August 13, 2004

?Quien es mas Catalan?

Last night, we have dinner with Kiko, a bar-b-que on our new terrace, the one Kiko built. a great night with gentle warm breezes, a big sky bowl overhead, the towers of the old town framing the tree topped lit up hill with seagulls illuminated by the pueblo's night lighting as they fly aloft, all this as the lighthouse atop the hill flashing its beacon in rotation.

We brindemos together, a great moment to savor. Kiko wants to learn English, so Stephanie and I stay comfortably in our native language to help him out. Later, Kiko's friend Xerlo (pronounced "Cherlo" or "Sherlo", kind of like how the Catalans spell chocolate: "xocolate"), a guy who owns a garage and is living the good life. They have bought a boat recently and the Zodiac had sprung a leak... (Kiko: "It was like a swimming pool in the sea!") Xerlo turned around and bought a 6 meter replacement with a v-8 engine. Images of speed boat racing spun in our heads.

After the chicken and grilled vegetables, we go out for drinks at Kiko's insistence. Our arms didn't have to be twisted too hard, but we knew the chances of getting home round five-ish was great.

The first stop was the bar Sa Barca. Along the way, Kiko shows us the various projects he has built in Tossa over the years... and there are many. Kiko has this love of the rustica manner of traditional construction... after seeing what the local developers had been doing here in Tossa with the cheesy cheap construction here and there, this town ought to knight Kiko straight out.

Sa Barca is another bar in which Kiko had done work, and Kiko tells us that he had advised the owner to anticipate the various improvement to come: "You must put money away every month to take care of this problem.", I was pleasantly amazed that Kiko could track and lead his line up of future work in such a practical, intimate and amiable way.

We meet their friend, the camarero Marc... a young lad we had thought he was Catalan, he is enthusiastic for the independance of Catalonia. He is problably in early twenties, I wouldn't be surprised if he was still in his teens, precocious. Full of energy and funny, he was eager to practice his English, a language he learned from pop songs. And he spoke accordingly, I wish I cuold recount a bit of it, sometimes he was hilarious.

The great blog Iberian Notes mentioned the recent brouhaha concerning the symbols of Spain versus Catalonia:

Here's the goofy new bit of Catalooniness. for the last couple of years it's become popular among many Spanish young folks to wear T-shirts with the profile of the Osborne bull on them. Osborne is a big maker of brandy down in Jerez--their most popular brand is Veterano, which is just fine to dump in your coffee in the morning. Their symbol is a profile of a bull in black, and they began putting up huge signs with their bull symbol all over Spain on the highways way back when, I guess something like the old Burma-Shave signs there used to be all over the US. So, the Osborne bull has become sort of symbolic, like an old-time thing that everyone knows about that's always been there. And some smart guy started printing the Osborne bull on T-shirts, and people thought it was cool and bought them. Then people started putting little Osborne bull stickers on the back of their cars...

...So the Cataloonies decided they needed to hit back against this Osborne bull epidemic. They've come out with two sticker and T-shirt possibilities: one is the typical Catalan donkey, which is on at least one of every ten cars, and the other is a black cat (CAT = Catalonia, get it?), which seems to be much less popular. Some people, I guess as a joke, have started putting on stickers of a moose in profile. I'm not sure what that would have to do with anything.

toro.jpg Note here that the Bull is well endowed, cojones and penis are notable. ?Que Guiy!

burro1.jpg The burro has been described as something stupid ("...tanto, tanto, tanto..."), a contrary response to the bull. But I think that for the people who adorn their property with this image, they must not be saying that they are less than their other. And surely the burro is known for qualities of hidden strength as opposed to the obvious strengths of Castille, and this is in accord with how Catalans describe themselves: thrifty, industrious, direct, dependable, etc. Plus, the burro is kind of funny in his stubborness. You can almost detect a wink... or am I projecting?

burro2.jpg Note here that there are male and female donkeys. Nubbins signify thusly.

So naturally at the bar, we talk of the toro and the burro. Nearly every Catalan or Spanaird will surprise you with their response. These guys weigh in, mostly amused by the issue, dismissive. Young Marc however interjects:

"No, Catalonia is a cat!"

I had thought we had a passionate Catalan here. (I've been looking for the Cat, stay tuned for the image.) I'm curious about the separatist issue, I wonder how volitile it is, I mean it wasn't that long ago they were sacking the church, family against family. Right now, I estimate things are stable, but if more of these lads like Marc show up, I will start to stockpile provisions.

As we walk to the next bar. we discover that Marc is not born in Catalonia. He is from the south of Spain: "You do not have to be born a Catalan to be a Catalan, being Catalan is a state of mind.." Amazing. Very interesting. I remember Robert Hughes mentioning the supple flexibility of Catalan nationalism in its ability to assimilate immigrants... and here it was, a living example.

I wonder, could Stephanie and I become Catalan too?

Posted by Dennis at August 13, 2004 11:49 AM



Very interesting. We love Tossa. Indeed, the reason we have a home in Catalonia is because of Tossa. But when we returned to buy in 1989 the town had already turned too commercial. We've been in Llanca for 14 years. Catalonia is great. Despite the silliness of independence and the burro.


Hello Pau:

You have me scrambling to find Llanca on the map. 14years! I assume you are an extranjero as well... but after so much time, perhaps you are Catalan too? ;-) I hope the burro campaign remains silly and not the serious separatistism it could be. I like to think that Spain wouldn't be Spain without the Catalan component and visa versa, especially.

Tossa is still rustica next to Lloret... I'd like to know more about your town. How much more rustica can one get?

Thanks for the comment, and let's have a beer when the time is right.


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