Sunday September 5, I was in Rubí with my castellers team Bordegassos de Vilanova, where we performed together with local Castellers de Rubí and Xerrics d'Olot. The human tower which we celebrated the most was a pillar of five levels "elevated from below" (aixecat per sota), but we also accomplished (descarregar) 3de7, torre de 6 and 4de7.
September 11 is the National Day of Catalonia – la Diada de Catalunya - and since my company sells products with enduser instructions in Catalan, we were, for the second year in a row, invited to participate in the exhibition Mostra d'Entitats at the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona. A decorated Catalan flag and a human tower made of plaster-filled condoms resulted in a lot of attention around our stand.
As a self-employed with a Swedish background, I feel a special pain to see how Spain, for the second consecutive year, will have negative growth, while Sweden's economy is now one of the strongest in Europe. Personally, I am very impressed with the sitting Swedish government Alliansen ("the Alliance") and hope that my postal vote for Sunday's elections to the Swedish parliament Riksdagen will not have been lost on the road.
Vilanova i la Geltrú - Garraf - Penedès
La Vuelta Ciclista a España passed by Vilafranca del Penedès and Sitges, and had both a stage finish and a stage start in Vilanova i la Geltrú before the race continued north towards Andorra.
Vilanova i la Geltrú, Sitges and Vilafranca del Penedès have been included in a pan-European inventory of scenic cemeteries. Their Barcelona counterparts in Montjuïc and Poblenou are already on the list.
At the train station of Sitges, work has began to widen the pedestrian tunnel and install escalators up to the tracks. It is expected to last for seven months.
The grape harvest has begun and in D.O. Penedès volumes are expected to be the same as last year, while in Catalonia as a whole they are projected to decline by 10%.
An inhabitant of Igualada is suspected of having faked the kidnapping of himself in Colombia, in order to get his sister and her family to pay Euro 18.000 for his release.
There has been a rumour in a jihadist forum that, on September 24, a bomb will go off in the subway station Vila Olímpica. On that day, Barcelona will be full of people since it will celebrate its festa major, la Mercè, but terrorism experts are convinced that this is just another threat with a very low credibility.
A part of the huge embezzlement scandal revolving around Palau de la Música and its former Chairman Felix Millet, is a criticized hotel development. Independent auditors have now concluded that the authorities involved in this building project acted properly, but that its value to the public is quite questionable.
September 14, the drivers of the FGC commuter trains (Barcelona - Vallès and Llobregat – Anoia, respectively) went on strike during rush hour. Another strike has been announced for September 21, unless the Generalitat revises its plans for wage cuts.
The bullfights at the Monumental during la Mercè will go under the name "Feria de la Libertad" in a protest against the fact that this type of events, from 2012, will be prohibited in Catalonia.
The times of crisis are reflected also in the school system, where private schools are losing pupils. In Sant Cugat del Vallès, 116 applications for transfers to public schools have been received after deadline.
The left-wing movement CUP - working for bottom-up democracy and an independent Catalonia (and strong in Penedès) - has decided to run in the 2011 municipal elections of Barcelona.
The commuter trains Rodalies (lines R3 Hospitalet-Vic-Puigcerdà, R4 Sant Vicenç de Calders - Manresa and R7 Hospitalet - Martorell), which for six months have not gone further than Sant Andreu Arenal, will again stop at Arc de Triomf and plaça Catalunya.
The Rodalies line R2 sud Sant Vicenç de Calders - Estació de França (via Vilanova i la Geltrú) will have 15% more seating capacity.
Lluís Recoder (CDC) - since 11 years the mayor of Sant Cugat del Vallès - has announced that he will not stand in next year's municipal election, but hopes to get a ministerial post in a coming CiU-government. CiU has an absolute majority in Sant Cugat - a municipality which time after time is pinpointed as one of the least corrupt in the whole of Spain.
Until coming Sunday, we celebrate the Week of the Book in Catalan (Setmana del Llibre en Català). In Sant Cugat del Vallès, some 15.000 titles can be found in a big exhibition tent and the town intends to develop itself into an alternative to the festivities in the centre of Barcelona.
Ticket sales to Concurs de Castells has been postponed until Monday September 20.
The regional television stations in Spain have large deficits. The biggest one of them, according to the number of employees, is Catalan TV3, and together with its counterpart in Euskadi (the Basque Country) it runs the most expensive operations since it produces its own programs in Catalan. If the avarage tax burden for public service TV (Spanish TVE plus the regional channel) corresponds to Euro 178 per household and year in Spain as a whole, the figure for Catalonia would be Euro 209.
Catalonia has had a summer with very few forest fires. A total of 351 hectares have been scorched - only a tenth of last year's figure.
This week, the TV3 satire shows Cràckovia (football) and Polònia (politics) have started for the season.
FC Barcelona's first match in the Champions' League started with a surprise goal by Panathinaikos, but ended in a much better way: 5-1 (goals by Messi (2), Villa, Pedro and Alves).
Barca's first home match of la Liga 2010-11 ended with an embarrassing 0-2 defeat against newcomer Hércules from Alicante.
When Zlatan Ibrahimovic left Barça, Bojan Krkic was quick to ask for the shirt number 9 and has thereby become the first Catalan to wear it. Over the years, it has been carried by several key players, eg. Eto'o (2004-09).
The media companies of Grupo Godó present an Internet application where you can put together you own Barça or R.C.D. Espanyol ideal starting eleven. In the next step, Real Madrid will be added.
Catalonia and Spain
The proportion of Catalans who want to achieve independence from Spain has fallen to 40% and can be contrasted with the 45% who do not want it. In July, after the Spanish Constitutional Court made changes to the autonomy charter Estatut, the proportion who wanted full sovereignty reached 47%.
The EU Commission predicts that the EU will grow with 1.7% in 2010, but Spain stands out for its negative figure: - 0.3%.
The international competitiveness of Spain has eroded and ends up in the 42nd place, but Portugal (46) and Italy (48) score even worse. The list has been compiled on behalf of the World Economic Forum and coordinated by Xavier Sala i Martin. What particularly worsens the Spanish outcome are the labour market rules which are considered such a brake on competitivity that, in this part, the country holds the 137th position of 139 possible. The overall ranking is topped by Switzerland, Sweden, Singapore, USA and Germany.
Among the residents of Spain, 12.3% are foreigners - the double of the EU average share and, after Germany, the second highest in Europe. Spain is followed by Great Britain, France and Italy.
Finance Minister Helena Salgado modifies her earlier message that municipalities must not increase their indebtedness, but will now allow for it, as long as debt does not exceed 75% of annual revenue. In Catalonia, that is great news for Barcelona, while Tarragona and Lleida will still face difficulties. The worst situation in Spain can be found in Madrid, which alone accounts for a ¼ of the total Spanish municipal debt.
Many municipalities finance their activities by not paying their suppliers. The Zapatero government has itself suggested that at least small businesses should receive payments on time, but does not intend to create new loan programs for municipal governments to make that possible.
Real estate sales in Spain has, on a rolling annual basis, risen for seven consecutive months.
Spain, together with Bulgaria, Italy and Ireland, has the highest proportion of young people between 15 and 24 who neither work nor study; 14% compared with the EU average of 10.8%. The lowest figures can be found in Denmark and the Netherlands (4%).
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The summary covers the period from my last text of this series until Wednesday September 15. If there are news which you think that I have missed, I ask you toleave a comment and, even better, include links. All news that I consider fit into this context will be added as up-dates.
Find here an overview of the Catalan political parties and their equivalents on the Spanish level.
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Sources and Inspiration:
Vilanova i la Geltrú, Garraf and the rest of Penedès
Avui/ElPunt: La segona fase d'obres a l'estació començarà demà
Avui/ElPunt: La producció de la verema baixarà enguany un 10%
Avui/ElPunt: La CUP es presentarà a les municipals a Barcelona
Avui/ElPunt: Catalunya redueix en un 90% les hectàrees calcinades
Avui/ElPunt: Els ‘cracks', a punt per la tercera
MundoDeportivo: 0-2: El Barça cae en casa en su debut ante el Hércules
Catalonia and Spain
LaVanguardia: El apoyo a la independencia remite y cae al 40%