Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Jordi Pujol - a Catalan Father-Figure

I should not have looked forward to the debate between Zapatero and Rajoy yesterday. Today (Tuesday), LaVanguardia and Avui have reported it and on radio Ondacero I have heard it repeated time and time again: the debate was so predictable that it was not worth watching. The person quoted is not just any Catalan, they come from Jordi Pujol i Soley, this country’s only living political father-figure.

Born in 1930, Pujol has built his reputation step by step. During the Franco dictatorship, he had to spend 2,5 years in prison for being an activist for the suppressed Catalan culture and language. His spirit unbroken, he kept on working for his ideals and in 1974 he was one of the founders of the political party Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya (CDC), today one of the two groupings within Convergencia i Unió (CiU).

As a result of the Spanish transition to democracy, he was elected the President (de la Generalitat) of Catalonia and then re-elected as many as five consecutive times before he stepped down in 2003. I did not yet live here during his years as President, but have learnt that many people look back at it as kind of a golden era. As a statesman, Pujol acted as if Catalonia already existed as an independent state and therefore, apparently, used to be received with formal ceremony when he travelled abroad.

Pujol still plays an active role in society. He might come across as a bit self-important – that is how he tends to be portrayed in the political TV satire Polonia – but that is largely due to the attention people pay to him. That we all know what he thought about the debate yesterday, does in fact say more about media than about Pujol himself.

A more substantial comment which he also made today – that Catalans have to choose to either surrender or react in the coming elections, and that voting for PSOE or PP is as bad as not voting at all – seems not to have made the same amount of headlines.


Travel Insurance said...

thats interesting issue always - when and where 'the separate nation-state' starts - catalonians, bascs, gibraltarians (they dont wanna go back to spain, I've heard) - what's Kosovo is, actually?

Erik Wirdheim said...

You are so right. While for Spain Catalonia is an autonomous region, here the consensus is that it is a country and a nation within the Spanish state.