindo would not speak in Catalan, and many stupid things were said in the nationalist me(r)dia. Fortunately, the great majority of Barcelonese understood that Ms. Lindo was an invited guest and received her hospitably, but the ERC jerks showed up at the Plaza Sant Jaume holding up opened black umbrellas in order to demonstrate their opposition to her presence.

These people are an embarrassment to Catalonia, and unfortunately they are the ones who form opinions about our region (don't forget, él que viu i treballa en Catalunya és català, so that includes me) in the rest of Spain. I have a friend in Madrid named Carlos, who is a very well-educated, creative, and intelligent guy. He once asked me, "How can you stand to live in Barcelona? I suppose there's the climate, but..." See, Carlos's image of Barcelona has been formed by these ERC clowns, and he thinks they actually represent most people here, which they don't, since they only get about 10% of the vote.

(I will add that many Barcelonese have an equally false stereotype of Madrileños, reactionary Franquista Spanish ultranationalists, which of course the great majority are not.)

The regional elections for the Generalitat, the Catalan government, are coming up on November 1, and campaigning is in full swing. No predictions here on who's going to win; I think the PSC's Jose Montilla is the favorite, but anything could happen. I suppose, out of the realistic possibilities, that I would prefer a coalition between the two most moderate and mainstream parties, Convergence and Union and the Catalan Socialists. Sure, that's voting for more of the same, but things actually function more or less pretty well around here. We're prosperous and comfortable.

Montilla is a Socialist party hack, just another politician with nothing special about him. He was the president of the PSC and Zapatero's industry minister, and he took a lot of heat from the PP when he was in the cabinet, especially over the various proposed utilities mergers. What makes him interesting is that he is not Catalan by birth. He's from Córdoba, and your more racist ERC goons call him a charnego, that is, not a real Catalan. He is the first charnego to have a serious shot at becoming premier of Catalonia since the regional government was established in 1980.

He represents the Spanish-speaking descendents of immigrants from other parts of Spain who settled in Barcelona's industrial suburbs in the '50s and '60s, and now form the majority in places like Cornellà, where Montilla was mayor for a decade, Santa Coloma, Manuela de Madre's home base, Celestino Corbacho's L'Hospitalet, Catalonia's second-largest city with nearly half a million people, and other such cities from Sant Boi to Badalona.

It looks to me like it's these people's turn to run things for a while.

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