|When Castilians Rode Through Catalan|
A fellow left a comment here yesterday:
"...not unlike Albertans, the Catalonians have bemoaned the fact that as a rich province, they remit more taxes to central government than they receive back. Just so unfair, ain't it? Apparently the thought of federation is too much for them to tolerate. No, they are following the "I'm all right Jack" routine of self-absorbed greed. Not very different from Scotland where dreams of all that North Sea oil "rightfully" belonging to them, not the dreaded Sassenachs, feed the dream of Scottish independence and untold prosperity."
I began to wonder if it all might be greed as he suggested. Then I heard the faint voice of El caudillo coming from the graveyard. The voice of Generalissimo Francisco Franco.
Madrid is Castilian. Franco was Castilian. When, in 1936, the Popular Front won the election and moved to establish a republic, Franco and his fellow monarchist generals rose up and launched a bloody civil war. With the aid of Hitler's Luftwaffe, Franco prevailed and made himself dictator. Slaughter ensued.
Franco gained military support from various regimes and groups, especially Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, while the Republican side was supported by Spanish communists and anarchists as well as the Soviet Union, Mexico and the International Brigades. Franco personally requested of the Germans and Italians the aerial Bombing of Guernica in 1937, which opened the way to the capture of Bilbao and his victory in northern Spain. Franco won the war, which claimed half a million lives, in 1939. He established a military dictatorship, which he defined as a totalitarian state. Franco proclaimed himself Head of State and Government under the title El caudillo, a term similar to Il duce (Italian) for Benito Mussolini and Der Führer (German) for Adolf Hitler. In April 1937, Franco merged the fascist and traditionalist political parties in the rebel zone, as well as other conservative and monarchist elements, into FET y de las JONS, outlawing the rest of political parties, thus Spain became a one-party state.
Upon his rise to power, Franco implemented policies that were responsible for the repression and deaths of as many as 400,000 political opponents and dissenters, through the use of forced labor and executions in the concentration camps his regime operated.
I don't know about you but to me that sort of thing can't help but leave lasting scars. 400,000 political opponents and dissenters dead. Forced labour, concentration camps. A lot of those dead have relatives and some of those relatives are Catalans, Basques and other non-Castilian Spanish.
Even after the war, Franco was a real son of a bitch, especially if you weren't Castilian.
Franco's Spanish nationalism promoted a unitary national identity by repressing Spain's cultural diversity. Bullfighting and flamenco were promoted as national traditions while those traditions not considered "Spanish" were suppressed. Franco's view of Spanish tradition was somewhat artificial and arbitrary: while some regional traditions were suppressed, Flamenco, an Andalusian tradition, was considered part of a larger, national identity. All cultural activities were subject to censorship, and many, such as the Sardana, the national dance of Catalunya, were plainly forbidden (often in an erratic manner). This cultural policy was relaxed over time, most notably during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Franco also used language politics in an attempt to establish national homogeneity. He promoted the use of Castilian Spanish and suppressed other languages such as Catalan, Galician, and Basque. The legal usage of languages other than Castilian was forbidden. All government, notarial, legal and commercial documents were to be drawn up exclusively in Castilian and any documents written in other languages were deemed null and void. The usage of any other language was forbidden in schools, in advertising, and on road and shop signs.
Madrid, the central government, is still Castilian to the core. It decides how much autonomy each of the other regions may have and, for the entire lives of most Spaniards who still draw breath, it always has.
To say that the Catalans are opportunists, greedy pocket liners, is unfair. They've got grievances with the Castilians, legitimate grievances and plenty of them. We see yesterday's brutality from our perspective, not theirs. To them, it's proof that El Caudillo is back from the grave.