dimecres, 21 d’abril del 2004

Text from www.freecatalonia.org

(Information to tourists visiting Catalonia)


1. Forward to freedoom

Probably you will have heard about Antoni Gaudi's architecture; about the beaches of the Costa Brava; about the Eivissa parties; about the Barcelona F.C.; about the NBA player Pau Gasol; about the Valencian Falles; or about the struggle of this land to reach freedom.

The Principality of Catalonia, the Valencian Country, and the Balearic Islands form the Catalan Countries, where you are now - territories under the Spanish state administration -, and the North of Catalonia - in the French state.

We offer you the opportunity of briefly knowing some of our history. The history silenced by Spain. You are now in a country that has been fighting for centuries for its rights and freedom.

Welcome to Catalonia.

2. Catalan Countries.

Catalonia's size is 69.823 square kilometres, a land bigger than Albania, Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Luxemburg or Switzerland, among others. In Catalonia live more than 11 millions of people.
The Catalan Countries are divided in sections by the Spanish state in three "regions": Principality of Catalonia (four provinces), Valencian Country (three provinces), and the Balearic Islands (one province). The North of Catalonia make up most of the Oriental-Pyrenees department in France. This department is part of the "Llenguadoc-Rosselló" region. As well in the North of Catalonia you can find Andorra, settled as a state as France or Spain.

3. The Senyera: Our Flag.

The symbol of the bars (the flag of the four bars) appears for first time on the weapons and the shield of Ramon Berenguer IV (XII century). It was a sign of nobility. But the country will take it slowly as its own until it became one of the first national flags, making/becoming the Catalan flag one of the oldest in Europe.

Its public exhibition has been persecuted and sanctioned by the different Spanish governments and Kings through the history.

4. The Estelada: the freedom flag.

The Estelada was born in 1928, and it is the flag that symbolizes the struggle for freedom. The blue triangle represents the blue sky of mankind and on its centre shines a white star that represents the longing for freedom for Catalonia to decide its own future.

In 1969 appears the estelada of the red star of socialist tendency.

Nowadays different organitzacions, collectives and political parties in the Catalan countries use both flags.

5. The Catalan language: Our language.

The Catalan language is a clear proof of our existence as a nation and one of the major cultural identities of our people. Our language comes from the Vulgar Latin and in the XII century was consolidated in the administration, literature and science.

During the ruling of Jaume I, the Catalan language started to expand all around the Catalan nation, from Salses to Guardamar and from Fraga to Maó, the geographical limits that compose the current Catalan countries. During centuries the Catalan language was the only private, public and official language of the whole Catalan nation.

As the Roman Empire disappeared the Latin language gave way to new languages, so that in the VIII century it is considered that new Romanic languages are born, among them the Catalan language.
Although Catalan has its origins there, it has been persecuted by the French and Spanish states through prohibitions, royal decrees, dictatorships, and governments that had a common and only target: to eliminate differences and to attempt the absorption of Catalonia into Spain and France.

Nowadays the official use of the Catalan language is shared with the Spanish language in the Catalan countries except the North of Catalonia, where it has no official status. In Andorra, the Catalan language has always been the only official language.

Even though its official status, the Catalan language is frequently attacked and according to the Spanish Constitution, its knowledge is only optional, whilst it is compulsory to learn/speak Spanish and French (in the North of Catalonia).

6. The history of the resistance.

In 1640 starts the "Segadors" War. Catalonia fights against the expansionist ambitions of France and the Castilian centralism and its presence in our country that was being used as an operations base. The war leads to the defeat of Catalonia and the signature of the Pyrenees Treaty (1659), according to which the territories of Rosselló, Conflent, Vallespir and Alta Cerdanya are conceded to France. All those Catalan territories are left without any recognition or right.

Some years later, between 1707 and 1714, Catalonia goes to war against the Castilian king Felipe V of Borbon in the so-called Succession War. The defeat suffered by our past generations left to the absorption of the Catalan countries in the kingdom of Castile -now Spain - losing its freedom. Once the Spanish King Felipe V won the war, he went onto dictate royal decrees in the Valencian country, the Balearic Islands and the Principality of Catalonia by which the Catalan countries would be taken to a new time of deep and dreadful consequences for our political and cultural history. Our own juridical system was abolished, all the self-government institutions disappeared, the laws of Castile were imposed, the use of the Catalan language was banned in the official and public life and a long list of terrible measures were enforced with tyranny and repression, but that would never accomplish their target to destroy the language, culture and personality of the Catalan nation.

In 1939 the triumph of the coup d'état of the fascist general Francisco Franco leads again to the lost of the freedoms and institutions of the Catalan countries, which had been slightly recovered at the beginning of the thirties in the XX century. From 1939 to 1975 was carried out again a tough oppression against the Catalan culture and specially/ in particular the Catalan language. The Catalan language disappeared from all the public organisms, its use was banned and it was also banned to teach it in schools. The cultural institutions of the Generalitat (autonomous government of Catalonia) were closed.
After a formal request by the dictator Francisco Franco, the democratically elected Catalan President, Lluís Companys, was captured and handed out to Spain by the Gestapo in summer 1940. In Madrid Lluís Companys was interrogated and savagely tortured. Finally the order to execute him was given and carried out in the Santa Eulàlia Fossar, Castle of Montjuic, Barcelona, 15th October 1940.Our President gave his life with an example of patriotism and loyalty to Catalonia: barefoot, to be in contact with the Catalan land, he died shouting "For Catalonia!".

The persecution against anything that made reference to Catalonia was criminal and absolute, our anthems and flags were also banned. The libraries suffered "depuration" and the books written in Catalan were burned or confiscated, likewise were the archives. The Spanish language was imposed in all public services as the only language and the names of the people, associations, establishments, streets and cities were forced to change its name. The Catalan language could only be used in the family life, and those that showed any Catalan sign, or those that had been elected members of the Catalan government were imprisoned, assassinated or had to go into exile.

7. With regard to Catalonia, maybe you didn't know that...

....the Catalan flag -four red stripes on a yellow backdrop- is one of the oldest national flags in Europe.

....Catalonia was a free and independent country until 1714.

....the cruelty of Spain's misrule went as far as to expose the head of one of the leading Generals of the Catalan resistance -Josep Moragues- in a cage at the city gates for twelve years (1715-1727) to strike terror into the heart of Catalans.

....the Catalan language has been systematically persecuted and downstaged by Spanish governments since 1714.

....the first major bombing campaigns of civil population in Europe were suffered by the citizens of Barcelona (1714, 1843, 1938...), thousands of whom died.

....Modernist architect Antoni Gaudí was arrested and imprisoned for speaking in Catalan.

....Josep Sunyol, one of the Presidents of Barcelona Football Club, was shot without trial at Guadarrama (central Spain) by Franco's rebel troops in 1936.

....after the civil war, about 150,000 Catalans were imprisoned in concentration camps and makeshift prisons.

....in 1940, the legitimate President of Catalonia, Lluís Companys, was captured by the Nazis in Brittany, handed over to Franco's police, tortured and shot by a firing squad, being the only democratically elected President executed in Europe in the 40s.

....in Mauthausen concentration camp, thousands of Catalan democrat exiles were to die because Franco deemed them to be "republicans" and "separatists", and thus "not Spaniards"?

....Franco looted trainloads of official Catalan documents belonging to democratic institutions and bodies for their scrutiny by police who drew up lists of thousands of enemies to be eliminated. These documents were taken to Salamanca in 1939 and have not yet been returned, overtly flaunting UNESCO criteria in this area.

....during the Franco regime (1939-1975), 95,000 Catalan citizens were court-martialled for political "offences", 12,000 of whom were executed and a further 200,000 forced into exile.

....Amnesty Internacional, the UNO's special Committee against torture and the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture regularly report the practice of torture in Spain as well as the impunity with which Spanish officials act.

....Spain has been condemned for the torture of Catalan nationalists in 1992 and is being tried at the European Court of Human Rights. A former sentence of the same Court condemned Spain to compensate Catalan nationalists for having been tried without full rights.

....Since 1978 over 1000 Catalan nationalists have been detained by different Spanish police bodies, one of which -the "Guardia Civil"- is a military corps.

....should the situation of Gibraltar with regard to Spain and Great Britain be reviewed, the situation of Catalonia with regard to Spain must also be reviewed because the Treaty of Utrecht has marked both these territories' destinies since 1714.

8. Self-determination, one right wished by the people but refused by the oppressors.

Catalonia has a natural, historical and political right recognised internationally to all nations: the right of self-determination. If the Catalan people decide to go further than the dependant autonomy, it is our right to constitute our own political and self-ruling institutions. The French and Spanish authorities have committed uncountable historical injustices, and in great measure lays here our moral base for the national independence of Catalonia. With the actual French and Spanish states Catalonia will always have its right to claim back its national freedom, fully licit and groundlessly refused.
Today Spain and France are considered democratic states in the international community, but does not mean that Catalonia lives in democracy. Neither the French or Spanish constitution recognises the right of self-determination. The right of self-determination it is an act by which the people decide their own political future. This right is situated above all laws or constitutions, and above of any institution. The same way that nobody, person organism or state, can refuse the right to life, it is also impossible to make people refuse the decision of its future in freedom.

It has not been allowed to the Catalan nation to decide its own future. It has been refused its right to have its own national institutions and have its voice heard internationally. The Spanish and French laws are imposed. The Spanish and French languages are imposed whilst the use of the Catalan language decreases everyday. It is refused our right to compete with our own team and under our own flag in sports, even thought we are internationally recognised as a strong sports influence.We are many the Catalans that believe that it is necessary the recognition of Catalonia as a self-ruling people. Let the people decide freely their future of peace, and tolerance.

This is the reason why our separatist option is democratic. We want to have the right to decide to live entirely in freedom as an independent state, with fairness and solidarity.

Visitor, enjoy Catalonia.

Welcome to a country, which goes towards its own freedom!