Constructing Catalonia

Bill Phillips

Abstract


Catalonia, in common with other nations, has long been concerned with the question of identity and difference. Its problematic relationship with Spain has led to an emphasis on differentiating itself from its larger neighbour (if we are to accept, as most Spaniards do not, that Catalonia is not Spain), a situation complicated by the loss of the Spanish colonies of Cuba and The Philippines in 1898, and the Spanish Civil War and subsequent dictatorship from 1936 to 1976. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, the construction of a Catalan identity followed a similar route to that taken by other European nations such as England, Ireland and, indeed, Spain, including an emphasis on rural values, activities and the countryside, and the conversion of specifically local traditions into national past times. It is only in the last ten years or so that this model of Catalan identity has been recognised for what it is – a model constructed and encouraged for and by specific nationalist political interests. Ironically, Catalonia’s identity abroad has also been constructed and manipulated for political purposes, but from quite a different perspective. Orwell’s /Homage to Catalonia/ (1938) narrates an extremely blinkered version of the Spanish Civil War which has achieved iconic status as a result of cold war politics. Subsequent portrayals of the Spanish Civil War – Valentine Cunningham’s /The Penguin Book of Spanish Civil War Verse/ (ed.), Penguin, 1980, or Ken Loach’s 1995 film /Land and Freedom/ base their arguments unquestioningly on /Homage to Catalonia/, perpetuating a view of the nation’s recent history that is both reductive and inaccurate.

Keywords


Cataloni; constructing national identity; Spanish Civil War; George Orwell

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1344/co20093199-206

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