The election campaign here just started. These are snap Catalan Parliamentary elections that were recently called, as the first step to holding a referendum in Catalunya on the issue of independence.
I don’t know the budget but, as always in Spain, it will be small. Politicians are always making speeches and attending to their public image and that of their political party. But hard core campaigning, putting up posters and broadcasting political campaign messages are allowed for only 15 days. This campaign began last night at midnight and will end at midnight the 23rd of November. Saturday there will be no campaigning: The day before an election is a day of contemplation. Sunday 25 November people will go out and vote.
It just so happens that today is the premiere of a new Catalan movie. It is called Fènix 11-23 and tells the true story of Eric Bertran, a Catalan boy who, in 2004, at the age of 14, was accused by Spanish authorities of computerized terrorism.
Eric, at that time, had two interests: Harry Potter and saving the Catalan language. Catalunya has two official languages, Castilian (Spanish), and Catalan. Whereas Catalan is the native language, because of high immigration to the area from other parts of Spain (and Latin America), the dominance of Castilian in the popular media, and repeated interference on the part of the Spanish government to decrease the teaching and use of Catalan, many people feel that Catalan is being threatened.
In Catalunya, shops are required to post all printed information in both languages. But many don’t. Some don’t because they are run by immigrants who never bothered to learn Catalan, some don’t because they feel they are in Spain and shouldn’t have to, and others just don’t. Evidently, none of these businesses are the least bit concerned about my patronage. I make it a point not to shop where Catalan is ignored. I prefer to spend my money where the local language is valued (and where the ordinance is observed).
Being a Harry Potter fan, Eric had set up a website (Phoenix 11-23) for the purpose of promoting and defending the Catalan language. And one day, in the name of Fènix 11-23, he sent an email to one of the big supermarket chains that did not fulfill the legal requirement of signage in Catalan.
This resulted in the arrival of 30 police from the national Guardia Civil Anti-Terrorist Brigade at his house. They searched his family’s house, and later they arrested Eric and took him to Madrid for a court hearing. There are Superior Court judges in Catalunya, so why they had to take him so far from home I don’t know. But I can guess.
Eric explained the Harry Potter connection. He also explained that there was no organization, he was the sole inventor of this website. Nevertheless he was threatened with eight years in juvenile detention for his terrorist act. In the end he was acquitted. You can imagine the terror he and his family must have felt as this judicial farce unfolded. But it wasn’t really a farce, was it, except that arresting a kid for a Harry Potter-inspired email seems farcical. Seems to me it was really more like an act of governmental terrorism.
I think the timing for the release of this film is, if accidental, excellent. And if it’s deliberate, that’s just as good. Although I think most people caught up in the independence movement are mostly concerned about the bleak financial consequences of being part of Spain, I don’t think financial concerns are the only reason many Catalans want an independent country. What happened to Eric Bertran is only one example of the oppression Catalunya and Catalans suffer under Spanish government. It isn’t surprising if most of them have had enough.
The film is premiering today throughout Catalunya. If it ever comes near you, you might want to see it.
I have no photos today, but there is an interesting video posted on the internet, done by an American who was visiting Barcelona this last 11 September and by chance got caught up in a march of 1.5 million Catalans on the streets of Barcelona. He was a bit overwhelmed and very impressed. You can view his video here.