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Catalan supremacism

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Catalan supremacism was an ideology developed by certain leading intellectual figures of the Catalan Renaissance such as Valentí Almirall i Llozer, Enric Prat de la Riba, Eugeni d'Ors, Pompeyo Gener [es], Antoni Rovira i Virgili among others [1][clarification needed] during the 19th and early 20th century[citation needed] in the region of Catalonia in northeastern Spain. It postulated that the Catalan people were a superior race of Germanic, Celtic and/or Aryan origin, as opposed to Castilians, Andalusians and other central and southern Spanish peoples who were considered mixed with Berber, Semitic and African races and were thus inferior to Catalans and other northern Spanish ethnicities.[2] The concept of a "Catalan race" developed over time and would significantly influence the Catalan romantic movement known as the Renaixença.[citation needed] Similar ideologies developed since the end of the 19th century in other regions of northern Spain, notably Galicia[citation needed][3] and the Basque regions[citation needed][4], all of which were also reactions to Spain's decline as a world power after centuries of growing Castilian political dominance, cultural hegemony and linguistic supremacism during Spain's imperial era.[5], By construing an exterior and inferior, non-European enemy, Catalan supremacism became a driver of internal Hispanophobia.[citation needed] It would also impregnate Catalan nationalism during the 20th century and has been argued by numerous intellectuals and other public figures, both within and outside Catalonia, to be a component of the discourse of the Catalan independence movement and of the myths and stereotypes on which they claim it is built.[6][clarification needed][7][clarification needed][8][clarification needed][9][10] Others argue that modern Catalan nationalism refuses this outdated view and defends an open society which embraces diversity and refuses any racial supremacy theories.[11][12]

Historical origins[edit]

After the failure of the First Spanish Republic, a sector of republican federalism headed by Valentí Almirall moved towards a more openly Catalanist position and split from the Federal Democratic Republican Party, led by Catalan politican Pi i Margall. In 1879 Almirall founded the short-lived newspaper Diari Català,[13] where he published a small article entitled "En estado normal", considered to be one of the founding documents of political Catalanism and a final break with Pi y Margall's federalism.[14][clarification needed]

However, it was the loss of Spain's last colonies in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines during the Spanish American war, the so-called "Disaster of 98" which had far-reaching effects on Spain's political landscape, beyond the loss of the colonies. A number of political currents and proposals for reversing Spain's decadence appeared, among them Spanish Regeneracionismo, but also Basque nationalism and Catalan nationalism. Catalan nationalists felt trapped in a weak, backward and decadent Spain, incapable of developing and a hindrance to its development as a modern society.

According to Joan-Lluis Marfany, one of the few Catalan historians who have studied this phenomenon, "racism impregnated all of the protagonists of the Renaixença, in the way it impregnated the culture of the times."[7]

The development of the concept of a "Historical Race"[edit]

The first intellectual to introduce a racial element in the catalanist discourse was Valentín Almirall starting in 1879.[15][clarification needed] According to Francisco Caja [es] it was this racial element, the idea of a "historic race", which led to the transition from federalist to nationalist ideologies.[16][clarification needed] In an article critical of Pi y Margall, who was clearly opposed to racial discourse, Almirall stated that "Pi does not believe in geographic - rivers and mountains as boundaries -, linguisitic, racial, historical factors as the basis of nationalities, since he considers them mobile, limited in time and even without a logical rationale".[17][clarification needed] In the article "Los Ministres catalans" published in 1879 in Diari Català, Almira argued [18][clarification needed]

Not just nature, but even history tells us that Spain is formed by two completely different groups. The central and southern, composed of imaginative and adventurous races, impressionable and voluble, has had its glorious days, as all races do, but its glory has been so ephemeral, it has only lasted as long as a nervous breakdown. The northern group, on the other hand, the group we could call Pyrenaic, never distinguished itself for its ardent imagination nor by its dramatic actions, but has always been more meditative, more solid and transcendental in its projects.
[...] Spain has become diminished since the time the least thoughtful and least illustrated race of the peninsula became he dominant one. [...] we will go from bad to worse until, by one means or another we succeed - the Catalans - in ensuring that the Pyrenaic group has at least as much influence as the southern and central one. [...] I firmly believe, that the population which today represents Catalonia is the only one which can alter the disastrous course of Spanish politics.

— Almirall (1879), "Los Ministres catalans"

In 1886 he published the French article L'Espagne telle qu'elle est in Montpellier, later republished in Spanish in Barcelona, where he details his doctrine: Both racial groups: the central-southern and the Pyrenaic would be in a state of decadence while retaining different qualities. The central group would retain the "spirit of absorption, regulation, domination" whereas the Pyrenaic group would retain "courseness, earthly appetite, jealous egoism. It is the Catalans and the Basques who are the workers of Spain".[19][clarification needed] That same year he published his main doctrinal text, Lo Catalanisme, in which he characterized the Castilian race as a Don Quijote-type, "it is a generalizing type without basis in observation or study. It believes all can be reduced to a simple and undisputable formula. With a well dressed rambling it aims to solve the most intricate problems, then aiming to impose its solution on the rest; the northern-eastern grouping, within which the Catalan type is include, would be "the other side of the coin". Catalonia would have become degenerate and denaturalized, in other words, Castilianized by means of its union with Castile: the vices and defects of the Catalans would have originated in Castile and could be surmounted through regionalist revindications.[20][clarification needed]

Almirall was not a "racialist" but a "culturalist". In other words, he discusses culture and customs across geographies rather than intrinsic or genetically inherited traits. Other Catalan authors such as Antoni Rovira i Virgili or Enric Prat de la Riba, President of the Province of Barcelona between 1907 and 1914, also used the term "race" from a cultural perspective, always highlighting differences between different peoples of Spain.[7]

The rise of racialism[edit]

Racialist thought was brought to Catalonia from Paris by Pompeyo Gener [es], influenced by Jules Soury [es] and Paul Broca's Society of Anthropology of Paris.[21][clarification needed] In 1887, Gener published Heregias [sic]Estudios de crítica inductiva sobre asuntos españoles por P.G.. Gener, who was not yet involved in political Catalanism still used the concept of "race" in a historical sense, i.e. a "historical race", which can be assimilated to that of nation or nationality.[21] He described the existence of a "Catalan race" distinct and superior claiming that "each Catalan has a king in his body" and which would have provided its literature with its distinctive energy, vigor and strength. This was opposed to the "Castilian race", where the "lack of oxygen and high atmospheric pressure, undernourishment and the known semitic and pre-semitic influences (the "Andalusians") would be responsible for a language unsuitable for great literature".[21] By 1900, would have fully endorsed Catalanism and his re-edition of Heregias included a section on the "Catalan issue" which portrayed it as a simple racial conflict. In order to save the Catalan race from decline, it would be imperative to reinforce the ancestral Aryan, Celtic, Latin or even Basque elements in order to purify it and dilute the Castilian admixture, which he characterized as a mixture of "semitic and pre-semitic".[21] He considered the inferiority of the Castilian race as primarily resulting from its ethnic composition, but also due to the extreme climate, aridity and high altitude of the territory in which they inhabited.[21] He argued that "the atmosphere in Madrid is poor in helium and argon and its waters like krypton, neon and xenon", a reason for which it should cease to be the capital of Spain.[21] "We know (the Catalans) that we are European Aryans and, as men, we are closer in our quest to the Übermensch".[21]

According to Martínez Hoyos the supposed genetic characteristics present in the Spanish heartland, both Berber and Semitic, would determine, according to Gener other defects such as "unwillingness to pay debts", "disdain for timeliness", "bad administration", or the Hispanic political structure known as "caciquismo".[6]

In 1907 the Catalan writer Francisco Jaume [es], author of El separatismo en Cataluña, argued:

Catalan separatists have started to become true demagogues, adulating the vanity of Catalans. They have not ceased to insist on the supposed inferiority of Castilians. That we are two distinct and opposed races: among which, they, the Castilians, are inferior and we the Catalans, are superior. As a result of this inferiority it would be useless to wai for the Castilians to follow the impulse we Catalans have provided for the progress of our common fatherland; and as a result we would always lose, we would necesarily be the victims in this consortium of people,, and, as a result the total separation is what was required. We would owe them nothing, since the Castilians have done nothing except exploit us.

— Francisco Jaume, op. cit. Barraycoa (2011), pag. 210

Other authors who followed the ideology of race-based Catalan supremacy were Eugeni d'Ors[22], Bartomeu Robert [es], José Pella y Forgas [es], Domingo Martí i Julià [es], Joaquim Casas i Carbó [ca] Bonaventura Riera, Joan Bardina [es], Domènec Martí i Julià and Pere Màrtir Rossell i Vilar [es].[21]Template:Harvnp</ref>[clarification needed]

Republic, civil war and exile[edit]

During the 1930s, a number of currents of Catalan nationalism and independence movement aligned themselves with Italian Fascism and German Nazism both of which had an ambivalent view of these movements. In 1932, the leader of the Nazi Party in Germany, Dr. Karl Cerff visited Barcelona and an interview with him was published in the newspaper La Nació Catalana, the mouthpiece of the Catalan Nationalist Party. In this interview he claimed that he was "aware that the Catalans are racially distinct from other Spaniards and defined Jews as the enemy of Catalan nationalism."(...) Nevertheless, both Italian fascism and Nazism preferred to support Spanish fascism, an ideology which, paradoxically, had little concern for racial purity. This was so despite the May 1936 Memorandum in which Manuel Blasi and Baldomer Palazón, the highest authorities of Catalan "Pro-Fascism" in Nosaltres Sols!, offered the NSDAP the services of both Catalan and Basque nationalists in exchange for an independent Catalonia.[23]

In the years 1934–1935 the pro-fascist sector of Nosaltres Sols! [es] defended the Catalans' racial superiority vis-a-vis the "African Spaniards", considered "an element of the white race in evolution towards the African Semitic (Arabic) racial component". The result "a higher IQ among Catalans than among "Spaniards" whose immigration in Catalonia would represent a risk of contagion of the "lazy and pro-African" Spanish character.[23] By 1931 Nosaltres Sols! has already published the "Regulations of Sexual Patriotism" which "All Catalans and Catalans worthy of such a name" should follow." "With the exception of honorable and extremely rare exception, we will see that individuals of Catalan-Castilian heritage is a hybrid, infertile, as could be no other way".[24]

Early 20th century immigration[edit]

In the early 1930s, fear extended throughout Catalan society of a Murcian "invasion" of migrant workers from South East Spain. The historian Ferran Soldevila [en], in an article written in 1933, denounced that Andalusian and Murcians are not adapting to life in Catalonia, unlike immigrants from the adjacent region of Aragon in northern Spain. As southerners, immigrants from Murcia and Albacete would belong to a low socio-economic status, illiterate and largely sick, particularly with trachoma, taking up space in hospitals. For Soldevila, it was scandalous that Murcians were allowed to freely reside in Catalonia which would make repatriating unemployed immigrants a pointless exercise.[6]

Soon later, others would join Soldevila in openly criticizing immigration, such as the journalist Carles Sentís [en], who accused "invading hordes" of Murcians of not paying rent, not respecting contracts, having uncouth manners and of practicing "free love", the latter representing a particular threat due to the demographic growth of the non-ethnic Catalan element. Sentís' articles had a significant impact and the Catalanist newspaper El Be negre launched the mantra "Spain for the Spaniards, Catalonia for the Murcians."[6]

The concern over the arrival of southern immigrants was particularly acute due to its implications in terms of mixing with a decadence, something which would only be solved by political autonomy and the ability to select who was allowed to immigrate into the country. In 1935, the demographer Josep Antoni Vandellòs [en] in his book Cataluña, poble decadent (1935) warned of the dangers of the arrival of a population impossible to assimilate into Catalan society.[6]

1960s and 1970s waves of immigration and the "Xarnegos"[edit]

Between 1950 and 1975 a wave of a million and half immigrants arrived from other less developed parts of Spain, particularly Andalusia and Extremadura, where hunger and economic hardship was prevalent. These new immigrants would represent 44% of the total growth of the Catalan population during this period.(Ajeno i Cosp, 1993) This immigration resulted from the high demand for cheap labour resulting from the new economic policy of "desarrollismo" of the Francoist dictatorship, which involved huge investments in sectors such as transport and infrastructure primarily aiming to stimulate the tourism, heavy industry and new industries such as the car industry with the creation of the SEAT car company and the building of its factory in the free-zone of Barcelona in 1953. Such industries, the availability of jobs and higher salaries in the Barcelona region would stimulate two decades of immigration from rural areas throughout Spain - a phenomenon comparable to other large scale international migrations throughout history due to the volume of people and geographic distances involved.[25]

This wave of immigration led to a new rise in xenophobia in Catalonia, with the generalization of the derogatory term "xarnego" (Charnego, in Spanish), to refer to these new Catalans.[26] The term, originally meaning "mongrel", was historically used in southern France to refer to French people mixed with Spanish/Catalan heritage. Upon its introduction in Catalonia, it referred to immigrants from non-Catalan speaking regions of Spain - in other words, a foreigner to Catalonia. Eventually it also took on a linguistic sense referring to those Catalanas who do not speak Spanish, without losing its ethnic, and classist connotations. The Catalan language thus became an important criterion to distinguish between "them" (the immigrants) and "us" (the Catalans). Franciscos Candel describes the situation in "Los otros catalanes (1964) and later defines himself as a Charnego in the senate (1979). Although the use of the term became less generalized with the stabilization of immigration in the 1980s, the return of democracy and efforts to socially and economically integrate immigrants and their descendants, it has remained a socio-cultural cleavage within Catalan society. This cleavage also affects the public sphere. Whereas the 20 most common surnames names in Catalonia proper are typical of the Spanish language,[27] the majority of political seats and posts are held by people with typically Catalan language surnames, and some of those who do not have them 'Catalanise' them upon embarking on a political career. In particular it has been noted that a pool of Catalan language surnames held by 13% of the total Catalan population holds 40% of the politically designated jobs, which has been called an 'overrepresentation' or even 'hyperrepresentation' in the political elite of these Catalan families vs. the Catalan society as a whole.[28] Another example of the persistence of the Charnego issue in Catalonia was the 2008 scandal regarding the then president of the Catalan Government, José Montilla, when a member of the Catalan Parliament stated on Catalan Public Television that Montilla "destroyed the Catalan language", considering it unacceptable that a president of Catalonia could not speak correctly. In this way the "charnego" or "foreign" origin of Montilla was highlighted. Similarly, the wife of Jordi Pujol, President of Catalonia between 1980 and 2003, expressed disdain in a TV interview in 2008 that the President of Catalonia was an Andalusian with a Castilian name.[29] The Catalan academic Montserrat Clua i Fainé from the Autonomous University of Barcelona considers that such mechanisms of exclusion have returned to Catalonia leading to a new wave of internal immigration which occurred during the 1990s.[30]

The influence of racist thought can also be found in the youth writings of Jordi Pujol, historical leader of Catalan nationalism during Spain's democracy and President of the Catalan government between 1980 and 2003.

The Andalusian is not a coherent man, he is an anarchical man. A destroyed man (...), he is generally a poorly made man, a man which has suffered famine for centuries and lives in a state of ignorance and spiritual, mental and cultural misery. He is an uprooted man, incapable of having a wider sense of community. Often, he demonstrates excellent human character, but generally he represents the least social and spiritual value of Spain. I have said it before: he is a destroyed and anarchical man. If, by virtue of numbers, he dominated, without having overcome his own perplexity, he would destroy Catalonia. He would introduce in it his extremely poor and anarchical mentality. In other words, his lack of mentality

— Jordi Pujol, published in 1958 and re-published in 1976.[31]

At the time, Pujol qualified and defended his position,[31][32] although he later apologized when the anti-nationalist Citizens Party of Catalonia used the text in an electoral video.[33]

More openly racist and supremacist statements were made statements were made by Heribert Barrera, historical leader of Republican Left of Catalonia and first president of the restored Parliament of Catalonia after Francoism, from 1980 until 1984.[34][35]

Influence on 21st century Catalan independence movement[edit]

Grafitti in Catalan town of VilassarDeMar Grafitti, "Spain steals from us"

Although youth racist movements have existed in Catalonia during the 21st century such as Unitat Nacional Catalana, these have been largely marginal,[36] and the modern day Catalan Independence movement has overall never self-identified with the far-right. It has, however resorted to stereotypes, seeking to portray itself as a highly developed, productive and entrepreneurial nation resisting an allegedly backward, authoritarian, subsidized corrupt, unproductive and centralist Spain which restricts Catalan freedom and free-loads off its wealth. However, it has been characterized as a deeply xenophobic movement by its critics both on the left and on the right, both within and outside Catalonia, who see a clear continuity with its former openly racist discourse.[37] Leader of Catalan opposition, Ines Arrimadas, has openly characterized the independence movement as "the worst type of nationalism" and "supremacism".[38]

In 2008, Oriol Junqueras, the leader of Catalonia's main pro-independence left-wing party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya since 2011, published an article in the Catalan newspaper Avui in which he made the following statements regarding population genetics:

...Catalans have a closer genetic proximity to the French than to the Spaniards; more with the Italians than with the Portuguese, and a little with the Swiss. Meanwhile Spaniards have a lot of proximity with the Portuguese and very little with the French. Strange..." - [39]

In 2012 Artur Mas, President of the Catalan government between 2010 and 2016 and leader of Democratic Convergence of Catalonia published an article in La Vanguardia explaining his views on the relationship between Catalonia and other regions of Spain.

Catalonia, twelve centuries ago, belonged to the Marca Hispanica and the capital was Aachen, the heart of the Carolingian Empire. Something must remain in our DNA, because the Catalans we have an umbilical cord which makes us more Germanic and less Roman..

— Artur Mas, Interview in La Vanguardia, 2012 [40]

Arguments regarding the differences between Catalonia and other regions of Spain have more often focused on the idea of Catalonia being more hard-working, wealthier and productive than other less-developed regions and thus being obliged by the Spanish state to pay for their development or welfare-states. This led to the popularization of the mantra of Catalan nationalism "Espanya ens Roba" (Spain steals from us). During a Parliament session in 2013, Catalan president Artur Mas a "productive" Catalonia versus a "subsidized" Spain, for which he was harshly criticized by Catalan opposition parties.[41] The statement that a subsidized Spain is maintained by a productive Catalonia was echoed in the Spanish parliament by Convergència i Unió member Jordi Turull and by a slogan published on the party's Facebook page that same year.[42]

In an article published in 2015 in the newspaper El Periódico de Catalunya, Catalan historian Joaquim Coll (member of Spanish unionist association Societat Civil Catalana), warned of the negative image Catalan nationalism was attempting to portray of the rest of Spain:

Pro-independence circles continue to promote the stereotype of a subsidized Spain in juxtaposition to a productive Catalonia. A supremacist view, which specifically targets Andalusia, which is often portrayed as anchored in underdevelopment, when it is actuallly the second region in Spain which accumulates most production, when combining industry and agriculture.

— Joaquim Coll (26 of January de 2015), interview in El Periodico.[43]

In 2015, the former nationalist mayor of Arenys de Munt, then a town councilor for the far-left pro-independence party CUP, Josep Manel Ximenis used racial arguments to distinguish Catalonia from Castile.[44][45]

I believe that the Castilian character has not changed, and has nothing to do with the Catalan. In Catalonia, since inception we have a society diametrically opposed to the feudal Castilian one. And this is a historical reality and a structure which creates inertia. Castile can be reduced to a simple hierarchy of farmers and aristocracy. No relation whatsoever. The Castilian mentality has in its genes the natural predisposition to be subservient. And this has not changed and will not change.

— Josep Manel Ximenis (11 de mayo de 2015), interview in e-noticies.[46]

These declarations and a series of other similar statements led to his eventual expulsion from the CUP.[44][45]


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