Stereotypes about Catalonia – Language, Nationalism and Money

The Catalan News Agency is reviewing the stereotypes, myths and ideas that foreigners have about Catalonia and experts are called to challenge them

CNA / Laura Pous

November 29, 2010 09:32 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- The electoral campaign for the Catalan elections is underway. Topics including the Catalan language, nationalism and the economic situation of Catalonia get most of the attention from the media. But these issues also attract foreign interest. The Catalan News Agency is reviewing the stereotypes, myths and ideas that foreigners have about Catalonia and experts are called to challenge them. For instance, what does a foreigner think about the Catalan language?


Coming from the small country of Wales, Louise Getting can relate to the Catalans' protectiveness towards their language. Yet, for Louise, the value of a language happens on two levels. Locally, she understands how the Catalan language gives Catalans their identity as well as their sense of self. However on an international level, she does not agree that Catalan has enough relevance and weight. “It is almost never used in academic papers nor is it a language used for business”, says Louise.

Salvador Giner, the president of the Institute of Catalan Studies, believes that Catalan should have the same standing as other European languages. He argues that because Catalonia is a stateless nation, the Catalan language often has to be defended against critics who see it as being archaic and obscure. In reality, Catalan is spoken by three million people across four countries in Europe including two large capitals, Barcelona and Valencia. The region itself is as large as Belgium or Denmark and the language as widely spoken as Dutch or Danish. Giner therefore sees it as a "matter of justice" to attain the same international recognition for Catalan as these other languages and to fight for its survival in schools and universities.


Catalan and Spanish nationalism are some of the other topics analyzed by the Catalan News Agency. Internationally, the antagonism between Catalan independentists and Spanish unionists is sometimes seen as something dangerous.

Aleksandra Tomanic is German with parents from the former Yugoslavia. Her unique background allows her a two-sided view of Catalan nationalism within Spain. Being German, Aleksandra understands the Catalan's fight for independence and autonomy as her own country historically grew as a strong federal state. But her Yugoslavian roots pull her towards the view that "separatism and nationalism can be very very dangerous if you overdo it."

The president of  Òmnium Cultural, Muriel Casals, directs one of the main NGO's promoting Catalan culture. Casals understands the importance of integrating newcomers to Catalonia and wants to encourage the "collective feeling" in building Catalonia together as a future nation. In fact, the motto of a famous massive demonstration on 10 July in Catalonia was: “We are a nation; we decide” and exactly sums up Muriel Casals’ views on the issue. The NGO president emphasised that Catalans want "to build a strong and specific identity within Europe" without excluding or confronting anyone.


What about the idea of Catalans' lack of solidarity with the rest of Spain? This stereotype, that even some Spaniards endorse, has crossed borders and made pockets of people in the most remote places of the world believe it to be true.

A young consultant living in Brussels, Gilles Cols, spent six months in Barcelona. From a Belgian perspective, Gilles described how he encountered a separatist atmosphere in the Catalan capital, similar to that of the Flanders region in Belgium. "Catalans are Spaniards and Europeans. They owe a lot to Europe...because their economy is what it is thanks to Europe," he argued. Cols criticises Catalans for not wanting to share their wealth with the rest of the Spanish state. "I think it is very important that Catalans continue to have solidarity with other Spaniards, with the poorer regions of Spain. It is a shame that they want to be separatists," he proclaimed.

The president of the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, Miquel Valls, strongly denies that Catalans are stingy. Valls says that evidence of Catalan generosity is shown in their very campaigns of solidarity. Being one of the most involved European regions in giving aid to developing countries as well as contributing the most in taxes towards regenerating other Spanish regions, Catalonia has clearly demonstrated its solidarity and commitment.