By Arthur Kendall
With my own country (UK) thrashing around in a constitutional crisis of its own making, I find myself, watching from a distance, wanting to escape Brexit woes and focus on the wonders I have around me, in Catalonia.
Ok, so Catalonia has been at the centre Spain’s own constitutional crisis (also of its own making), but since I do my best not to read the news – and I haven’t watched TV for almost a decade – my happiness is not dented more than momentarily by occasional glimpses of the latest contretemps.
SIDEBAR: Have you ever noticed how news addicts are permanently highly strung? And how those who choose to eschew this daily torrent of negativity are calmer and happier? Hmm…me too. /SIDEBAR
Spain is a culturally – and geographically – rich and diverse country and I have been lucky enough to explore almost every corner, and been welcomed warmly everywhere. But or now I wish to focus on my adoptive people, the Catalans, who (like other regions in Spain), have their own distinct character, which they have retained even as they absorb migrants like me and the many who have made their home here in the centuries since Catalonia became part of the Aragonese then Castilian family, forerunners of modern Spain.
Inspired by Monty Python, and the more recent homage paid by Patrick Stewart (all bow) et al stating the similarly obvious about the EU, I decided to embark on a journey, on which I hope you will accompany me, exploring the contributions that Catalans have made, to almost every field of human endeavour, over its thousand year history. This, of course, is the purpose of the whole site WhatisCatalonia.org.
Some you will already know, but as Spaniards, not Catalans (but let’s not get into the politics of that now!), like Salvador Dalí, surrealist painter par excellence, or Antoni Gaudí, whose Basilica of the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) has marked Barcelona’s skyline for almost 100 years. And of course F.C. Barcelona (aka Barça), worshipped around the world by football fans.
Others will be less familiar to you, such as one of the world’s first cookery books (from the early 14th century), the Llibre de Sent Soví, or the Catalan Vault, a simple but highly effective architectural technique in use in hundreds of buildings across the United States, including Grand Central Station in New York City.
Still others sit modestly in the background, continuing to contribute to advances in medical science, though sadly, mainly in the US and other countries due to the lack of funding back home.
There are also hidden gems that extend across the entire Catalan territory, so while Barcelona is one of my favourite cities in the world, you really do have to explore beyond the cosmopolitan capital and its Mediterranean vibe
This is not a new venture. Since I was asked to help with the translation of the 750-page glossy hardback of such contributions back in 2015 (from whose cover the image above is taken), I have been thinking about how to tell the world about this wonderful country. I have recently completed the initial contents of this new website which will be the main focus of this activity.
So I hope you will enjoy this blog, which, in between extracts (with commentary) from the book, will be me sharing stories, experiences, tips and curiosities (including some of the funnier side of life here)! It will also contain some posts from Catalans living around the world to give you their perspective on other countries, maybe your own.
Thanks for reading!