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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Academy of Procedures and Medicine

“Catalonia is unhappy … and Spain’s attitude is very negative”. These words, pronounced by a former president of the Generalitat with a famous surname and various corruptions, I read on the plane back from Barcelona. He had recently returned from being invited to lecture at the Royal Academy of Medicine of Catalonia. Indeed, during my travels I explored not Catalan sadness or Hispanic negativity, but disappointments and contradictions. I will summarize my experiences.

A week before my conference, I got a call from an academic colleague, a well-known Catalan doctor. He surprised me by saying that he had to deliver his lecture, before me, in the language of Pla, against my will. He called me over the phone to explain his reasoning, according to which I, as a Spanish-speaking guest, deserved the respect, that I should understand his presentation, and so he should speak in Spanish. However, in the face of his complaints, the directors of the Rial Academia told him that “the official language of the Academy is Catalan”. He decided to send me his lecture in the Cervantes language digitally so that I could read it in advance.

I prepared the speech logically in Spanish. No one suggested otherwise, and the directors of the Academy always addressed me in the same language. I could prepare it in English, because I read in the news that Catalan was declared its language and English the lingua franca – and whatever Spanish you give it – after a tight vote by the University of Barcelona’s Pompeu i Fabra University Faculty. Perhaps it was not a matter of opposition from such a prestigious university.

I think all these facts are indicative of Catalonia’s current environment, and that unsuccessful processes have taken away civic areas such as language and education, causing frustration and confusion among large segments of the population. Or as the former president put it in interviews, “too messy.”

A beautiful city rediscovered through Barcelona with its old Gothic Quarter, a modern landscaped walkway with beautiful monuments, ancient and high walls, and houses in the Neoclassical or Modernist style. And a welcoming Mediterranean. Hispanic Americans had a notable presence on the streets – I prefer the term to Latin Americans – and the Franconian language was Castilian Spanish, although Catalan was naturally heard. Of course, all signs insist on putting them in Catalan, as if they feared separation from the language of Cervantes. – It will be a matter of immersion, I said to myself. Nothing is more striking, with all the signs and advertisements in local and Catalan, of a famous American hamburger chain filled with people who speak Spanish.

On the day of the conference, I went to the Academy of Medicine, a beautiful building that is a fusion of the old Hospital de la Santa Cru and the old Surgery Building, both dating from circa 1401. They were hospital centers of health. The past cares of Barcelona for more than five hundred years, and they are of great Gothic beauty. Academic directors received me in Spanish, when I would have expected otherwise; I fully understood my colleague’s excellent lecture in Catalan; The president introduced me to both languages, and he asked me questions in Spanish. The treatment was friendly and correct.

I do not understand where the linguistic problem lies, because language coexistence was easy in the academy. It seems clear in Catalonia – and elsewhere – that politicians and citizens are in separate regions, and the linguistic disturbance created by the former appears to exceed the natural balance of freely flowing languages ​​of the latter. I hope the communalism and frustration created by this process will go away. As Jesus Lanz, author of several books on Catalan nationalism, puts it, linguistic “generalization” is a farce, because “normality is what you see on the street.”

World Nation News Desk
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