Monday, 2 February 2009

ENG: Let's Build This City

Saturday January 31, I went to Casa Ramona – the beautiful headquarters of the political party CDC (Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya) here in Vilanova. In order to open up the political discussion to more people, they organised four separate debates under the slogan “Fem Ciutat, Fem País!” (‘Let’s build the city, let’s build the country’).

There were quite a few celebrities among the participants: Oriol Pujol, a top CiU member of the Catalan parliament and son of the former Catalan president Jordi Pujol, took part in “Prescriptions for how to overcome the crisis” (Receptes per superar la crisi). At the same time, Eric Bertran, a well-known Internet activist campaigning for products to be labelled in Catalan, joined the discussions on whether it is “compatible to be young and a CDC party member? (És compatible ser jove i de CDC?).

The two topics which I had short listed was if Vilanova should strive to have 100.000 inhabitants (Vilanova ha de tenir 100.000 inhabitants?) and the rather intriguing 'Does the independent republic of Vilanova have a role in Catalonia?' (la república independent de VNG compta per a Catalunya?). After some thinking, I decided for the softer, more cultural one of the two.

Not surprisingly was the title questioned from the very beginning. Apparently, there are a some die hard vilanovins who consider that people from here are different from those from the rest of Catalonia, hence the ‘independent republic’. But debate leader Neus Lloveras explained that the title was an intended provocation and it did ignite an exchange of opinions about the spirit of Vilanova between Carles Campuzano (one of my favourites among Catalan politicians), Montserrat Comas (Director of the Victor Balaguer Museum) and – when he finally arrived – Francesc Escribano (writer and journalist).

Although everybody was proud of the cultural life of our town, the conclusion of the discussion was highly self-critical: Compared with its neighbours (notably Vilafranca and Sitges), Vilanova does not create projects which unite its inhabitants, we lack perserverence (constància) and we do not have the leaders who can help us to challenge ourselves. All this is clearly a problem for the future of the town, but also for the Vegueria del Penedès; an adminstrative unit where Vilanova – by force of the size of its population - would be expected to take the lead.

As I see it, Vilanova must under no circumstances dwell on negative feelings. We have an especially benign climate, nice beaches, a relatively well-preserved historic centre and a spacious Rambla with an active commercial life. And we are ‘festa’ and the only genuinely Catalan ‘carnaval’. However, it is true that we are poor at selling ourselves (“falten comerciants”). Now, to explain to the outside world what a wonderful new home I have found for my family was in fact among the reasons to why I started this blog. It remains so still today. Visca Vilanova!

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, CiU, Convergència, Festa, Penedès, Sitges, Vilanova

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