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Francesc Canosa


We the radicals

I'll understand if the reader doesn't believe me. A few weeks ago we were in one of those interior patios in the Eixample. There was a celebration. Since we're poor, we took advantage of the cava. They say it's nutritional. That it cures everything. And god-help-us we believe what we're told. We had drunk several glasses that should've kept us fed for at least two days. All of a sudden I stood up straight. A man and a woman were chatting with me. Very friendly. I don't know what drink we had graduated to. I lifted my glass and saw that Barcelona sky that looks like summer sheets. Childhood. The couple were talking about a city I didn't know. About when they were kids. Wheeeee. The fun they had. They never knew where they were going. Never. One day at one person's house. The next day the other's. Like hide and seek. Houses, houses. There were other kids. And a young teacher, and another. And they said "Bon dia" [Good morning, in Catalan] and "Bona tarda" [Good afternoon, in Catalan]. Secretly. They thought it was a game. Their father made them think it was a game. They were learning their language, in their own country, in safe houses, in rooms with the curtains drawn. Shadows with just a sliver of light. How much did all that cost?

Now that [Spanish Education] minister Wert wants to pay parents who demand that their children be taught in Spanish six thousand euros, we have to ask ourselves how much money it has cost us to learn our own language since 1714. How much? I am the only member of my family that was schooled in Catalan. From a family that has lived in Catalonia. For three centuries. The State has not paid for any schooling in our own language. Not any. We have lived with the State's back turned to us, and we have kept our language alive. We are the radicals. The true radicals. You people who spit on, insult, threaten, and paint the Members of the Catalan Parliament can go to hell: we are the real radicals. Nobody has ever given us anything and we gave our all. We have not lost our language. They have killed it, they have denounced it, they have fined it, they did everything they could and we said No.

We have said No since time immemorial. The Moyano Law of Public Instruction (1857): "The Spanish Academy Grammar and Orthography will be the sole required text for this subject matter in public education." And we kept speaking Catalan. Jump to whatever time period you want. Quantum leap wherever you like. According to the Royal Order of December 29, 1923 the University of Barcelona is prohibited from offering electives (electives!!!) in Catalan. The reason? "That no official educational center should authorize the teaching of disciplines that are not included in the curriculum previously approved by the authorities." We kept speaking in Catalan. Just a single anecdote from what happened after 1939. October 6, 1939: "The civil governor surprises and personally shutters secular, separatist schools": "One of the supposed teachers was found giving classes to twenty children, who responded to a brief interrogation (which it was not necessary to prolong, given the erroneous responses), proving that they were not being taught the catechism and that the classes were being given in Catalan." And... we continued speaking in Catalan.

This week (July 11) is the 53rd anniversary (1961) of the birth of Òmnium Cultural. It is also the 28th anniversary (July 9) of the death of one of the organization's founders: J.B. Cendrós. Many of the children who two weeks ago nourished themselves with cava learned Catalan thanks to Òmnium's clandestine network during the Franco era. How much did all that cost us?

What country has to pay secretly, voluntarily to teach its own language? Which one? Now we have to pay democratically so that five families receive schooling in Spanish. Us, all of us, absolutely all of us, who were never paid a cent to teach us our own, common, community vehicular language. We have supplemented everything that the State did not do. And one day it will be proven scientifically that Catalans invented the virtual world to amend everything that reality does not provide us. How much does that all cost?

We have constructed throughout history a para-state and we are afraid now to create a real state? We have continued with our language against all odds and now everything feels uncertain? We have made certainty out of uncertainty. Normality from abnormality. From death, a miracle. We did it all. There is no other future than the one that we have created. There is no other tomorrow than the path that we have taken. There's nothing else. There's nothing else because if they take away our language, they steal my landscape, my people, my feelings. They take away everything. I have nothing left. We come from nothing and we have had a language which was everything. How much has all that been worth? Incalculable. How much will what we have to do be worth? Incalculable. Unimaginable. Who can do it? Only we can. There's no one else. We, the ones with just a glass of cava in our hands. We, who have only a sky of sheets. We, who only have sadness for hope. We, the radicals.