What’s your name?
My name is Stella Fernández Nonato, because we have two surnames here
Are the surnames of your father and you mother?
Yes. The first one is the father’s surname, and the second one is the mother’s surname.
Does everyone have two last names?
Yeah. And they force you to.
Like… If you have a husband that is from outside of Spain…
For example, I had a friend who is Portuguese and he’s married to a Catalan woman and they’ve just had a child, and Portuguese people do it the other way round, they first have the mother’s surname, and then they have the father’s surname.
And in the Civil Registry here, in Barcelona, they forced him to use his mother’s surname, so that was his last surname.
So it’s very strict… Very strict rules with the surnames, yes.
When were you born?
I was born in Barcelona just on the outskirts, though. There’s one of the best children hospitals, actually, is the one I was born in, it’s Sant Joan de Déu and it’s inside Barcelona but almost not there, but it’s there, it’s inside the territory of Barcelona, yes.
And where did you grow up?
Hm… I grew up in Barcelona, also in the outskirts, and also in Portugal.
So there’s a bit of a mix.
And how old were you when you moved back to Barcelona from Portugal?
I was… I was 13 years old. I was 13 years old, yes.
What part of the city did you grow up in?
So, I grew up in Esplugues de Llobregat, which is where that hospital where I was born in is, so it’s on the outskirts of the city.
But driving it’s like half an hour by car.
And the train?
Hm… Well, there’s a… There’re subways that go… Well, there’s one line of the subway that goes there, so it’ll be between half an hour and 45 minutes, depending on where you’re going.
And has your neighborhood changed since you were growing up there?
That one, yes. Yes, it has.
There’s a tram that goes across that neighborhood and… real estate prices have gone up like incredibly like it’s really expensive to live there now, when it was really cheap when I was a child.
Yeah. So everything looks a little bit more expensive somehow. Yeah.
The neighborhood I grew up in, Esplugues, has changed considerably.
It’s more connected to the city now because it has a tram that goes through the middle of it.
And real estate prices have gone up so there’s a different kind of people living there now. If you see what I mean.
Are there a lot more people there than when you were growing up?
I’m not sure it’s the amount of people that counts, it’s more like there’re… Well, there’re more people with money, but there are also a lot of immigrants that are there that weren’t there before.
When I was younger, there were no immigrants. Not really. In Spain, in all of Spain.
All of Spain was just a poor country nobody wanted to come to. A little bit, yeah.
Would you say that all of Barcelona has become wealthier and…?
Has all of Barcelona become wealthier…? You know, that’s a tricky question.
I would say there’re… There are more people from outside Spain that live in Barcelona that have money. More than before. Certainly more than during the Franco times.
I think maybe the standard of living has gone up a little bit, in general, globally.
So you have that.
But then you also have… You also have people who have lost their… like a lot of their family wealth, for example, with the crisis and…
You know, jobs, a lot of jobs that people have are not well paid… So, you know, you do see money around as in the city is clean and there’re nice buildings and there’re expensive shops and expensive restaurants.
But that doesn’t mean that the… You know, that the inhabitants of the city, all of them are rich. No, that has never been the case, right?
So there’s a little bit of everything, a bit of a mix. Nothing is black or white, I think.
If you see what I mean.
You were born in a the spend of time between the death of Franco and the signing of the constitution and things were uncertain in Barcelona. In the 1980s, as a child, did you had a sense that big important changes had occurred in Barcelona?
I was very young. Franco died in 1975, I was born in 1978.
The constitution is of the same year I think, and it’s like I was very young to see that something was going on.
There was a coup…
There was a coup in 1981 and I remember my mom telling me about it when I was a bit older. How everyone was really nervous that there was going to be an other dictatorship led by another military general.
However, this was solved because the king came to congress and solved the situation.
And that’s really it. Because, I mean, I was really young so you know… I wasn’t there to witness it.
But I have heard about it, people do talk about it and I think, almost every year, on the 23rd of February, there’ll be something in the media about it.
Do you remember any stories your parents or grandparents, or older acquaintances, told you about the past?
Well, my family hasn’t told me a lot about the past.
And I believe this is the case for most people. There is a tendency to forget in this country.
And some people argue that it’s the best thing to do, so it’s not to open wounds from the past.
I think these wounds were never closed in the first place and that it is a mistake to not tell your younger generations about what happenned.
I’m very ignorant of a lot of things that happenned in my city.
I did not study them in school, nobody told me about them, I had to… Sometimes, I find things out from friends that are not Spanish.
They come over to visit and have read a book about it and they’ll tell me things that I don’t know about Spanish history.
I can only remember things maybe that my mom told me about the Franco regime because that is what she went through, that is what she experienced.
And there’s nothing good about those years.
She told me about like the bad quality of schools, for example. How she would be in a little hut with other children and the teacher, who was very strict.
And they would have a picture of Franco hanging from the wall.
And they’d pray before they started the classes and then, after school as well.
I’ve also heard from friends that Catalan was forbidden from schools and anything that was official.
However, people still used the language at home.
So this is a bit of a myth that Catalan was forbidden but people who were Catalan they used it in the house and nothing really happenned.
I mean, you know, it was their language and I think maybe in a private space like their homes, they could use it.
So… That’s why it survived, in a way, the Catalan language.
Because people still used it even though it was banned.
What else do I remember…?
I’m curious. When we hear the word ‘regime’ it makes us think about types of things that you’re not allowed to do or the ways that people have to keep secrets or behave in ways they wouldn’t otherwise. Did your mom told you anything about Franco’s regime, just a story that you might remember about…? Some kind of behavior… What would find strange today that was quite normal for them.
Well, there was this obsession with religion.
Franco was an ally of the catholic church here, or the other way round.
So more often than hot you’d find yourself behaving like a catholic even though my mother is a budist.
She wasn’t a budist when she was younger, obviously. But she was never into the church, let’s put it that way.
And this was something that you wouldn’t make it clear from things that you said, for example. So this would be a very private thing that you would keep to yourself but outside, you’d go to church and keep up appearances, basically.
Also, she told me that back in those days, if you were a woman, you weren’t allowed to go out at night and have fun, you were forced to be home at around 9 o’clock in the evening.
And if you were a bit later, her father would be quite violent. He was obsessed with avoiding his children to become pregnant if they weren’t married because this was a big thing.
You couldn’t just become pregnant without being married. That was a big no-no.
You couldn’t wear makeup unless you were a prostitute or an actress.
Not a lot of other stories, guys, to tell you. Sorry.
So, for women it was I think more difficult.
You had to be home by 9, by 9 o’clock in the evening… Sorry, let’s do it again.
So it was harder for women than for men under Franco’s regime.
Because everything was so catholic, right?
So women were more repressed.
My mother had to be home by 9 o’clock in the evening and if she wasn’t, her father would maybe beat her up or be very violent with her.
Also, in those days, you couldnt’ wear makeup.
Makeup was reserved for prostitutes and actresses.
And of course, the way that you dressed had to be puritan.
None of these mini-skirts and other things that actually were in more like around the 60s.
So that’s one Spain’s attitude to open up and the repression’s attitude to be more relaxed in general.
What is Pacto del Olvido and what is your interpretation?
I was going to tell you ‘don’t ask me that question’ because I’m not sure if you mean like nowadays the insistance of the PP on having this like… No, ’cause it’s the other way around.
What do you mean by Pacto del Olvido?
That’s the Pact of Silence, right? The Silence’s Pact, the Pact of… [Explanation]
So the Pacto del Olvido or the Pact for Forgetfulness…
The Pacto del Olvido or the Amnesty from 1977 was more or less like an agreement to not be prosecuted for what had happenned during the regime, during the war.
I think it was a mistake because, if you think about it, Spain has never really looked at itself in the mirror and say ‘oh, we did this wrong’, you know?
And we need to remember this because we don’t want this to happen again.
I mean, if you look at Germany, Germany was a nazi country and it had Hitler, of all people, in power there.
And right now, they’re a model country, you know?
They’ve got their… the very green country, they’re very respectful, they’re hardworking, their economy is great…
Spain never went through any trial, there were no Nuremberg trials for Spain, if you see what I mean.
And… So this amnesty kind of let a lot of murderers just be out at large and never be prosecuted.
And I think this also influence in what we studied in school like history, I never studied the Civil War, maybe it’s because I also went to an American school and a British school
But I’ve talked to other people of my age and younger than me and some people say they never studied the Civil War.
This is a mistake.
You can’t forget things like that. It’s just too big. The whole country was involved.
A lot of people died.
I think it’s really a mistake to try to forget it, yeah.
Was anybody in your family involved in the Civil War?
I was told so little. My grandfather had a heart condition and he died quite young.
So he wasn’t involved in any war.
Now, his father… I just can’t remember.
I don’t think they were because they were from a very small town in Extremadura, that’s one of the poorest regions in Spain, and I don’t think they were involved in the war.
I know that one of my grandfathers was what they call in Spanish a “red” person, that means a communist.
But I don’t think they were involved in the war. I never heard stories about that.
Maybe I’m too young. You should ask someone else who’s older.
Do you remember the event at the Hipercor shopping center in 1987 and do you have any personal memories from that day?
The bombings of the Hipercor in Barcelona were a huge thing.
I wasn’t living in Barcelona back then, I was living in Portugal, so I was safe.
I heard though that my uncle was in the Hipercor just minutes before the bomb went off.
So it was just sheer luck I guess that he just left the Hipercor just minutes before.
I think a lot of Catalans were a bit confused that we were getting bombed, of all people in Spain, you know.
Because we also wanted independence and ‘What are you guys doing bombing us?’ you know? ‘We didn’t do anything to you’.
Because the bombing was obviously by ETA, which is a separatist group from the Basque Country.
And so, I think it was a mistake that they did that.
They certainly lost a lot of sympathies, a lot of support maybe from Catalan people.
What else? No… now I can’t remember anything else, to be honest. I wasn’t here.
Did your uncle tell you the story of that day? Did you ever get to hear that experience from him directly?
Yes, I did. But he wasn’t there when it actually happened.
He was there just before it so there’s only so much he could say.
I wondered if, for example, people who were in the World Trade Center, they were still in the area during the aftermath because they couldn’t get out. So I didn’t know if he was still in the area…
The thing… No, he was… He had a car parked in the Hipercor so he got the car and drove away and I think he didn’t know what had happened until he got home and saw the news.
But he thought like ‘ups, well, that was close’. You know? Yeah.
I’m interested in how Catalans interpreted the Basque struggle for independence. There are parallels with Catalunya’s own struggle, but certainly differences, particularly in light of actions like the Hipercor bombing.
You know, the separatist movements from the Basque Country and Cataluña, I think they’re very different.
The Basque separatist movement was led by ETA, which was considered to be a terrorist organisation.
We, in Cataluña, never had so much violence.
We did have a group that was a little bit violent called the Boixos Nois.
You know, which would be a little bit violent but it wouldn’t go to the level of ETA.
I mean, ETA was all over the territory of Spain.
I mean, it killed Carrero Blanco, who was…
ETA killed Carrero Blanco, who was like the new president after Franco.
And… very much in line with Franco’s ideas.
So ETA blew him up.
There were also a lot of innocent people who were killed by ETA.
So I think Catalans have learnt from ETA and have decided that maybe violence isn’t the way to achieve their goals.
And they are especially now trying very hard to become independent by using legal means.
Well, legal… It’s debateble, it’s debatable.
But certainly, using political means rather than violence.
Also, I think Catalans have a different character than the Basques.
The Basques tend to be more brute, more violent, maybe more… you know?
And they’re great people, I love them. But they’re different from Catalans.
Catalans are maybe more reserved.
So violence therefore won’t be something on display. Like that, you know?
Are you in favor of a free Catalan state?
What is the Boixos Nois?
The Boixos Nois it’s Catalan for ‘the crazy boys’, actually.
They were a group of people who supported the Barça team, football team. It’s famous, the Barça team.
But they were violent. They would make a… They had violent episodes during football matches.
And, initially, they were socialists and they wanted a socialist independent state for Cataluña.
But then, they had some skinheads joining them and it all kind of opened really weird.
Because they became really far-right and really racists.
Racists against Jews, against black people, against a lot of people.
So it’s interesting because of how it flipped from being socialists to being, you know, far-right and racist.
So there you go.
That’s one of the reasons why I don’t like football that much.
Football, back then, when I was a girl, it was a violent masculine thing to do.
So when people went to see games could they count on there being a fight?
Yeah. I would say so, yeah.
Back in the 80s, certainly yeah.
Do you mind making that a whole sentence?
So back in the 80s, I think people could count on there being something violent or something violent happening during the ball match, yes.
You have mentioned that your… I think your uncle was communist, a ‘red’ person. Who was that?
No, that was my great grandfather because it was my mum’s grandfather.
So I don’t know much about him, sorry.
Are you in favor of a free Catalan state?
Am I in favor of an independent Cataluña?
My position has always been no. Although I have to say that now I still think no but I’m not as strict as I was before.
Before it was a very clear no, and maybe now it’s not so clear.
Let me explain. I think there’re two pillars for… No, let me start again.
People who want independence for Cataluña basically base their arguments on two main things.
One is the socio-cultural element and the other one is more the political-economic element.
Of course, the cultural would include the language and Catalan is not my mother tongue even though I am Catalan.
My mother was not Catalan. My father was. But because of the time when I was born, you know, Catalan is just not my mother tongue.
So I don’t have the sentimentalism that most people have with the Catalan language. I just don’t have it there.
And I think this… you know, it also extends to the rest of the Catalan culture; that I don’t feel very identified with it.
So obviously I wouldn’t want an independent Catalan state for those reasons.
But then, people also argue, people who want independence also argue that Spain is a corrupt state, a very centralised and corrupt state that doesn’t treat Cataluña fairly.
For example, we have like roads here that we have to pay for if you want to use them when this doesn’t happen in the rest of Spain, for example.
And then, there’re other areas in Spain where you have a lot of social help, much more social help than you would have here, meaning poor people would have more support from the government, financial support from the government in other areas of Spain than you would here.
Cataluña is one of the richest regions in Spain so it isn’t fair, I see that and I agree.
However, that is not a good enough reason to want independence from Spain.
Other reasons that are political obviously is that there is a large part of Spain that is still very much in line with the Franco ideals.
They want a Catholic state, they want a conservative state.
And this doesn’t let Cataluña, you know, grow in the way that it wants to grow.
There’re projects that maybe that Spain doesn’t let Cataluña start.
Like for example, their projects in education, or… social, you know, social…
What I want to say is that Spain is a centralised state and it won’t let Cataluña, you know, do anything that’s too innovative, that’s too new, or that it is too different from their centralised way of seeing things.
And that’s fine. I agree with that too.
But then, when they come and say Spain is also a corrupt state and we want independence from the conservative party of Spain and from all this corruption, well, to be honest, there’s a lot of corruption in Cataluña.
In fact, Cataluña is one of the regions where you find, you know, the most scandalous corruption cases.
So this is… by saying ‘oh, let’s become independent so that we have less corruption’, that’s just… it doesn’t work in my head.
I don’t think that you will get a better state just because you’re independent.
Because you have politicians in Cataluña who have embezzled a lot of public funds.
And what are you saying, those people aren’t Catalan? Or those people aren’t going to live there when Cataluña is independent?
You know, so that is not a valid argument for me.
Also because they want to become independent from Neoliberalism, they want to become independent from Capitalism, in a way.
And they won’t succeed that by becoming independent from Spain because then, if for example, they want to keep being part of the European Union, well, capitalism is there too, you know.
And so is Neoliberalism and unfair wages and unfair working contracts and alike.
So, you know, they should proclaim independence from the whole of the world, really, you know, and start a new socialist country, which would be great and in which case I would be in favor.
You know? If we say, ok, no, this is not working, Neoliberalism isn’t working and we’re going to do our thing and then, ok, yeah, I’m interested in that.
But you know, I very much doubt that it would work. There’re a lot of financial interests outside of Spain that will not let that happen, I believe.
It has happened before when there was anarchism in this country and there were… you know, it was smashed. The project was smashed.
You know, there were many… there were too republics in Spain in the 1930s and Barcelona, for a while, it was absolutely anarchist.
You know, people organised themselves very well.
Nobody was starving in the streets, you know?
All the workers were well organised.
Everyone was happy and in every little town there was a public library.
You know, education in Cataluña was one of the most advanced in Europe, you know.
They separated religion from education, which is a great idea in my head.
And then it was smashed, you know?
Then, there was the coup by Franco, well, the Civil War, in a way, happened and then, you know, everything was kind of smashed and couldn’t go forward.
And some Catalans who want independence they want to go back to this republic, which I think is a nice thing to think, but I don’t think that other powers, especially not the United States, will let this happen in Europe.
Because it makes people think. It makes people, you know, question the way that things are organised right now, the way that things work and you know, it could spread.
Anarchism could spread, just like that, like very easily.
And I was amazed how people just got organised in Barcelona when there was a republic here, an anarchist republic.
How people just knew what to do and how to behave in a very sort of… The transition was just like very fluid.
People would just, they were… it worked. It worked for six years.
And then, the Civil War happened and then, there were no more opportunities for this to happen again.
Especially, not under the Franco regime.
And then, after the Franco regime, a lot of people who supported the Franco regime were handsomely paid in return with real estate, with positions in power that were passed in the family somehow, wealth…
Most wealthy people in Spain is because their grandparents supported Franco.
I could give you an example, here in Cataluña, there’s a family called Daurella family and this family owns the factory that makes the bottles for Coca-Cola.
So Franco gave this family, offered this industry to this family like ‘do you want to be in charge of bottling Coca-Cola beverages?’
And obviously this is a very lucrative business and they still own it nowadays. They still own it nowadays.
And this happens, it’s just an example, this happens all over Spain with wealth and positions of power.
So in a way, Spain is a little bit still in the hands of people who supported Franco, if you see what I mean.
It’s a very strong thing to say but if you see what I mean, you know, like people having a lot of power and people having a lot of money, who supported Franco, who therefore will be maybe more in favor of a conservative catholic society, rather than a secular critical-thinking society, you know.
That wasn’t very good, I should say it again.
So if you see what I mean, like if you have people in power or with a lot of money who can influence people who have the power who supported Franco, you know, it’s just going to make it more difficult for another project to happen, for a society that thinks critically or a society that is secular or a political system that is secular.
And even though we do have a secular system now, in theory, you know, the Catholic influence is so there.
For example, in your tax declaration, in your papers for the tax declaration there is an option for you to tick if you do not want to give 10% of your taxes to the Catholic church.
So you have to tick it if you do not.
So you forget to tick it and your 10% goes to them. It goes to the church.
You see what I mean?
These little things bother me a lot and I think they should change because there is still half of Spain that is not Catholic.
I mean, we’re very much divided, now we have two Spains; we have the Catholic conservative Spain, and we have the other half of Spain that is more modern and wants to advance and wants to have a secular system and wants to have people in their society that can think by themselves, yeah.
The Olympics were an important moment for Barcelona, raising the world’s awareness, introducing numerous modernizations and enormous changes, good and bad. What was the effect from your perspective? How did Barcelona change in your eyes?
But yeah. Other things that changed in Barcelona after the Olympics I think it was that a lot of people came to visit the city.
So tourism went up in a very noticeable way to the point that, I mean, I remember being a teenager and realising that if I wanted to go and have a coffee like outside, you know, they have the bar and then, they have like tables and chairs outside because the weather is so nice here.
So if you wanted to go to have coffee outside, most of the time you didn’t find a place. It was all full of people. Everything was just full of people.
So… So that was a bit of a more… It was good for the economy but it wasn’t so good for daily life.
Other things that changed were like some subway lines became extended, there were also new lines, well, there was the new tram built as well that covers from Francesc Macià to the outskirts of the city and also to Poble Nou.
So that was good.
I think also because of the tourism and new people visiting the city and everything, it became more open to the world.
I think more people speak English in the city than anyone else in Spain.
Even people who sell refreshments in the street, you know? When they go ‘Coca-Cola, beer’.
They say it in English here in Barcelona, whereas if you’re in Madrid, they say ‘cerveza’ and if you get it, fine, and if you don’t get it, well, it’s your problem.
You know? That’s one example that I noticed.
Yeah, I think that’s about it.
What did you do for fun in the city as a teenager?
I discovered the Ramblas properly when I was 17, 16-17 and I was knocked off my feet, I was like ‘what is this place?’
Because there’re human statues, there’re birds, there’re flowers, there’re hippies, artists who just draw your face there in five minutes…
And it was so lively and it was so unlike anything I had ever seen before. I wanted to be there all the time.
I would just get the bus from the outskirts of Barcelona and travel all the way to the Rambla and I became friends with one of the people who sold things at the very bottom of the Rambla, they have like these toles and I became friends with him.
And I would visit him every weekend and would spend weekends just there and I just sitting down and watching people walk past was my number one favourite entertainment.
Because you would see really weird people walking down the Ramblas.
There were a lot of bohemian artists living in the area, especially back in the 90s but also now as well.
And then, there were a lot of people from everywhere in the world.
So it was quite interesting to just watch the spectacle, you know?
How has it changed?
I don’t think the Ramblas has changed that much.
Other parts of the city have changed but the Ramblas I think it has preserved most of its bohemian spirit, especially towards the end.
Maybe because the top of the Ramblas is more… is closer to the banks, the Cataluña square, the shopping malls and stuff.
So the bottom of the Ramblas is closer to the sea.
Other neighborhoods like Raval and the Ciutat Vella, neighborhoods kind of mix there.
It has a different feel, right?
I think it hasn’t changed that much. Not really, no.
Obviously, I don’t know. Now, maybe there are less artists but not that many less.
The erosion is a slow one, I think, for the Rambla and I’m happy about that, actually.
I mean, you still have human statues, you still have flowers, you still have the birds, you still have weird people walking up and down.
I can say there were a lot more crazy people at large in the Rambla when I was younger.
And that was also like a source of fascination for me, as a teenager, I had never seen anyone out of their heads before. Not like that.
And you find that a lot here in Barcelona. I find a lot of crazy people who are homeless, you know, and they would just scream things, you know, as they walk down the street.
You had a lot of that, a lot more than we have it now.
What happened to them?
I have no idea. I have no idea.
Do you think the health system improved and they’re getting help or…?
No, I think it has gone worse. From the crisis onwards, it has gone worse.
Maybe before the crisis, things were a little bit better but certainly after the crisis, around 2008 maybe, things started to go down the hill, because the government…
There were a lot of cuts in the health system and in the education system as well so I don’t think it’s gotten any better.
I don’t know where those people went, maybe they moved to another part of town, maybe they died. I don’t know.
How does Barcelona take care of its citizens?
Well, I think that we should differenciate between the town hall of Barcelona, the government of Cataluña and the government of Spain.
The way that the government of Spain is treating its citizens is apalling. It is apalling. I consider that as a mother, and I consider that as a human being and as a citizen of Spain.
The education and the health system should never have any cuts. Ever. No.
We were very proud of our public system, it really worked very well.
The infrastructure for the health system is great.
Private doctors often can’t do certain things because they don’t have the infrastructure that the public system has.
So I think that, you know, the government of Spain is not really thinking about the well-being of its citizens at all.
It’s part… It’s not only their fault, I think it’s part of the neoliberal system that we have globally.
We have it in Europe, we have it in the States. We have it in the developed world, let’s say.
And also in the non-developed world as well because the non-developed world is a result of our actions.
So the Catalan government, I can’t speak of it too much because I don’t live very… I don’t experience a lot of…
I don’t know that much about them. I know more about the Barcelona town hall which is a little bit less depressing because Ada Colau won the elections and she is from the left wing.
How does Barcelona take care of its citizens? Good question.
I think it’s… [Cut]
Over the past ten years, Barcelona has been wrestling with a persistent economic downturn. On the face of it, one can easily see a shift from locally-owned storefronts to internationally owned franchises. How has the city changed, from your perspective, since the economic crisis began in 2008?
Are there any monuments in the city that you revere that have an emotional impact on you?
Are there any monuments that have an emotional impact on me…?
I’m not sure about monuments but the Plaza Real has special significance for me.
I used to go there a lot when I was a teenager and there was this feeling of freedom and art and craziness back then, you know?
That I think it’s a little bit present today as well. It hasn’t really disappeared completely, I wouldn’t say.
Also because it is a strange square. You can get into the square from different streets and they’re very… The people who hang around that area, you know, are peculiar.
They’re peculiar. You can meet interesting people there.
It’s also a very nice meeting point, I think.
But I also have like a special love for Gaudi.
I love his buildings. All of them, without exception.
So in the Plaza Real, there’re actually the lampposts were designed by him.
But that’s not why I like him, I mean I like it because it’s an improbable place, I would put it that way.
It’s pincturesque, you know, it’s got magic, yeah.
And all of Gaudi’s buildings…
I like the Sagrada Familia as well although I’ve never been inside the building because there’s always such a huge queue to get inside.
And plus, you have to pay, which I think it’s not fair, at least not for people who live here.
So I’ve never been inside also because it’s been under construction forever and a day.
We just never seem to see the end of it.
So I’ve never been inside of it and I don’t have any special attachment to it, especially because it’s supposed to be a church and I’m not very fond of the church.
A few days ago, Catalan premier, Carles Puigdemont, was all over the international news. What happened?
Right. That was like only two weeks ago.
Who are the men wheeling around propane tanks? What are they yelling?
Right. So who are the men pushing the propane tanks and hiting them with a stick? Very funny.
These are people who sell gas for your home, for you to cook, for you to have a hot shower.
Nowadays, you have central heating systems in buildings and very few buildings are left that need this kind of gas that comes in huge orange metal bottles.
The tradition, before that was all we had, right? So they would go up and down the streets making this noise so that if you were inside the house, you could hear that noise and go ‘oh, the gas, I need to buy a bottle’.
And the way to do it was to open the window and shout out ‘oh, I need one!’
And he, the person, one person normally, would bring the bottles all the way to your house, would charge you there at the door, and then he would just go down again.
So if you wanted two bottles, it was hard work for him.
Yeah, you don’t see them very often or not as often anymore now because of the central heating but yeah.
Why don’t the other tanks get stolen when they bring up the bottles to your house?
Normally, there’s two people. One brings you the bottle and the other one stays in the… near the bottles or near the truck where they transport the bottles.
But you know, they’re very heavy. They’re really heavy.
If you wanted to steal a bottle, you just won’t get very far, you can’t run with one of them, you know, that’s why there’s no real danger of them being stolen.
It’d be funny for a clip, maybe, for a little short film.
What do you think is at the core of Catalan identity?
Well, what is at the heart of Catalan identity. That is a huge question.
You know, but I don’t believe in identities so my answer is maybe not going to satisfy you very much.
I think an identity is something that you invent. All identities, absolutely all of them, even our personal ones are invented.
It’s something that you can change over night as well.
You can be defined for loving ice cream and maybe one day you wake up and you don’t like ice cream anymore.
You know, things like that.
So identities, and when it comes to nations, is a delicate subject and I think it’s a construction and that it very much depends on the time that we’re talking about like if we’re talking nowadays or if we’re talking before…
Like we know that in the 30s, Barcelona was anarchist, that’s what you could see in the streets all around. Was that at the heart of Catalan identity back then? Is it at the heart of Catalan identity now?
You know? Time goes by, things change, what’s at the heart, what’s in your heart when things change… You know.
Nothing lasts forever, so people change.
There are stereotypes that define Catalan people as being hard working, introverted, not very friendly, and industrious, and very attached to their money.
They or we do have that fame, the stereotype is there.
And then, of course, you have the aristocracy in Cataluña and you have the social movements, right?
So if we said anarchism is at the heart of the Catalan identity, you’d be ignoring the aristocracy and, you know, the upper class.
So, to me, there isn’t a Catalan identity, that depends on what social class you belong to.
If you belong to a working class, then yeah, there is a tendency to anarchism, there is.
Anarchism understood not as a violent state of being of any sorts.
Not as burning containers, not as any of that.
Anarchism as social harmony, that we can rule ourselves, thank you very much, we know what we’re doing and we can organise ourselves and there’d be no need for someone or a government to tell you how things should be done.
Which also, you know, doesn’t work, because there’s a lot of people who are unhappy with our government deals with everything so…
So yeah, it’s a tricky question…
Like I said, I don’t think there’s like an identity that you could say this is it and it changes over time and it changes according to social class.
I think it’s never a good idea to make generalisations because a group of people does not represent the individuals that make the group.
It’s just the way it is.
I do see a tendency of Catalans to be more introvert for example than people that I have met in Madrid.
And you can feel this in the night life.
Night life in Madrid is easygoing, you can go out by yourself and in 5 minutes, you’ll be surrounded by people talking and exchanging phone numbers, things like that.
In Barcelona that does not happen.
It’s difficult to make Catalan friends. I have one Catalan friend.
The rest are foreigners but that’s the beauty of Barcelona, I think, that there’s this mix of expats, and I don’t want to call them expats, they’re immigrants as well, you know, they’re immigrants as well.
So there’s a lot of immigrants and we, some Catalans, you know, mix, blend… you know, with… I’m saying this wrong.
You have all this immigrants in Barcelona from all over the world and you know, some Catalans decide to make friends with them, and some maybe not.
Because you do have the Catalan person that has been surrounded by their friends and family all their life and so it’s the same group of people that this people deal with, right?
And so they tend to maybe not be as open to foreigners as maybe a person like me would be.
But yeah, I think it’s more difficult to make friends in Barcelona than it is in Madrid.
So you know, the cliche, there’s always a little bit of truth in them, no? A little bit…
The thing is though that once you become friends with somebody who’s Catalan, the saying goes that then it’s forever, you know, then you’ve got, you know, their hearts and that’s forever, you’re in their group and that’s it.
That’s what they say but yeah.
I didn’t mean to say that the Basques were brute, or prone to violence, it’s only a cliche really, that people make fun of them because of that and… But it is a cliche, you know, there’s a lot of people from the Basque Country that are lovely people and not violent.