A History of Aragon and Catalonia. Epilogue. Books.book Aragon in English. Spain.

A History of Aragon and Catalonia. Epilogue. Books. book History Aragon Aragon

Aragon in English > book > History Aragon


[278] "Cataluña se constituye en región autónoma dentro Estado español. Su organismo representativo es la Generalidad, y su territorio es el que forman las provincias de Barcelona, Gerona, Lérida y Tarragona en el momento de aprobarse este Estatuo." Such is the first article of the much-debated Catalan statute of 1932. Valencia has declined to join in the movement for autonomy, and Catalonia thus reverts to the territorial position which she enjoyed, so far as the Spanish peninsual is concerned, at the time when James the Conqueror became king. The champions of autonomy have not failed to appeal to the evidence of history, and the preceding chapters of this book have shown that there is material for a plausible case. Catalonia and Aragon were never really united. The one bond of union was the royal house of Barcelona. The two provinces preserved separate administrations; they spoke different languages; they cherished different laws and privileges, and the outlook upon social and political life of an Aragonese noble and a leading merchant of Barcelona cannot have had much in common. The association of the two provinces was at no time more than federal, and it is not surprising that in the troubled times which followed the Compromise of Caspe in 1412, Catalonia should more than once have desired to return to the status of 1131. The preservation of union for so long a time was due in part to the stress of political and commercial forces and ideals; much of the credit for its maintenance must also be given to the energy and competence of such kings as James I and his great successors.

The conquest of Constantinople by the Turks and the discovery of America were blows to Catalan commerce, the effects of which were felt with increasing severity. The Catholic kings curtailed such local privileges as they could, Madrid became the final centre of power under Philip II, and the process of centralization and unification which was [279] apparent elsewhere in Europe induced Olivares to make the clumsy attempts in that direction which lost Portugal to Spain and drove Catalonia into revolt in 1640. Her support of Austria in the War of the Spanish Succession ended in the catastrophic defeat of 1714, when Barcelona was devastated by Berwick's troops and the remaining privileges of the province were finally abolished. In the very last Cortes held in Barcelona in 1702, the Catalons secured the right to trade with America and obtain some share in teh stream of commerce which had shifted to the Atlantic from the Mediterranean, as the American settlements developed; much of teh Mediterranean trade had passed into other hands. The Catalan language had been forgotten or was despised by the upper classes and was current only in the country districts, after the decrees of Philip V in 1714 and 1716 -- the so-called Nueva Planta -- had made Castilian the official language of the country for all legal, administrative and educational purposes. France had applied similar measures in Roussillon in 1700.

The renaissance of Catalan literature is regarded as beginning exactly a century ago with the publication of Bonaventura Carles Aribau's Oda a la Pàtria in which, among other calls to patriotic feeling, he dwells upon the associations of his own language:

En llemosí sonà lo meu primer vagit
Quan del mugró matern la dolça llet bevia.
En llemosí al Senyor pregava cada dia,
I càntics llemosins somiava cada nit.
Aribau wrote for his own solace or amusement, and would have been surprised to know that his work was to become a literary landmark. He was followed by Rubió i Ors in 1839 with his collection of poems, Lo Gaiter del Llobregat. There were writers of reputation at this time, such as Cabanyes, Piferrer, Balmes and others who might be regarded as a school, but their native Catalan was not yet a language of culture, and they were forced to write in Castilian. This state of affairs speedily changed; the Romantic movement in Spain as well as the Renaixensa in Catalonia inspired an interest in the past and political considerations turned men's eyes to the future. Years of misgovernment by a race which had deprived Catalonia [280] of her liberties and had given her nothing in return aroused the old spirit of independence and the linguistic and literary revival went hand in hand with political aspirations. A free Catalonia was the general ideal, but proposals for the attainment of it were as varied as they were many. Some form of federalism was the most popular proposal of the regionalist movement and was preached by Pi y Margall in 1873; the several regions of Spain were to be autonomous, but to be members of a central government which would deal only with matters of common interest. Vicente Almirall continued to urge this solution and founded the society known as Jove Catalunya in 1887; a number of similar societies were formed in the next few years, most of which combined in 1892 to form the Unió Catalanista. The literary movement was in close alliance with the political; celebrations of the Jochs Florals, which were restored in 1857, became the occasion for the expression of regionalist sentiments ; students' associations supported the doctrine and periodicals, such as the Revista Catalana or the Renaixensa, worked steadily for the cause. Regionalism or separatism was not peculiar to Catalonia; similar movements were in progress in the Basque provinces and in Galicia and may be regarded as a reaction against the unifying and centralizing legislation passed during the early part of the nineteenth century. This legislation did not supersede many legal customs and modes of procedure peculiar to individual districts, and desire to preserve these variations led to demands for "juridical autonomy," which were nowhere so pronounced nor outspoken as in Catalonia. From 1887 autonomy and liberation were the continual themes of every Catalan orator and publicist; Prat de la Riba was one of the most vehement supporters of the movement, to which a further stimulus was given by the scandals of the American War in 1898. Some Catalan appointments to local government posts were made in order to satisfy the discontented; but the central government alternated between repressive and conciliatory measures, and in 1905 an uproar in Barcelona led to the passing of the law of Jurisdiction, which practically ended all freedom of speech or of journalism; to criticize the government or the army was to be guilty of high treason. The conflicting views of Catalan regionalists were solidified under this pressure and [281] in 1906 all parties were united as a Solaridad which won 41 out of 44 seats in the parliamentary elections of the following year. In 1909, serious riots broke out in Barcelona as a protest against Maura's proposed campaign in Morocco, and the execution of Francisco Ferrer, who was accused as a ringleader of the movement, stirred public opinion far beyond the frontiers of Catalonia. In 1911 a bill was presented to Congress outlining a constitution for an autonomous Catalonia; the bill was thrown out, but in 1913 an Order in Council allowed the formation of mancomunidades or local councils, which were merged in the Mancomunidad Catalana of 1914, by which time the general question of regional autonomy had become a permanent element in Spanish politics.

Meanwhile the question had been complicated for a considerable time by other local problems. Barcelona had become an industrial as well as a commercial centre and the associations and movements incidental to industrialism or parasitic upon it were operating energetically in Catalonia. At least six groups can be enumerated in a colour scheme ranging from pale pink to congested purple; the U.G.T. or Unión General de Trabajadores is the official Socialist workmen's union, has the support of the Socialist party in Parliament and professes entire opposition to the extravagances of groups modelled upon Russian principles; the C.N.T. or Confederación Nacional de Trabajadores, also known as the Sindicato Único, is similar and apparently affiliated to the syndicalist groups in France and other countries; the Sindicato Libre was started in opposition to the Sindicato Único with the countenance of the governments before the Dictatorship period, and appears to be out of favour with the Republican Government; the F.A.I. or Federación Anarquista Ibérica has a sufficiently descriptive title, and the Partido Comunista Español with the Bloque Obrero y Campesino are both openly connected with Moscow and demand the full Russian programme. The disturbances and the propaganda created by these organizations have confused issues and distracted attention both in Spain and abroad from the problem of regionalism: foreign opinion is more impressed by the Bolshevist and Communist gunmen of Barcelona than by the reasoned arguments of Catalan Home Rulers. [282] Moderate men in Catalonia, as in other countries, ask for a stable and competent government which will enable them to live and conduct their affairs undisturbed by interference from cranks and visionaries who wish to reform society in a hurry, or from incompetent office-seekers who regard politics as a means of livelihood. The average autonomist is convinced that Catalans can govern their own country better than a centralized government can do, for the reason that they understand local conditions which have little in common with those of other provinces, and because they have more than adequate evidence of the incompetence and corruption of centralized governments and of the exiguous benefits received from them in comparison with the taxes paid to them. The Catalan is a type as different from the Castilian or the Andalusian as is the Basque. The fact that Catalonia in the Great War supported the allies, while the rest of Spain was either pro-German or neutral, is evidence of a difference in mental outlook almost racial.

Thus the agitation for autonomy has been the outcome of racial sentiment as well as of discontent with the general misconduct of affairs. The central government had made little or no effort to deal with the social problem in Catalonia or elsewhere. Spanish industry had developed considerably during the Great War, but the condition of the workers did not reflect the prosperity of the manufacturers and no attempt was made to deal with agricultural problems of Central and Southern Spain. The old governmental parties were divided by faction and the newer republican and Socialist organisations were too busy quarrelling among themselves to form a coherent opposition or to gain public respect and prestige. To these standing causes of discontent was added the disaster in Morocco in 1921 and the incompetency of successive ministries to deal with the situation. Barcelona was the chief centre of ferment and it was there that Primo de Rivera, then military governor of the province, planned the coup d'état of September 13, 1923, which was accepted by the country on the theory that a military directorate might do better and could hardly do worse than the governments which had immediately preceded it. The reforms introduced by the Directorate included a decree repressing Catalanism, aimed rather at the turbulent elements [283] in Barcelona than at the aspirations of Catalan patriots as such, but none the less offensive to Catalan sentiment, which naturally supported the republican revolution; nor would this revolution have been successful without the help of the large following contributed by Catalonia.

The Catalan statute was debated in the Spanish Cortes during the summer months of 1932. During that period a vigorous campaign against the statute was prosecuted in every part of Spain. Newspapers, clubs, societies and delegations loudly asserted that Catalonia is not a racial entity, that its inhabitants did not want the statute, that regional autonomy is a mistaken principle and will be the ruin of the country and that any form of separatism will be the ruin of Catalonia. The principle was, however, recognized in the Constitution of 1931 and the statute became an accepted fact. As has been said, Valencia stood out of the proposal, and the territory concerned is composed of the provinces of Barcelona, Gerona, Lérida and Tarragona. Catalan and Castilian are both recognized as the official languages of the country and public documents and notices are to be published in both languages ; the general principle is that while Catalan is to be the official language in Catalonia, in relations with the central republican government the official language shall be Castilian. The rights of individuals are settled by the republican constitution and no difference is to be made between Catalans and other Spaniards; Catalan citizenship is acquired by birth or by residence. The central government reserves a right of supervision, to see that the laws are carried out and that equality of treatment is given to all. The question of education gave rise to hot debates; the Catalan Government is authorized to create and maintain such centres of instruction as it may think fit, subject to the relevant article of the republican constitution; whether Castilian and Catalan culture are to march hand in hand, whether the University of Barcelona is to be bilingual or whether separate universities should be formed, is a question as yet unsettled. Catalonia receives administrative and judicial powers to be exercised in accordance with the republican constitution; she is to pay an annual contribution to the central government, the amount of which may be reconsidered from time to time, while other sources [284] of revenue are reserved to her for purposes of local administration.

The country thus has full local autonomy, with its own government and executive body, elected by its own people and responsible to them, its own courts of law and full liberty to use its own language. The ties connecting it with the Spanish Republic are of a federal nature; there has been no "clean cut" nor "break away," and it is improbable that the moderate party of autonomists desire anything of the kind. It is doubtful if Catalonia could afford to lose its trade with Spain. The country is now confronted with the general task of beginning life again under a new régime and the no less important and difficult problem of dealing with the various Socialist and Communist influences which desire to control the kind of life to be led. Nothing is to be learnt by drawing misleading analogies from the position of Ireland, Belgium or other small countries, a line pursued by more than one speaker in the Cortes during the debates upon the statute. Catalonia's problems are her own, and only her own experience will solve them. The outstanding feature of Catalan political movements is the manner in which they have been accompanied and, indeed, created by literary developments. Catalan nationalism owes everything to the Catalan language and literature.

This work was originally published by Methuan Publishing Ltd. in 1933.
Pagination of the original edition is indicated set off in brackets, as in [19].

Ample your information on Aragon

If you want to extend your information on Aragon you can begin crossing another interesting route is the Mudejar, Patrimony of the Humanity, also you can extend your cultural knowledge on Aragon examining its municipal and institutional heraldry without forgetting, of course, some of its emblematics figures as Saint George Pattern of Aragon also book of Aragon.

Also Aragon enjoys a diverse and varied Nature where passing by plants, animals or landscapes we can arrive at a fantastic bestiario that lives in its monuments.

The information will not be complete without a stroll by its three provinces: Zaragoza, Teruel and Huesca and his shines, with shutdown in some of its spectacular landscapes like Ordesa, the Moncayo or by opposition the Ebro.

Also you can dedicarte to the intangible ones: from the legend compilation that also does to universal Aragon you can persecute the presence of del Santo Grial in Aragon.

Huesca | Teruel | Zaragoza | Aragon | Maps |
Fauna | Flora | Geology | Fungi |
Tourism | Mudejar | Goya | Alphabetical Index | Thematic

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