Saturday, 25 April 2009

Celebrating the Vegueria Penedès

When I take the car up to Vilafranca del Penedès, I always enjoy the fifteen minutes drive through scenic low mountains and, still, I can not help thinking about how odd it is that Vilanova i la Geltrú has such poor public transport with its most important neighbour town. If you want to go Vilafranca by train, you have to make a detour and change trains in either Barcelona or Sant Vicenç del Calders and as for the bus, there is only one per hour.

Recently plans have been put in place to create a direct train connection (el tren orbital) and a double lane motorway, but these are heavily delayed if you bear in mind how much communication there is between these two urban areas. The reason for this is that most infrastructure projects, so far, have had the objective to link the municipalities around Barcelona to the metropolitan area, and not to each other.

This is an example of the imbalances which those who defend a Vegueria Penedès want to correct and as long the Generalitat has not made the final decision, they will keep on building support for their alternative. This Saturday they organized a day of celebrations (diada) in Vilafranca and offered ball de bastons, a wine tasting and a music concert in order to remind their fellow citizens about the cause.

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És possible que vaig ser l'únic vilanoví que va particpar en aquest acte. Si no m'equivoco no van ser-hi tampoc aquests politics de la nostra ciutat que defensen l'idea de la vegueria pròpia. No us sembla una mica rar això?

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Penedès, Vegueria, Vilanova

Friday, 24 April 2009

Dia de Sant Jordi 2009 - Vilanova i la Geltrú

The fact that it is already the third time I write about how Catalans celebrate April 23 - the Day of Saint George or el Dia de Sant Jordi - and the fifth time I experience this tradition makes me realize that we start to become 'locals'.

Interestingly enough, if two years ago I still wished for this day to fall during a weekend, this year I realized that Jordi Pujol (a former long-time president of the Generalitat, whom I had the chance to hear in a radio interview) is right: we should stop wishing for this day to become a public holiday since if it were, a lot of people would stay at home. The fact that most of the time it falls on an ordinary weekday only contributes to its popularity. And let us not take any risks - for many people this is the only day of the year they actually buy a book.

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CAT: En Stieg Larsson ja tenim a casa i, clar, el llegim en suec com que és la nostra llengua maternal. La meva dona va regalar-me L'últim home que parlava català d'en Carles Casajuana a mi i en retorn va rebre Muerte en Estambul del grec Petros Márkaris.

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Festa, Independence, Vilanova

Dia de Sant Jordi 2009 - Barcelona

The pictures from la Rambla in Barcelona is my proof that I am not a narrow minded small town citizen, but someone who is prepared to try new things.

But no, there is no reason at all to leave Vilanova for Barcelona to live the atmosphere of the Day of Saint George. True, in Barcelona you have the chance to meet the most famous Catalan writers face to face and buy their books with a personal dedication, but unless that is what you want most of all, you will only get annoyed by the huge amount of people and regret that you did not stay somewhere where there are not as many tourists.

My wife works in Barcelona and planned to buy a book for me there, but when she counted to fifty people in the queues at the closest Abacus she decided to go home. Once in Vilanova she discovered that inside the book stores there were not many people at all, since most locals preferred the outdoor stands in our Rambla.

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Technorati tags: Barcelona, Catalonia, Festa, Independence

Monday, 20 April 2009

What is a vegueria?

Coming Saturday, those who want a united Vegueria Penedès, will meet in Vilafranca del Penedès for a day of celebration (1ª Diada de la Vegueria Penedès). The vegueria reform will reshape the maps of Catalonia and it is high time that I try to describe what it is all about.

To use the word vegueria for the administrative regions of Catalonia has a long history. The origin dates back to the Carolignian Empire of the 9th century when vicars (from Latin and over the time catalanized to veguer), where given military and fiscal powers by the count of each territory. From the 13th century the title was used for the superior local representative of the Royal house.

Since the early 14th century and the reign of James II of Aragon (Jaume el Just), the Pricipality of Catalonia was devided into 21 vegueries. One of the biggest ones was Vilafranca, popularly called the Gran Penedès. It consisted of what we know as the comarques Alt Penedès and Baix Penedès plus Garraf (where Vilanova i la Geltrú is located). Except for that it controlled the so called sotsvegueria – a largely independent part – of Igualada (today the comarca Anoia). The medieval vegueries remained for centuries but were abolished through the Nova Planta decrees of 1716, when Catalonia lost the relative sovereignty it had enjoyed until then.

Much later, during what Catalans call the 2nd Republic (1931-39), the Generalitat again divided the area into comarques and then grouped these together into nine regions, from 1937 formally called vegueries. The regions/vegueries did not have names, but numbers, and were organized around the following capitals:

I – Barcelona
II – Girona
III – Tarragona
IV – Reus
V – Tortosa
VI – Vic
VII – Manresa
VIII – Lleida
IX – Tremp

From a local perspective, it is worth pointing out that Alt and Baix Pendés plus Garraf belonged to number III (Tarragona) while Anoia fromed part of number VII (Manresa). These administrative units were again abolished when Franco’s troops took control over the territory.

After the end of Franco’s dictatorship, the first Estatut of Catalonia did not contain the concept of vegueries, but the services for which the Generalitat is responsible has required for some kind of division of the territory. In 1987 it was decided that vegueries were to be re-established from 2011, but already since the 1995 Pla territorial de Catalunya does the administration split Catalonia into the following seven areas (so called àmbits):

Àmbit Metropolità - as of region I of above plus the comarques Garraf and Alt Pendès (4.863.161 inhabitants)
Alt Pirineu i Aran – as of region IX plus the comarca Cerdanya (72.929 inhabitants)
Ponent – as of region VIII (345.369 inhabitants)
Camp de Tarragona – parts of regions III and IV, including Reus (584.660 inhabitants)
Comarques Centrals – region VII plus Osona (496.227 inhabitants)
Comarques Gironines – region II plus Ripollès (694.954 inhabitants)
Terres de l’Ebre – region V plus Ribera d’Ebre (185.158 inhabitants)

The vegueries to come in 2011 will largely follow the borders of these àmbits, but they were modified in a report popularly called the informe Roca, after the man who presided the expert committee. If we then add some politics to that, we reach the currently foreseen seven vegueries:

The Vegueria de Barcelona and the Vegueria de la Catalunya Central will together coincide with what we know as the province of Barcelona. The first will, of course, have Barcelona as its capital while the second one will have Manresa as its capital but special recognition given to Vic and Igualada.
The Vegueria del Camp de Tarragona and the Vegueria de les Terres de l’Ebre will together coincide with the province of Tarragona. The first one will have its capital in Tarragona but with special recognition granted to Reus, while the second one will have its capital in Tortosa.
The Vegueria del Ponent plus the Vegueria Alt Pirineu i Aran coincide with the province of Lleida.
Finally, the Vegueria de Girona coincides with the province bearing the same name.

Now, these were a lot of facts, but a necessary background when we look into why some areas – notably the Gran Penedès where I live – claims their right to form separate vegueries. As we will see, both history and the number of inhabitants form part of the argumentation.

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CAT: Sóc una mica crític amb la poca atenció que dedica el Diari de Vilanova a la Vegueria Pròpia i acabo de formular un criteri per valorar la seva posició en aquest debat. Si en la seva próxima edició - que surt el dia abans de la 1ª Diada de la Vegueria Penedès - dedicaran menys d’una pàgina a aquest tema, faré la conclusió que no ho veuen com la seva tasca fer anar-hi els més vilanovins possibles. I si hi dedicaran una pàgina sencera (preferiblement més), em donaran confiança que entenen el seu rol pedagògic per a la gent i que poden influïr l’agenda de la política local. Honestament, quin assumpte és més important per al futur de la nostra ciutat – la vegueria pròpia o l’ubicació de la gossera?

Actualització el dia 24 d'abril: He mirat totes les pàgines del Diari de Vilanova d'avui (en realitat dues vegades, per si de cas) però segons veig no hi ha cap comentari sobre la Diada de la Vegueria que se celebrarà a Vilafranca demà, ni tan sols a l'Agenda. I això em fascina ja que la nostra ciutat - com la nostra comarca - és la més poblada de la zona que hauria de formar part de la vegueria pròpia. Disculpeu-me si dic coses rares - la meva defensa és que sóc estranger/nou català - però no és la demanda d'una vegueria pròpia només una demanda de la majoria dels polítics i no cap de la població? Espero que em convenceu que estiqui equivocat.

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Technorati tags: Barcelona, Catalonia, Estatut, Garraf, Penedès, Vilanova

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Main sources of information and maps: related Wikipedia entries in Catalan, English and Spanish.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Vilanova’s Giants 300 Years Old

All Catalan towns have one or more couples of Giants which are being carried around in dances during festivities. In our town, the geganters (those who perform inside and around the giants but also take care of their preservation) have three pairs in total - two from Vilanova and one from la Geltrú.

The so called gegant de la porra and his wife happen to be some of the tallest giants in Catalonia. To honour that 300 years have passed since they were first mentioned in writing, the ajuntament has sponsored a new edition of the book Llibre dels gegants i demés entremesos populars de Vilanova i la Geltrú (Albert Ferrer and Antoni Anguera, 1964). Thanks to a recommendation from the team behind the radio program Gaudeix la Festa (Canal Blau), did I not miss the presentation of it, and those of you who know me will not be surprised that I bought a copy.

I am happy that we still have three months to go before the festa season reaches its peak in the late summer. This book will definitely be a source of inspiration for new entries and a great tool for improving the quality of those already written, among other things the festa major wordlist.

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Festa, Festa Major, Vilanova

Saturday, 11 April 2009

The Good Friday Procession of Cubelles

The Good Friday procession (processó del Divendres Sant) of Vilanova's small neighbour town Cubelles is one of the more spectacular ones in this region. Except for Jesus suffering on the cross, it contains other key elements like armats (Roman soldiers) and platforms on which the local patron saints are being paraded.

Still today, a surprisingly big share of Cubelles' inhabitants take part to preserve this tradition. The message about Jesus’ suffering on the cross is being explained without overly terrifying details, so next year I will bring our children.

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Cubelles, Garraf, Penedès

The Via Crucis of la Geltrú

Last year our family was in Zaragoza on Good Friday and, therefore, had the opportunity to see a splendid passion procession. Let us be very honest – if you are here as a visitor and this is what you want to experience, you had better avoid Catalonia. With the exception of the Dance of Death of Verges (our sons are much to small for a ceremony as scary as this one), Easter celebrations here have very little of the flavour and emotions which you find in the Spanish heartlands.

Having said that, even the smallest ones of Catalan towns organize viacrucis processions which tell the suffering of Jesus during the fourteen stations of the cross. And - at least when compared to my native Sweden - the level of participation in these religious rites is quite impressive. In Vilanova, the main procession goes from the Santa Maria church of la Geltrú, via the Sant John the Baptist church in the newer parts of the centre and finishes at the main church, Sant Antoni Abat.

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Garraf, Penedès, Spain, Vilanova

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

The Meaning of Barça's New Song "Boig per tu"

The lyrics of the new FC Barcelona song to be launched before the Champions' League match against Bayern München tomorrow come across as hilarious to some English journalists. I can guarantee you that Catalonia it will be received quite differently. True, if you analyse Boig per tu line by line there are a few metaphors which seem far-fetched, but most of those are direct references to a song with a very special meaning to a whole generation of people here (see comparisons and a translation below).

Boig per tu was originally written by Sau, one of the pioneers of the Rock Català movement - musicians determined to write and sing in Catalan, as opposed to Spanish, although that generally limits their commercial opportunities. This song, however, was a big success and those of us who listen to Catalan radio know that still today it frequently comes up on the playlists. The group ceased to exist in 1999, when its lead singer Carles Sabater died from a cardiac arrest after a concert in Vilafranca del Penedès. As late as a few weeks ago, the local press as well as the blogosphere commerated the 10th anniversary of that loss to Catalan culture. Now, the Barça version is interpreted by Red-In, a young band which has the Sau composer Pep Sala as their producer.

Fortunately enough, the new Barça song will not replace the traditional one, although the plan is to play it before every important match in Nou Camp. The text will be presented on screens to make sure that the whole audience can sing along and learn it. Carles Sabater and Sau remain strong symbols and the credit must above all go to them when this, to some, cheesy anthem will move people to tears tomorrow night.

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Here is the Barça text in Catalan, as of Avui:

Barça, estic boig per tu

En la terra humida escric
Barça estic boig per tu,
em passo els dies
pendent del partit.
Com et puc estimar,
estigui a prop o lluny,
feliç i acabat
boig per tu.

Sé molt bé que des d'aquest lloc
jo no puc fer cap gol per tu,
però en cada jugada hi veig
reflectida la teva llum.
feliç i acabat

boig per tu.

Quan comenci aquest partit,
les llàgrimes es perdran
entre la màgia

que viurem avui.
Em quedaré atrapat
ebri d'aquesta llum
feliç i acabat

boig per tu.

Culer i català, més que un club.

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Here is the Spoiler's translation to Enlish:

Barca, I am crazy for you

On the humid ground I write
Barca I am crazy for you
I spend my days
Awaiting the match.
How much I miss you
Be I near or far
Happy and finished
I am crazy for you.

I know very well that from this place
I can’t score any goals for you
But in each action I see
Your light reflected
I will cheer you on
Happy and finished
I am crazy for you

When this match starts
The tears will be lost
Among the magic
We will live here
I will be trapped
Drunk with this light
Happy and finished
I am crazy for you

‘Barcelonian’ and Catalan,
more than a club.
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And here are the original lyrics in Catalan:

En la terra humida escric,
nena, estic boig per tu
em passo els dies
esperant la nit.
com et puc estimar
si de mi estàs tan lluny
servil i acabat
boig per tu.

Sé molt bé que des d'aquest bar
jo no puc arribar a on ets tu
però dins la meva copa veig
reflexada la teva llum
me la beuré
servil i acabat
boig per tu.

Quan no hi siguis al matí,
les llàgrimes es perdran
entre la pluja

que caurà avui
em quedaré atrapat
ebri d'aquesta llum
servil i acabat
boig per tu.

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CAT: El meu nen de cinc anys i mig ja sap cantar l'himne tradicional de Barça i amb el temps aprendrà Boig per tu. Encara que només fa uns pocs anys que visc per aquí, ploraré demà i estic segur que som molts que ho farem. Però, clar, ells que hi estan en contra ja s'estan formant al Facebook.

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Related Media: LaVanguardia 1, 2; Avui 1

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Technorati tags: Barcelona, Catalan, Catalonia

Sunday, 5 April 2009

La Mostra – Catalonia’s Most Important Children’s Theatre Festival

Today we took the car up to Igualada and the last day of the 20th edition of La Mostra – Fira de teatre infantil i juvenil. This theatre festival for children is organized here on an annual basis and with 51 participating companies and activities over five days, it is the most important of its kind in the Catalan speaking part of the world.

Proper shows – some for free and some which you have to pay entry for – are mixed with street performances and activity areas in different parts of the centre but since the town is dense and has a lot of pedestrian areas, we and our small children (3 and 5 years old, respectively) did not have any dificulties to move from one place to another.

We discovered La Mostra thanks to advertising on Catalan public radio and think it is a pity that the festival does not attract more visitors (some 12.000 in total, I understand). Next year we will be better prepared and sell in this event at least in the Swedish ex-pat community of Barcelona. It is easy to feel invited since the organisers – la Generalitat de Catalunya and l’Ajuntament d’Igualada with the help of la Xarxa, les Rialles and Teatre Tots Públics – do a good job in describing all parts of the festival program and provide maps on the official web-page as well as in a downloadable pdf-file.

Igualada in itself has left a very pleasant impression on us (admittedly supported by the nice weather). Some day soon we will come back to this Gran Penedès town, stroll around among the old buildings with their picturesque arches and explore the industrial museums.

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CAT: El Diari de Vilanova és una molt bona eina per als nous catalans que volen aprendre i entendre els esdeveniments culturals i històrics del Garraf però – siguem honestos – fa més o menys res per crear una identitat comuna amb les altres comarques que molts vilanovins volen veure com parts de la futura vegueria del Penedès.

No es mereix una cosa tan única al nivell nacional com ara la Mostra una noticia al nostre diari local? Quina sort que l’Extra – un diari gratuït – ha decidit fomentar una perspectiva alternativa.

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Penedès

Will a Female Mayor Make Vilanova the Town of Our Dreams?

Two years remain before the next municipal elections in Catalonia, but last Monday Convergència i Unió (CiU) started campaigning and the two parties of the federation, CDC and UDC, seem impressively united in their commitment to see Neus Lloveras replacing Joan Ignaci Elena (PSC) as the mayor of Vilanova i la Geltrú.

Those who claim that politicians are a class of their own, will have a problem with Neus Lloveras. As late as seven years ago, the long-time CDC leader of Vilanova, Esteve Orriols, persuaded her to enter into the world of local politics, and still today does she have a professional career as the finance director of a private company.

Neus Lloveras understands - possibly even still can apply - an outsider’s perspective on this town. She was born here, but her father - a son of a fisherman – broke with family traditions and became a professional opera singer. For that reason, during Lloveras’ childhood the family moved around a lot in Europe and Vilanova became the amazing town of her summer holidays.

So, when I hear Lloveras describe Vilanova I rapidly get a feeling of a dream town: a proud Mediterranean coastal town where the inhabitants can find jobs in local industry. She contrasts that with the visions of the ruling local tripartit coalition, which seem to be to make Vilanova yet another suburb of the metropolitan area of Barcelona.

As Lloveras points out, this town has several underdeveloped assets; we have a branch of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya and, above all, nice beaches and a quite well-established harbour. Ongoing projects to develop the local marina, while at the same time promote the port of goods and material and maintain the fishing port, are steps in the right direction, in my eyes. And I agree with Lloveras that Vilanova should focus on sports and family oriented tourism, since that is where we have the greatest chances to improve our ranking and, by doing so, create job opportunities.

I am not sure whether it was Neus Lloveras herself or the presence of the CDC president Artur Mas which attracted sll people but the main hall of the Foment Vilanoví filled up in spite of the pouring rain. That is a promising sign for CiU for the future, although I must admit that I, now 38 years old, clearly belonged to the younger half of the audience.

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CAT: La meva primera reacció durant les presentacions dels representants de CiU al Foment, va ser que no tenia jo dificultats per entendre’ls. És totalment lògic, ja que sobre tot estic aprenent el català a través de la radio Catalunya Informació i la televisió de 3/24, on solen dominar els temes politics.

Els primers problemes vaig tenir a la fi quan l'Artur Mas va explicar-li a la Neus que el treball com a líder no era fàcil i que ell mateix tots els dies, abans d'anar-se'n al llit, havia de “menjar-se gripaus” . Un gripau, segons el meu diccionari, és un
toad en anglès. Que fàstic. Espero que sigui una dita catalana.

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Technorati tags: CiU, Convergència, PSC, Unió, Vilanova