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Sant Esteve de les Roures: welcome to Catalonia’s new political satire

Fake town found in Spanish police report descends into mockery on social media

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21 April 2018 02:28 PM

by

ACN | Barcelona

Not a single town in Catalonia offers such a plentiful array of services as Sant Esteve de les Roures: it has its own hospital, swimming pools, libraries and a zoo, but also a particle accelerator, Grand Casinos, a bishopric, several whiskey bars and even a monster in its lake. If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard about such a unique municipality, the answer may disappoint you: it does not actually exist.

Political satire turned social media phenomenon, Sant Esteve de les Roures is a fictional town which has recently spawned dozens of Twitter profiles set up by anonymous users reproducing the accounts of local institutions and organizations of other Catalan municipalities—and some others you will find virtually nowhere else.

  • “This is a satirical account, there is no town, no town council and no citizens"

    @st_esteveroures

Yet, the origin of this satirical town is anything but a joke. A month ago, El Mundo newspaper printed a report by Spain’s Guardia Civil police documenting alleged violent acts related to the independence bid. “Some of the most aggressive episodes occurred in Sant Esteve de les Roures,” read the report. The document referred to demonstrators “brutally kicking” police officers on the ground, and motorcyclists trying to steal weapons. All the incidents supposedly occurred in a town with a typically Catalan name, but which nevertheless does not exist.

Initially, the report sparked outrage among pro-independence supporters. Eventually, though, the anger turned into mockery, in what is being regarded as a pro-independence version of the unionist-backed parody of Tabarnia, a fictional region seeking independence from Catalonia.

“This is the official account of the Sant Esteve de les Roures town council,” read the first tweet by @st_esteveroures on March 31. More messages followed, but the phenomenon has taken off in recent days, with internet users beginning to create Twitter accounts for the town’s main institutions.

For international visitors planning a vacation, the Visit Sant Esteve de les Roures (@VisitRoures) account may be a good place to start looking. You might be interested in seeing the changing of the guard by the @RoyalGuard_SEdR, or perhaps improve your language skills in Saint Stephen on the Oaks English Academy (@English_SER).

The fictional town also has a fictional mayor: Alcalde Orni. His name also mocks a document by the Guardia Civil police, which reported on Catalan politicians talking about “someone called Orni.” The assumption is that officers mistakenly took as a person’s name the Catalan expression, “fer-se l’orni” (to play dumb).

The absurdity of it all reached new heights with an unlikely Twitter exchange between the Guardia Civil’s official account and the satirical @st_esteveroures, in which the former responded to a comment by the latter criticizing the police body.

Sant Esteve de les Roures responded: “This is a satirical account, there is no town, no town council and no citizens. The name of this town comes from police reports on October 1 which said that there was violence against [Guardia Civil] officers in the aforementioned town—a town which, I insist, does not exist.”

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  • Screenshot of Sant Esteve de les Roures Twitter profile

  • Screenshot of Sant Esteve de les Roures Twitter profile