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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Josep Ramon Bosch: The Catalan Difference, an Integral Part of Spanish Plurality

By Josep Ramon Bosch
Catalan Civil Society
President of “Fundación Joan Boscà”

Joan Bosca, or Juan Boscan, was a renowned Catalan poet who was born in Barcelona in 1487 and died in the Catalan “Perpinyà” in 1542.

Bosca grew up in a family of lawyers and merchants, served in the courts of Ferdinand the Catholic and Carlos I from 1514 and was tutor to Fernando Alvarez de Toledo and Pimentel, future Great Duke of Alba. In 1539 he left the court and settled in Barcelona, and married Ana Giron de Rebolledo the same year.

Bosca is credited with having introduced in Spain the hendecasyllabic verse and Italian strophes such as the sonnet, Sicilian octave and tercets, as well as the protracted sojourn. The distinguished Barcelona poet perfectly represents the sense of belonging to the Catalan identity as an expression if its undisputed Hispanicity.

Here is the brief outline of this renowned Catalan man of letters. What we need to know is that Bosca and Giron made their house the center of a famous literary gathering focused on a visible and fruitful exchange between the Castilian and Catalan cultures; two cultures that have always naturally coexisted in Catalonia. A regular visitor to this gathering was the Catalan writer and soldier Jeroni Agusti i Albanell, “Battle-General of Catalonia,” and the poet Diego Hurtado de Mendoza from Granada.

In the same way that Joan Bosca naturally assumed that being Catalan was not something opposed to being Spanish, most of the Catalans naturally assume what is evident, even when it must be recognized that this evidence, its idea and its message, has not been cultivated enough neither in Catalonia nor in the rest of Spain.

Perhaps we forget that a community needs symbols and sentiments to uphold. These are the common recollections, shared expressions, individual referents that we need to preserve its cohesion. Perhaps in Spain we have neglected this aspect, in a manner that relationships of family, friendship, and business, which form the backbone of our country, do not have sufficient symbolic reflection. We have possibly neglected to nurture this collective imagination that contributes towards providing vitality to the rich human connections that make up the architecture of a country.

This absence of attention to the common sentimental elements is especially dangerous when a part of the whole over decades carries out a task of national reconstruction that does not have the entire State as a referent but a part of it. This is what is happening in Catalonia. The result is a disaffection that, although sometimes claiming to be based on strong economic and political reasons, does not refrain from being an identity and sentimental drive. Hence we are experiencing a nationalistic outburst from imaginary tales that cannot be fought with reason.

For this we must say, firmly and unambiguously, that we deeply feel a part of Spain. And we do so by fleeing from nationalism, from all kinds of nationalism, those from here and from there. We not only reject secessionism but also the fatalist outlook that nothing can be done.

Catalonia is a wealthy region, with a per capita income of more than 26,000 euros, which is 4,000 euros more than the national average and even above the European average. We have a consolidated democratic system and we are part of the European Union. We enjoy the benefits of being part of the world’s largest economy (the EU) and a country with significant international clout which, among other things, connects us in a privileged manner to Latin America.

There are no reasons to consider that Catalonia’s integration into Spain and the European Union poses disadvantages to Catalans. Despite that, a series of falsehoods, distortions, and a pile of political mistakes in many directions, has brought us to this crisis.

The “Fundación Joan Boscà” was created to explain that Spain’s unity is a huge advantage. In the 18th and 19th centuries Spain became the main destination for Catalan products and trade with the Americas, which was one of the main reasons for Catalonia’s economic development during this period. And in the 20th century, Catalonia’s economy, with its integration with that of Spain, has not stopped growing. One cannot be understood without the other. Catalonia distancing itself from the markets of Spain and Europe would be a disaster.

While independence may seem like a separation, in reality it is an amputation. The existing links between Catalan companies and centers of economic activity and those in the rest of Spain and Europe are very strong and cannot be broken. They are akin to the legendary Gordian knot, tied in such a manner that only a clean and brutal cut can undo it: a cut lethal for the Catalan economy.

And the same holds true for social, political and family ties. The Catalan society is a part of Spanish society and the links between Catalonia and the rest of Spain are strong. Could we not be part of Spain? Can we not consider Seville, Zaragoza, Santiago de Compostela and Valencia as a part of our country? Would we be capable of giving up our status as European citizens? In reality could we bear to see that the lands from where our parents and grandparents came from, where our brothers and children live be considered as foreign lands? No. We Catalans also want to be protagonists in the common Spanish project.

We understand that the plurality that for Spain represents sharing several languages and cultures forms a part of its richness and not its problems. Just as Catalonia is naturally Spain, Spain is also Catalonia in the sense that without Catalonia, it cannot be understood.

Often the responsibility of Catalonia has been raised in the Spanish government as an issue outside Spain itself, and we believe that a large part of the current problems arise from this approach. We Catalans do not have a greater responsibility than those who come from Madrid, Andalucia or Castilla; but neither do we have a lesser or different responsibility. The so-called “Catalan difference” has often been assumed to be a distinctive feature in Catalonia as well as in the rest of Spain, and especially in what we call “Madrid.” And the fact is that this “difference” is but an integrated element in Spain’s pluralistic nature.

Therefore, from Fundación Joan Boscà we try to add support to a cause shared by millions of people across Spain. We try to spread and foster the constitutional principles of equality among Spaniards; political pluralism and unity among our people. Thus, in a nutshell, we promote initiatives directed at promoting unity in diversity, and personal, cultural and economic exchange between different regions and identities that shape Spain.

Disclaimer: This article is part of Agencia EFE’s opinion service, which relies on the contributions of diverse figures, and solely reflects the opinions and points of view of its author.

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