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Could you tell us your name and when and where were you born?
My name is Jordi Pablo Grau and I was born on April 13th 1950 here in Barcelona, in Gràcia
Could you tell us what your profession is?
Well, I dedicate myself to cultural activities as far back as I can remember
Basically, focused on two areas… As an artist, into what is known as conceptual art, objectual art, surreal art, as you want to call it
Well, I never wanted to get into productive circuits, although I have always been there, I had a very active role in the 70s
At the Fundació Joan Miró, and all that.
And, in addition, I have dedicated myself to studying, researching and analyzing the popular culture
I mean, not the folkloric popular culture from a folklorist perspective
But the rituals, beliefs, games and festivities
Not recovering them but going to their roots and origins
We understand that you have just come from the opening of the Gracia Festival
What is the Gracia Festival? What makes it so unique and special?
Well, the main characteristic is the neighbours’ capacity to adorn the streets in a very imaginative way
Besides, with a level of detail that cannot be found elsewhere, by the level of detail I mean the ability to take a plastic bottle and turn it into a fish, or a cat, or whatever
I mean, all the games you want, and besides, transforming the streets based on all these elements
Well, I don’t think the Festival is in its finest moment because it is inflated, overexploited
There’s too many audience
And this sense of the neighborhood has been lost
There’s too many people that come here just to watch it
But well, it remains standing, and I have published many things about the local Festival and its history
And every year, on the first day, which is today, the 15th,
I usually do a photographic report about all the streets from 7 o’clock in the morning to 12 o’clock, I already have 300 of them, with these cameras it is so easy…
But what interests me the most is the adornment’s typology, and how it develops every year
I would say that, in general, last year’s was better than this one
Despite they wanted to put a lot of emphasis on it this year
And, well, I could tell you a lot more things about this.
Well, we have conducted numerous interviews, we always ask the same question and people always answer the same
With the arrival of the Olympics to Barcelona, it is said that before them, Barcelona was a ‘grey’ city, and the Olympics changed that completely. What could you tell us about this topic?
Well, I wouldn’t be that optimistic… Obviously, there was a completely fundamental celebrity here, that is Pascual Maragall, who did know how to carry out a very important city project, but…
the Olympics were the final touch, right?
But the main point was Pascual Maragall’s political management
And the Olympics by themselves… for me, they also have contrasting elements, but it is not that clear
But the Villa Olímpica’s masterstroke is very interesting, of course, from an architectural perspective, obviously, it was opening the city towards the sea
But well, Barcelona had a great sea tradition as well, I mean…
Yes, that was important but I would say that it was more Pascual Maragall’s legacy than the Olympics by themselves
Now I’m going to ask you about the history of the Catalan language…
For example, how have the stretches of time in which the language was prohibited, as in the dictatorship, how did that affect the evolution of the language, and the language’s importance to the Catalan people?
Mmm… I’ll tell you about how that affected me, actually, we were talking about that before the interview
Eh… When I was born, the Catalan language was prohibited, at school, everything was said in Spanish
And in my house, they’ve always spoken Catalan, a lot of my cousins spoke Spanish because it was refined, right?
Or because, from a debatable sense of modernity, they would say it was better to speak in Spanish
Eh… We always spoke in Catalan, but for instance, I had a lot of trouble writing in Catalan because I never had a teacher
As I dedicated myself to plastic arts, I never needed to write, and so, I learned that based on talking and writing badly, from being mistaken, let’s say
But I never went to a school where they would teach me how to write in Catalan
And now, I’m not really bad at it, more or less, but I don’t think mine is an unusual case, I mean, I have some fellows that… they still have a lot of…
My brother, for instance, who is 10 years older than me, and who suffered a lot more in the post-war period, he still has difficulties writing in Catalan, and he is 77 years old now
And that is not my case, right?
I know some schoolmates that they don’t… they only write… For example, a cousin of mine, he only writes in Spanish
And not as a matter of conviction, because he has a Catalan mentality, let’s say
But it was tough, truly, the dictatorship was really tough, yes…
How important has oral tradition been to the development of the language?
According to my experience, it has been basic, of course.
It was also basic in the past, of course… If you look at the pre-Renaissance era, I have studied quite a lot the XIXth Century from a Festival point of view, the Festivals they had in the XIXth Century, right?
And… before the Renaissance, the Catalan language was completely residual
There are some exceptions, for example… an absolutely incredible celebrity, that is Baron de Maldà, who wrote a journal for all his life, which are… thirty volumes and they are edited… and that is a very interesting Catalan language, but there are few references left
That is to say, the rest is, maybe… There was a time when Catalan was barely written, it was only used for poetry… as a poetic language
But then, as of the Renaissance, at the end of the XIXth Century, it consolidated as a written language, let’s say, as a language of knowledge
How important is the Catalan language to defining what it is to be Catalan?
Well, eh… I believe that is pretty basic… I don’t know, what I picture in my head when you ask me that question is the immigrants
Immigrants that want to integrate into society are the first ones that are interested in speaking Catalan
and they end up being more Catalanists than us, that we were born here, sometimes, I would say a lot of times, right?
Because they have this language appropriation sentiment, which is fantastic, right?
And, therefore, it is very well connected.
In the US, they have no concept of what it is to be Catalan, or who the Catalan people are. Spain, in general, is scened as a European version of Mexico, with hats and spicy food.
Our goal with this documentary is to document Catalan culture and customs, as much as Catalan history. I would like to know if you could help us explain their origins, their traditions and what they represent. Will you put us there with words?
Buff… That is a three-volume book, eh… haha
Let’s see… Catalan traditions… good topic.
Eh… I normally approach that topic as anthropologists do, and how it has been done here
From a twofold point of view: the course of life and the course of the year
By course of life I mean the birth, the development, marriages and death
The course of the year means the festive calendar, and I will leave this here and I will explain more about this later, because I may know more things about it, probably
And there’s also an other great chapter, which includes them all, which is work, professions
But this is not of a exclusive Catalan command, I mean, intending to put a Catalan emphasis on a profession is a bit absurd
Because professions need to be understood from a wider tradition, which is far from being bad, it is simply an occidental tradition.
That is to say, for example, tinsmiths, the ones that shape tins and create thin cans or funnels out of that, or things like that
Tinsmiths come from a Central European tradition
I think the can is created in the XVIIth Century in Switzerland, and then, it spread all around Europe, and then, the tinsmith profession, which now seems to be a very Catalan tradition,
That is totally unconvincing… haha
I mean, one needs to bear this wide concept in mind, because I think it is omitted sometimes
I mean, the language does not determine professions
I determines the vocabulary of professions, which is very interesting… eh?
But not professions by themselves, their tecnologies or their traditions are a different and wider thing, generally…
Therefore, we have already covered the course of life, we could talk more about that if you want to… We could also talk all you want about professions as well
Because one of the things I had published through Edicions 62 was a book called ‘El Gran Llibre dels Oficis Perduts’ [The Great Book of Lost Professions], and I spent a while, a year and a half, besides, I had documentation already
Apart from the fact that I am the son of a decorator painter, and so, that is something I have experienced since I was born
Then, the other important part, which is the course of the year, that is, as I understand it, the expression of rituals, beliefs and games
Kids would form a circle, some are dressed as Catalans, some as Andalusian, which I found magnificient
Because, for example, in France, the whole festive system changed since the French Revolution, right?
And, however, it endures in Spain. But what is it that endures?
The religious origin endures, right? The festivities’ religious origin, which is omnipresent and covers the 80% of the festivities
It keeps being like that until democracy, until the 1970s, when all this changes
Kids would form a circle, some are dressed as Catalans, some as Andalusian, which I found magnificient
But rather, the religious part of the festival is reduced to faithful people, which I think is wise
And the festive part, that is, the demonstration and the ritual are pushed aside.
The most obvious case would be the Corpus. The Corpus Christi, eh… I guess it must be known in the US, but it is…
Let’s see, it is a very important festivity in Europe which was celebrated 40 days after Easter
It was a mobile festivity which had to do with the Moon, and so, every year was different, and the common characteristic in Europe was that there was a procession, where the Bible was explained didactically
And then, they talked about hell and the kings of the world, which were giants
And they were accompanied by inferior beings, which were dwarfs… right? But all this was part of a religious ceremony
Because the highest moment of the Corpus procession, which was usually made on a flower rug, was the safekeeping’s dismissal, right?
During the first secular revolutions in the XIXth Century, and specially, in all the laborer revolutions, they were abolished
In some places, it remained the representations only… paratheatral, as it is called, right? That is to say, they would put out figures that represented different things
For example, hell’s dragon with devils
For example, giants
Of course, that remained for a while, in some places they would still go out as a full procession, and in other places, they would begin to be atomized
The Corpus would go out, it started in the local festivities, which is strange originally
Because, in fact, festive troupes only go out for the Corpus, right?
Now it is the other way around, I mean, the strange thing is that there is any Corpus in which all these figures appear, there are some unusual cases, and very important ones as in Valencia
Or as in the Patum of Berga, right?
In Barcelona there is a Corpus but it was recovered ten years ago, so it is very diluted
Because Barcelona was one of the most secular cities, that is, first, the Corpus was abolished because there was a lot of labor and anticlerical basis
Well, I could be talking for a while about this… I will stick to the Corpus only, because there are more
There are things that you mentioned but there are others that you didn’t… Could you tell us a little bit about the Castellers?
Well, the Castellers were another element of this Corpus procession… Some people say that the original one comes from Valencia, but I would say it is…
Well, it is a tradition which became very important in the last 30 years as a symbol of Catalan culture
It is very interesting because there are two festive elements which have been accumulating the highest patriotic sense
Before Castellers, it was Sardanes, which were very important as a symbol of Catalan culture at the beginning of the XXth Century,
But afther the war, the Falange, that is Francoists, took them as a folklorist element, right?
And then, they lost this meaning they used to have
And now they are in between, they obviously recovered from that, there still are Sardanes but they don’t have that particular importance anymore
However, Castellers, which had always been a marginal thing, basically, from the area of the Camp of Tarragona, now they have a savage importance
Because the gimnastics and physical competence had generated a whole constellation of new entities
For me, Castellers are almost a new festivity
Could you tell us about the Falcones?
Falcones? It’s a variation of this
I don’t know that much about this, I could talk about it but… as there is a lot of experts on this matter…
I would say things which are more than debatable, right?
I mean… it is a combination of gimnastics figures which accumulate in different ways
Falcones would be one of that possible combinations and Castellers would be an other one. Castellers are much more important… They are part of a festive imagery, or of a festive cultural heritage
That is another thing
Could you talk about the Calçotada?
The Calçotada of Valls
Well, the calçotada is an other reinvented festivity, which has a popular origin, the truth is that people in Valls, if they see this, they will kill me, because they do know a lot about this
And I am from Gràcia, which is far away from Valls, right?
But I have been there and I know people there… and I love calçots
Let’s see, calçots, so that people understand it, it is a grilled onion, a specific type of onion that in order to be stored in wet places, it is grilled
Then, I guess it must have been in the XIXth Century, someone very intelligent said ‘well, we’ll plant it again and see what happens’
And it grew a onion out of that which had a long bulb, instead of round, right?
Then, seven or eight calçots would come out of one onion
Well, this transformed into an agricultural local tradition in Valls
And the thing was that during the 70s, it started to be exported as a turistic element, apart from being extraordinarily good as a food, and now it something massive
I will just give you a detail, ten years ago, it was so hard to find calçots in fruit and vegetable markets in Barcelona
You had to order them, they had to bring them, and they were really expensive, now it is massive, that is, there are calçots in any supermaket, wherever there are vegetable, there are calçots
But this happened in Barcelona in ten years, the Calçotada as a festivity which remains as a central core from Valls to the coast, right?
I would say this is from the 60-70s, so it’s not that old
Oh! Great subject. An other one that I had to treat a lot.
Let’s see.. April’s fair is a Sevillian festivity that is held precisely… let’s see, now lately I was with some friends looking for its origins
It was a stockbreeder’s fair which was very successful and, curiously, it was created by a Catalan who was a textile machine maker and who had different deals there, right?
And then, he said ‘well, this should be modernized’ and he created the first April’s fair, which was a successful stockbreeder fair and so, it went developing with its basic Sevillian characteristic which is that there are huts, and that is imitated here differently
By huts I mean that every entity or group of friends has a little local and they invite their friends and everything…
Then, here in Catalonia, that is clearly a new festivity motivated by immigrants and it is consolidated here and there are some Catalan people that say that it will never be a Catalan festivity
But there are other Catalans that are more flexible and we are happy to have a Catalan festivity which is called April’s fair, right?
It is such a consolidated festivity here… and well, it has some serious imperfections because it is too folklorized and it’s been years since we said it should be more cross-wise, more about cross-wised music, not that much about furbelows.
But this is because it is organized by just one part of this immigration
For example, a good friend of mine, who is from the Taller de Músics, they precisely teach and are great experts on modern flamenco, and they are against this folklorized model in the April’s fair
Anyway, it is a very interesting festivity
Sant Joan’s night?
Sant Joan’s night.. They do campfires. Well, it is related to all the rituals of the summer solstice, that is, the moment where there is more sunshine, which is on the 21th of June and Sant Joan is on the 23… well, is on the 24th, and the open-air dance is on the 23th, which is the most particular element
The most important formalization of this is the campfires, which is interesting, because they have an ancient primitive origin,
Campfires are done all over the peninsula and in some parts of Europe, well, I don’t say that much, but you can easily find Sant Joan campfires in Portugal
But, curiously, they signified an element of national identity during the first Catalanist movements
And so, it has this double front, I mean, the popular one which is linked to burning bad spirits and jumping over the fire to become purified, and to all this kind of rituals
And the most Catalanist, which is to represent there is a flame that comes from the Canigó’s Pyrenean and then, this flame starts spliting up, spliting up… and it starts lighting all these campfires all around Catalonia
As I understand it…
A little bit traditionalist, right?
This idea of the flame is almost as an olympic flame but towards Catalanism, which is something strange
For example, during these last years, I’ve visited some campfires because there are a lot, every year there is a Sant Joan’s campfire in front of me, wherever I go
And these last years I was in Portbou, and there happened something very interesting
There is not a big campfire tradition, but they do this magnificient campfire at the beach and that is a big party, right?
Because there is no risk of a fire and also, the beach is at a vantage point, and everyone is around, except when they bring out the cakes
Because it is not only about the campfire, it is also about the cakes
And, curiously, the flame comes from the Canigó with all the paraphernalia with this car with acoustic boxes with Sardanes coming out of them, and all that
Well, they light the fire but after that, there is the party, which is a different thing
And then, as there is a tradition there, as it is a village placed in the boundary, there is a settled population from Andalusian origin
Kids would form a circle, some are dressed as Catalans, some as Andalusian, which I found magnificient
Because it breaks all this unitarian idea, right?
You talked about the Mercè’s festivity, would you like to add anything else, or…?
Buf… No, actually, I have published two or three books on the history of the Mercè’s festivity
What do you want me to tell you, I don’t know, let’s see…
The Mercè’s festivity has different stages, eh…
It has its origin at the end of the XIXth Century, in 1875, if I’m not mistaken
It’s the first civic festivity, because the religious fetivity is much more ancient because it is the church’s festivity
But as a civic festivity, precisily in the moment in which all the religious related festivities were abolished, like the Corpus, this festivity started, which had a civic religious nature, right?
That is, civic entities would go out the streets with streetlights and all that
But it was intermittent, there were years when it was celebrated, depending on the mayor’s ideology, right?
A well-known mayor here was Rius i Taulet, who was one of the most moving mayors
During the pre-war years, in the 30s, the Mercè’s festivity was not celebrated
Then, in the post-war era, they wanted to consolidate it as a civic festivity with certain…
Not really dogmatic, right? The mayor Porcioles
He was a member of the Lliga, which was a Catalanist party but actually, they were the first Francoism collaborators
But it was a Francoism that did not have anything to do with ideology, it was more functional, and I understand, I mean, anyone could argue this, right?
And then, they created this festivity. There were some important years when they did a Mercè’s parade, which wanted to imitate the pre-war carnival
Before the war, one of the key festivities in Barcelona was the carnival
It was totally prohibited after the war, but during the transition, they celebrated kind of a hidden carnival during the Mercè
People would dress up and a lot of floats would go out, and I remember it during my childhood, so it lasted about 20 years, during the 1960-70s
Until it started to decay, because people started to have fun in a different way
And not even carnival was seen in the same way
And in 1975, when the democracy arrived, it was a testimonial festivity, I mean, there was a music band walking by the streets and that’s it
It was with democracy when we got together to create a different festive model, a modern one
And that is when the correfoc appeared that the dance of giants appeared as well, which was also a festivity, one of the few that lasted until the end
But calling it dance of giants as if it were a more consolidated festivity, that comes with democracy
During the first years, I remember that the Mercè’s festivity was a total burst and people wanted to have fun, things were done in all the squares, right? Whether they were improvised or not, right?
And then, well, everything has happened, I mean it has expanded, I would say it has expanded too much
And now it is overblowned, that is, it has eaten up all the neighborhood’s popular festivities
It has some kind of institutional and economic support which doesn’t belong to the rest of the festive calendar in Barcelona
This is my opinion, right?
The Diada… Today’s Diada, tomorrow’s Diada, and the Diada of September 11th, which I guess you are referring to, right?
Ah… Pf… This is also a very interesting festivity, I would say its main characteristic is that it is the oldest secular festivity, okey?
Because it does not have any religious origin, but simply the exaltation after being defeated
It goes to when Catalanists lost the war, to put it simple, a historian will talk about the historical part better than I can
The festive part goes to before the war, when it had been a rescindable celebration, when going to Rafael de Casanova’s statue, which was in Passeig de Sant Joan back then, and then it was where it is now,
Implied risk, that is, it was common arresting people doing that, right?
And after the war it got worse. It was a completely rescindable festivity, and who celebrated September 11th would be hit with a stick, right?
This during the 70s until the democracy.
And after that, it has been a burst that has been increasing to a cosmic extent, because it has become a festivity introduced by exellence, I don’t know
Actually I see it as a ‘esglai’ [as a shock’s result], to use a Catalan word, because everything is excessive, so symbolic, there is so much choreography, right?
I mean, what is the future of this? I mean, I would like to be more divided.
I have to admit that there is a very important degree of imagination in this project, the routes they did during the first years which were about drawing a circle around Catalonia, that is impressive
And the experience of what they did is impressive, I mean, a unique collective experience
Now, we’ll see what happens, for example, this year
The Christmas’ Tió?
The Tió… The Tió. You make me talk about them all, eh
Let’s see, I have written some things about the Christmas Tió, I’m going to go back in time
Let’s see, it is a Catalan tradition but it is also European, because actually, the connection between the Christmas tree and its lights and the Christmas’ Tió… actually it is tree worship
The dead tree with its sparks is one thing, and a different one is the lighted up tree, right, they are different things but they have a very similar origin
In the Basque Country, for example, they do a ceremony which consists in taking this trunk along a procession, which is called Olentzero, which is the wood’s spirit
That is, it is not just a Catalan festivity
It has been consolidated here as one of the most important traditions, but for me, mmm. I’m not quite sure about this nationalistic sense they gave to it
For me, it is wider, it is more about what occidental culture is
Well, the caganer is connected to the Tió, actually, it is…
Now there is a glorious company that works these types of tourist objects, and I am impressed by that, and they created a caganer Tió, which is like puting it all together, right? I find it fantastic.
Well, I go back to the same thing, for me it is a generic tradition
Christmas snakes actually have the shape of an excrement, right?
And here it is given to kids as a Christmas joke, and there is also this fig bread, which is disgusting to some people, and other people just love it
But deep down it is the same tradition as the caganer
This idea of attributing the returning to nature to this festivity, I believe that is science fiction
But, actually, it has a lot of interest as a mythological element because of how it has developed and how it is used
The Barceloneta’s festivities?
The Barceloneta’s festivities… Which one? I don’t know, there are a few that are important, if you don’t specify which one…
Of course, you want me to be specific, okey, thank you, haha
Well, for me, there are two basic festivities, one is decaying and I would say that is the local festivity, because it is in September, right after Gracia’s festivities
This thing of decorating the streets that is so characteristic of Gracia and Sants’ neighborhoods, in the past, there were a lot of neighborhoods that had them…
Decorating a street as if it were a palace or the bottom of the sea was very generic in lots of places
And the Barceloneta’s festivities were one of them
There is a interesting element which is the Barceloneta’s cannon, where they would throw candy, I would say it is distinctive of the Barceloneta’s festivities, I don’t know if that is folkloric or not
But I think that the most interesting festivity, which has not been studied in detail, and that has been addressed lately is the humorous Corus
This is a festivity that is celebrated during the second Easter, and they call it Corus because, before the war, they were choir entities which derived from Amselm Clavé, but well, it was a labor celebrity, that means, he mobilized the labor multitude and he wanted to civilize them, so that people won’t just go to bars and get drunk
So that they did other things, for example, he tought them how to sing in a chorus, right?
The big choir movement in Catalonia starts with Amselm Clavé in the middle of the XIXth Century, and it became established during the XXth Century.
Next to this chorus which tend to be serious, in the sense of very patriotic songs,
some humorous choral societies appeared, they would mock themselves or the songs, they talked about substantial elements
About women, or about the girl that went to the river and whatever happened to her, right?
Well, this humorous choral societies were very well spread in the Barceloneta, also in Gracia, before the war, and after the war, as everything, it was prohibited
And they prohibited to an extend were they had to pay a fine, and they would be chasen in the Barceloneta, and so they kept doing the ceremony without singing
That is why, some people in the Barceloneta call it mute choir, because they perform with a music band but without singing… They don’t even know how to sing anymore.
Then, the only thing they do is a big party which consists in an excursion, and they go with their notes, as if they went with a small hatchet to get firewood, which is not real because it is a monstruous small hatchet made out of crystal, for example
And all their notes which was from the original ones, after that, they have in their backs all these elements. They go on a excursion for two days, do as they want… theoretically they were men only, therefore, doing as they wanted and bringing all of gifts for their families
It is an extraordinary moment because they come back with roosters, with chickens, with rabbits, with chocolates, whatever, but they wore them as a dress
And then, they walked in the streets going back and forth, well it is an incredible festival, it’s orgastic, right?
For me, it is one of the most extraordinary festivities that are celebrated now, that is why when you said the Barceloneta’s festivities, I did not know which one you were referring to.
What is the Patufet?
The Patufet is a tale’s character, okey?
I don’t know, if you make me tell the story, I guess I would not be very good at it, but… schematically, he was such a little boy that his mother gave him some money to go and get saffron, and the money weighted as much as him…
And it started raining and he hide under a cabbage and a cow ate it.
And well, here, a fantastic story starts… and this character, Patufet, which I think is an old tale, I couldn’t tell if it is popular or if someone wrote it, it has two thousand versions
But the important thing about the Patufet is that it generated a magazine inspired by Josep Maria Folch i Torres, and it was a very important magazine with an extraordinary circulation from the beginnings of the 1900s until 1938.
Because recently, a catalog on an exposition has been published, about an exposition of the Patufet during the war, which is at the Memorial Democràtic
Which is quite dramatic and very interesting, it is a small exposition, but I would say that the catalog is even more important
Therefore, it is a media phenomenon, before the television existed, it remained as an archetypical character of the Catalan culture
The Patufet is always wearing a Catalan hat, a sash, I mean, all the clichés of rural Catalanism, right?
But this is the later character, which still lasts, because there is a wide iconography of Patufets
And the important origin I would say it is the Patufet Magazine.
Who was Francesc Maspons i Labrós?
A folklorist, now, if you make me say more… that is a difficult one, right?
Because I have read a lot on Francesc Maspons i Labrós but I couldn’t place him not even geographically
He is one of these important folklorists from the beginning of the Century, from the 1920-30s, and he has a production…
For example, it comes to my mind the image of an other important folklorist who is Rossend Serra i Pagès, he was from Gracia and I know more about things about him
Whereas Francesc Maspons i Labrós… I know he is an important folklorist.
Could you tell us about his popular Catalan tales?
He was one of the storytellers, but I am not an specialist, I could introduce you to other people who know much more about that…
The storytelling is a very interesting field of the popular literature and it has its followers
It is not something that I had studied particularly
What is the Catalan hat?
The Catalan hat was the title of a magazine called ‘The Catalan Hat’
The Catalan hat is a type of hat, which is a red bag
It is the most characteristic things of the Catalan culture, of the Catalan folklore because people wear Catalan hats
Well, where does the Catalan hat come from and why?
The Catalan hat was kind of a box to protect oneself and to carry tobacco, right?
Because it is like a bag, and the cigarette paper was in it, and so
Therefore, in ancient engraving, it is seen how the Catalan hat had like a full bag here, and this is what it was used to
There are a lot of ways to wear the Catalan hat, for example, it can be rolled up, it can be put on the visor, there are a lot of ways
Every way has a meaning, there are of all types, in the Camp of Tarragona, there are violet Catalan hats
And the rest, they are red, right?
Actually, when it comes to its origins, some pleople say it has to do with Greeks
There are Greek dances where people seem to be wearing a Catalan hat, right?
But well, this is archaeology, fiction… more than anything.
What is Montserrat and what is its connection to the city?
Yes… Well, excuse me, let me add something about the Catalan hat, because you can wear it as you want, well, actually, we are talking about all these folkloric elements
In the moment when the Catalan hat is popularized, it is because some authors from the Renaissance, as Mosén Jacinto Verdaguer, when they give a speech, they wear a Catalan hat
And they wear it as an ornament because they don’t usually wear them in Barcelona, but it is to do an act of faith regarding Catalan culture
That is the moment when it is consolidated, in this sense, which it still has.
Regarding the question about Montserrat
Montserrat is the symbol of Catalanity in all its shapes, this is important
There were moments in the history of Montserrat’s monastery when apparently, depending on the importance of religious or secular elements, everybody wanted Montserrat as the patron saint Virgin.
That is, there is certain unanimity in this, and it is very curious the fact that they also wanted the Mare de Déu de Montserrat in anticlerical periods
Therefore, obviously, Montserrat also had dejection during the dictatorship, those who were in charge under Montserrat’s order also had a very important role in the resistant Catalanism, right?
The few that could face the Francoist regime, right?
And therefore, this remains as a important element.
Apart from its religious symbol, it is also from a modern religiousness, I would say that monks in Montserrat have always been considered as a modern ones, compared to the rest of the church.
And therefore, this is a beloved pedigree, right?
Will you talk about the rumour that the Holy Grail is located in Montserrat?
Well, ah… American people are a lot into this topic, ah…
I’m subscribed to a program called The History Channel in Canal + that is terrible because every evening they are talking about the Holy Grail and it scares me, I mean…
Because there are a lot of versions about this and it is so famous that it is scary, almost.
Then, this connection, I would say that it is completely irrelevant in the Catalan collective imagination at this moment, if the Holy Grail is located in Montserrat or if it isn’t, it is not important
Anyway, well, it is true that there were some Nazis that came to Montserrat looking for the Holy Grail, maybe it has to do with this, I don’t know
And also, well, there are duplicates of the holy chalice, as there are in two thousand more places, and some say, which one is the authentic?
Well, I think that even inside the Church, I don’t think they care much about that, it is only important to certain type of sensationalist programs that are fueled by this, let’s say, this kind of cheap esotericism
Could you tell us about the Virgin of Montserrat?
The Virgin? The Virgin of Montserrat that is not tanned… let’s say, it turns out they discovered… the altar was brown, right?
Well, the Virgin of Montserrat is part of a very important thing among the Catalan religious tradition, which are the ‘MotherofGod encounters’
That is, during the Moor’s period, that is, during the Moor’s invasions, the churches and faithful people had to make the images disappear
And normally, they would bury them, or put them into caves or whatever
What happened? That two or three centuries after that, when the Moors left, images started to reappear
Of course, they all had this miraculous resemblance because it actually was a miracle that a farmer who know nothing about imagery saw an image that appeared there, at the end… and of course, he would see lights, and…
He imagined everything, right?
It is completely reasonable, right? In collective psychology during the XVIth, XVIIth and XVIIIth Centuries, it was when all this tradition of ‘MotherofGod encounters’ is created, among which there is Montserrat, let’s say.
Which has to do with a very special character that has a very interesting and medieval legend, right?
But I’m not going to tell it because it is quite long.
What is the Catalan donkey?
The Catalan donkey is a symbol that put at the back of the car.
No, well, it is a local breed on the verge of extinction, and some smart people chose it as a symbol of Catalan culture as well
And now, the donkey appears everywhere as a symbol, but well, it is a part of the recovery or this ritualised obsolete elements from agriculture or stockbreeders
And then, they endure as a symbol.
Who was Wildred the Hairy?
No. No because this is very related to history and I guess it also has a mythology, but it would be better to ask some legend experts about him
But, actually, I am more into rituals, beliefs, and modern games, that is, from the XIXth and the XXth Centuries, so ask me things about that because I’ll be able to answer them, I guess
However, I don’t know about Wilfred the Hairy, because it is too old, I wasn’t there…
This may be this precisely, how was ‘Snoopy’ a political symbol in the ’60s and ’70s?
A political symbol… Well, I would say that… I don’t know, I’m not any comic expert, that is another special sect
But I would say that Snoopy was a youth and a modernity symbol
No, no… for example, nothing to do with Catalanist culture, I mean, it was a sign of modernity with a wide media coverage
At the same level than Superman also, I don’t know, right?
What is ‘Seny’?
And burst. Eh… they are two of the characteristiques that Catalan people are given, as thesis and antithesis, right? Common sense and burst, right?
Eh… then, I guess ‘seny’ means… well, I guess it would be better to look up this word in the dictionary and see what it means… the Catalan Seny
What does it mean? Well, this prudent and rigorous feature of things, it has to do with anticipating the future, and… which is the antithesis of ‘rauxa’, which means acting instinctively, being wrong, and all that
Then, we are all together in this symbiosis, right? I think that not just Catalan people, but well, here they said it was just Catalan people, well.
How has Catalonia’s proximity to France impacted the culture here?
Ah… It is a beautiful subject. Well, it is not just its proximity to France, I mean…
The area of Rosselló de la Cerdanya and, if so, Occitania, there, people vindicate as Catalan people themselves
I mean, they were a part of the Crown of Aragon at some points, and French emperors or kings started to narrow that area, let’s say
Besides, I lived in the Rosselló’s area and I really love it, there is still an experience of people there who are even more Catalanists than Catalans here, although it is minority there
They are more aware of the 11th of September than we are, right?
They come to the Diada and all it takes, right?
I don’t know, anyway, I actually studied my High School Diploma in French, not English, I know some people don’t like that, but I am very happy about that
Because I have always liked and loved all parts of French culture and France
Not only those people from the south, but generally, I found French culture extraordinary
French politics are a different thing, right?
Do you think there are any western philosophers or philosophies that you would describe as representative of the Catalan soul?
Well, I am a confessed fan of a character that I am not sure whether he is a philosopher or not, anyway, he claimed to be, who is Francesc Pujols
Of course, if you go back in time, then Ramon Llull and all these people I guess they also were philosophers
But Francesc Pujols, he was kind of a thinker, humorist who wanted to create a religion that was nor Catholic, nor Hindu, nor anything… He wanted to create a Catalan religion
And he was the prophet of that religion
Then, deep down, this mythology was very close to Surrealism, actually, he was a close friend of all the Catalan surrealists, beginning with Salvador Dalí
He did a very dispersed work which I think it was poorly analyzed, but I think it is completely basic
I mean, if you want to go the roots of Catalan culture, you have to go to Francesc Pujols
Could you tell us who the Gitanos are and how have they impacted Catalan culture?
I would say it is the other way around, they grafted on our culture and Catalan gitanos form a magnificient part of Catalan culture nowadays, Catalan gitanos, obviously
The gypsy culture, as you know, it is a wide Indo-European migratory culture
And well, it is plenty of expressions that have been at the center of the modern Catalan culture, our position in music, specially, Catalan rumba, for example, which is halfway from everything else
It is born in the depths of Catalan gitanos, right?
And not just with music, but generally, I thing there is a life sense that I would express with something that my mother used to tell me when I was a kid
There were a lot of gitanos in Gracia, but they were not despised, they would live a part, that is true
They were into iron traffic, they also had mules and things like that, right?
And then, as I was quite naughty and I would do a prank for someone that my age, that was 7 or 8 years old, eh…
and my mother would take me with her special affection and she said to me ‘ay, gitano!’
She meant that gitanos were very active people and bad in a good way, right?
I don’t know if I’m making myself clear…
How did Barcelona earn the moniker ‘La Rosa de Foc’?
Oh! This is because some labor and political riots that took place in the city
I wouldn’t know how to explain it accuratly, but they have to do with the end of the XIXth Century, and with anarquists movements which were very important in Barcelona
Then, ‘la rosa de foc’ was one emblem that has remained as representative of all the labor movement that faced the political forces and specially the economic ones, right?
Though Barcelona is metropolitan, its Catalan residents are said to have a natural affinity for the land, that it is where the Catalan spirit lies. This is also often a talking point, when the subject of Joan Miro’s ‘The Farm’ comes up.
Could you tell us where does this come from and if…?
What? Ask the question again. Sorry, it is just that I was thinking about the other thing, you can cut this, it doesn’t matter, but it is interesting and actually who knows a lot about this ‘rosa del foc’ is Ramon Albert, because he is studying it
Then, don’t ask me because, yes, you were asking me that and I was like ‘oh, he already explained it’
And now I must have explained the half of it and badly, but I’m sure he explained that better.
Sorry, I haven’t heared the question, then
Barcelona is a metropolitan city but its Catalan residents are said to have a natural affinity for the land, that it is where the Catalan spirit lies.
This is also often a talking point, when the subject of Joan Miro’s ‘The Farm’ comes up
Could you tell us where does this come from and if this is still true?
I have no idea, Joan Miró’s ‘The Farm’… it is the first time I hear about this
Well, I think you are mixing up things in a very strange way, maybe
I mean, when people talk about the land and about people living in the fields, of course that people has a pretty rooted sense towards the land, but I don’t think that is Catalan exclusive, is more about all the people that live in the fields
This idea of the nature that you mentioned, people from the fields don’t talk about nature
The ones that talk about nature are people from Barcelona that go to the field every weekend, systematically, to cover all this land, right?
But I would say that this is a generic movement, maybe not universal but European, at least. The same thing happens all around Europe, right?
There is this systole and diastole movement, of some historical moments in which people want to stay in the city because they have jobs, they can make money there, and the fields are tough, right?
And only old people stay at the fields, and there is a diastole movement, which is the opposite thing, let’s say, people from Barcelona that cannot live in the city anymore because they feel anxious, because there is pollution and all that, and they want to go back to the fields, right?
And there is also an other level in between, which are hippies, right? They go to farms, I don’t know, because they want to be self-sufficient, which is totally respectable
I wouldn’t say that is a main sector, but it is really symbolic
In between all these, that you talk about Joan Miró’s ‘The Farm’, I’m astonished, because, well, it is a painting
It is true that he lived there, but that is a different story, like all the painters or all our families, we all have an example of someone with a house in the fields
I mean, because Miró is famous? I don’t know… I mean, I don’t know
I think you should ask Woody Allen, who did that magnificient movie about Barcelona where a painter appeared who catched a small plane to go see his girlfriend to Navarra
I though that was fantastic when it comes to the lack of understanding of Mr. Woody Allen about the city of Barcelona
The questions was because in other interviews we conducted, people told us that Catalan people have a strongest connection to the land than in other places, and this painting is very representative of this relationship
Well, now we’ll talk a little bit about the newspapers and periodicals, which ones…?
This is going to take a while because… I normally talk a lot, okey, okey, go on, go on
What newspapers and periodicals were available during the Spanish Civil War?
Well, I believe you had interviewees here that may know a lot more about this than I do
But well, I also studied it, I worked quite a lot with newspaper and periodicals libraries
And, what do you mean? Here in Catalonia, there were right-winger newspapers and left-winger newspapers, right?
The left-winger ones, I don’t know, I guess ‘La Publicitat’, ‘La Humanidad’, very important one this last one
Eh… ‘El Poble Català’ [The Catalan Nation], I don’t know if that one would be in the middle, but it was very Catalanistic, of course
And there were also right-winger newspapers such as ‘La Vanguardia’ [The avant-garde], ‘El Noticiero Universal’ [The Universal News Channel], well, this one is more modern, it came out just before the war
Also the ‘Brusi’, the ‘Diari de Barcelona’ was very important, it was this thick, they were 40 pages in small paper
And they were almost always the same news, but it was a great spreading, and great sales, right?
It was a media phenomenon, which is really surprising nowadays
But as ideological newspapers there was a wide variety of press
Precisely this was one of the great scarcities there were after the war, everything was in Spanish, belonged to the regime, censored… terrible
Until the appearance of the firsts Tele/Estels, the Tele/Exprés, that were the first lights of modernity and Catalanism
You mentioned that during the Franco years, all the newspapers were practically the same
Not the same
Well, not the same, but…
I mean, there were all kinds of newspapers, for example, ‘El Correu Català’ [The Catalan Mail] was an important newspaper but it was confessional, religious, its capital was related to the church
And it was more modern than others, right?
I mean, during the 1960s, the first sparks of new events were in The Catalan Mail
In the ‘Ciero’ [The Universal News Channel] was also a changing newspaper, it started being Falangist but then it changed into a more modern one, right?
And La Vanguardia with all the Counts behind, that was a very different thing, specially tough, from the regime, yes…
But people always said that La Vanguardia was a newspaper… I’m talking about the pre-war era, after the war the story changed
After the war, La Vanguardia was very right-winger about politics and economy, but it stayed at the middle about culture
So the margin of culture was bigger
Well, this is what they said, in fact, I was a kid in those years
Before the war, La Vanguardia had its glorious moment, its director, Agustí Calvet Gaziel, was a great writer and an essential character, right?
But they made his life miserable and they fired him before the war
At that time, ‘La Vanguardia’ was okey, maybe it had something to do with its name
After that, calling ‘la vanguardia’ to something that was quite the opposite… it is a joke, right? I’ve always found that funny
It should have been ‘the rear-guard’, right?
Was there a specific organization responsible for overseeing these periodical’s censorship?
Oh, yes… there are lots of books about men of censorship, what happens is that I’m not that old… I was born in 1950, therefore, my activity was during the ’70s
Actually, I collaborated with press articles but I have never been an editor
Therefore, the ones who suffered most from it dedicated themselves to writing, they should talk about this
From what I’ve read, there are lots of books that talk about this, how they managed censorship, and all the anecdotes
There are some absurd things, like one editor’s obsessions, and an other one that would take everything, I mean, it was quite a special regime, yes
Could you tell us some of those anecdotes?
Yes, about censorship
No, no because it wouldn’t be real, I haven’t lived anything, and I haven’t studied it in depth, right?
Mmm… I mean, if you want an other story, it is about before when you asked me about the Patufet, this is curious
Because, of course, The Patufet was a newspaper for children, very right-winger
The values were almost from the church, the moral… But the thing is that it had all these cartoons in it, the stories were very funny, they were tales, legends, right?
They weren’t nor right nor left-winger
What happened? That during the war they collectivized it, and the moral part and the life of the saints disappeared, obviously
Mmm… They could talk and couldn’t at the same time, because during the four or five years of Civil War, there was an other censorship, which was the regime’s censorship
Not that much about the Generalitat, but from the forces behind all the publishing houses
And so, I remember that everything was hidden among the words, everything had a double meaning, of course, you couldn’t just talk about whatever you wanted
But then, most of the jokes were about thin people, and they would say ‘oh, did you lose weight?’, ‘Well, yes… I did lose weight…’
And then, everything was about sizes, and now all my clothes are big, of course they laughed about one thing that wasn’t funny at all, because people were actually dying of hunger, basically
And there were two or three subjects that were always there those years, which is curious, it is a censorship from the other point of view, right?
Francoism’s censorship, which is far more long and tough
Ah… things like folklore, folklore tradition, how… how will they survive in this world where everything is now recorded?
Nowadays, everything is digitally stored, recorded… How will folklore and tradition survive here?
Good question. I have been reading lately… there are some essays that have been translated into Spanish on American theme parks, right?
And well, the world is more global than never before, right?
I don’t know if they are more advanced, but there is much more business behind folklore, right?
We are terrified of the American model about their folklore taste, right? As a commercialization element basically
With all its shades, right? Because there are some recreated festivities, or neighborhoods where the history is reenacted very wisely, that is also true
But regarding the critical mass of theme parks in the US it is so scary, for example, I went to the Columbus Day’s Festivity in Miami, because I was there…
Organizing the exposition of Seville, I collaborated with comedians and organizing the parade, which had to be celebrated in Seville, and we went there in a Congress of people that dedicated themselves to do parades
Well, and then, I noticed how that worked and it is actually a country of Martians, it is quite…
It is quite different, and the main differente between Europe and America I would say it is that the American festive meaning has to do with the familiar life and with political events, which is great up to this point, right? With all its shades, right?
There is a popular basis and there is an interesting neo-folklore
It is different here, here we still are in a point of recovery of those essences and all that, which scares me more every time, because everything has been recovered
Now, I think it is necessary to distinguish between folklore and folklorism, and let’s see if I answer your question, right?
Then, the folklore is a science that studies traditions, rituals and beliefs, which is what I dedicate myself to
And folklorism is the usage, many times, the overuse of these elements for making other things, or for creating a theme park
And now, I guess you’re informed, specifically in Barcelona but in Spain as well, all the newspapers have a great judgment saying that there is excess of tourists, there is a risk of having whole neighborhoods transformed into theme parks, right?
Deep down, it would be an American model because America works like that a lot, based on what I’ve read… I haven’t studied that much, I see it from the outside
I think that if there is a value in Europe is precisely this relationship between space and people, that they invite others, they don’t do business out of that, right?
This is the great difference and this is the conflict that is present in Gracia’s Festivity nowadays, right?
Because of course, there is still a basis of a very important associative life which makes a party for themselves and they can invite people
But this has its limits, it is a matter that has to do with ecosystems, this is like an ecosystem itself, right?
I mean, an ecosystem may allow for people from the outside to come and that is a positive thing because the festivity grows
But it is not possible that there are more people who come as an audience or consumers because, simply, what they do is to destroy the ecosystem, right?
And this is what is happening and I think this is the most important element of reflexion right now in Barcelona and in Catalonia, maybe I’d say even in Europe
Did I make myself clear? Have I answered the question?
Yes, I think so