Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Florenci Salesas on the Rivalry Between Sitges and Vilanova

The feeling that most strongly unites the inhabitants of Sitges with those of Vilanova i la Geltrú is that they cannot stand each other. Why is that? Let us see if Florenci Salesas – who has lived in Sitges throughout his life - can explain it.

Florenci, there seems to be a bit of rivalry between Sitges and Vilanova. Is that correct?

There’s a strong rivalry and it’s been there for a long time. I know people –well, at least a handful - who even claim to hate Vilanova. Therefore, first of all, I want to thank you for having decided to settle in our neighbour town. It is a sacrifice. I know. You must almost take on the role of an NGO. All credit to you! You're a cosmopolitan in a town which is not especially civilized...

I understand that it’s your intention to answer in a joking tone, right?

Sure, we have to treat the subject with humour. Having a sense of humour is like an intelligence test. And if there’s someone who doesn’t understand this... than I’m sure he’s from Vilanova. The legend has it that everything began in the nineteenth century when some fishermen from Vilanova suffered an accident at sea. Some claim that they sought help from a boat from Sitges which refused to come to their rescue. This obviously is completely invented slander. It has never happened.

We from Sitges, however, don’t pay much attention to the envy which people in Vilanova have for us. In general, we tend to turn our back on them, because, to find a real competitor, we know we must look towards Barcelona. We focus on conferences and other events of interest to people of today, urban culture, while you organize festivals based on rural music and traditions... Apart from that there are a few details, like the salad xató - which comes from Sitges - and the carnival – where I consider it nice that you’re trying to maintain a folkloric atmosphere, as a kind of museum, while our version has incorporated international elements which, in turn, has resulted in groups such as Batukada Markatú receiving national awards. After all, what awards can your town can expect for throwing candy in the streets?

In short, you don’t find much rivalry between two equals here. You, in Vilanova, have the industry, while we have the tourism, and that’s certainly not surprising. Your beach promenade starts in an industrial port and leads to the middle of nowhere. We, on the other hand, have our church rock overlooking the sea, like a postcard - a fantastic image composition very difficult to find, not only in Catalonia, but in the whole world. I know a woman who has small paintings of the church rock throughout the house, even in the bathroom. And I understand her. I also often take pictures of it. One day I met her husband in the street, and it was him who told me this while we were talking. However, he then added that he considered this obsession with the church rock exaggerated, as if Sitges had a San Sebastian complex. Well, soon enough he confessed that he was originally from Vilanova and then I had to forgive him. If you haven’t learnt to appreciate culture and aesthetics since you were a child, you simply cannot make a proper judgment. In these matters, we from Sitges – who have grown up being cultured - have to adapt an understanding, father-like attitude, like true aristocrats. In our town you kick a tile in the street and under it you’ll find a free concert of classical music or an exhibition by a renowned painter. True, in Vilanova you the Carpa Juanita. It's yours and I’m happy that you’re so proud of it...

Now, what should we do about this rivalry?

I think we ought to reinforce it. Look, if these tensions exist is because there is a relationship – although it might be similar to a traditional Catholic marriage where the spouses cannot stand each other but still have to spend the rest of their lives together. This kind of rivalry based on mocking the other side, serves to magnify both towns and is always good as long as you don’t believe it too much!

Personally, under no circumstances do I hate Vilanova. If a tourist stopped me in the street and asked me: "Is this the town of Carpa Juanita?" I would, of course, answer that this fascinating fish belongs to our neighbour town. I wouldn’t by any means try to appropriate such a fine symbol to ourselves. Apart from that, when I get too much of Sitges, I have the habit to escape to your town for a few hours. It helps me to realize how fortunate I am to live in Sitges. Therefore, how could I not be grateful to Vilanova?

Looking towards the future: if there are so many problems to stand one another between Sitges and Vilanova, what will happen if we create a vegueria with many more similar towns, all of them aspiring to be important?

It is true that balancing the egos of all these towns will not be easy and certainly we have to live through many useless debates à la Lilliput – like if eggs are to be broken on the larger end or the smaller end. I'm a big supporter of Barcelona as the capital of my country. However, as Gaziel used to say, from the air Catalonia looks like an insect where the head has become excessively big. The growth of Barcelona is becoming totally disproportionate. And that’s precisely why we cannot join them. We would disappear.

In Penedès, on the other hand, to compete, I think we must first admit our relative small size and then learn to manage our great assets: the coast and wine, and a history which unites us ... And if we have to choose a local capital, personally, I’d prefer... Vilafranca del Penedès.

Really? Now you are being very controversial! I imagine that your reason is that geographically Vilafranca has the most central location, right?

No, there is no rational reasoning behind that. It’s all very easy: Sitges is and will always be the cultural capital of the vegueria, but we have no intention of housing the administration. And with Vilafranca and Vilanova being the options... You certainly cannot expect me to side with your town. I'm from Sitges!

- - -
Florenci Salesas is an enormously multifaceted inhabitant of Sitges: he has a long experience as a cartoon creator, musician and actor and has written several books in Catalan and Spanish. Within shortly his first fiction novel will be published. Here you can find his blog in Catalan on the cultural life in his town.

- - -
This is a translation to English of an original post in Catalan. The text is also available in Spanish and Swedish.

No comments: