Friday, 11 January 2008

How to kill off a language

It has happened. As I predicted in this post, the process is inevitable and probably irreversible as both PSOE and PP agree on the ultimate goal: making sure that Valencian (the name Catalan language receives in the Valencia region) language dies quietly.

The Valencian government, ruled by the Spanish Conservatives (Partido Popular) has been busy closing down the transmitters that broadcast the signal of TV3 and Canal 33 in the Valencia region. Old habits die hard in the Spanish Right: censorship is still the preferred method of implementing policy.

These transmitters are being closed down only for political reasons: TV3 is a Catalan TV station, and the Spanish Right dislikes anything that threatens their concept of the Spanish nation-state (in Spanish language only), specially something like a TV station broadcasting in Catalan.

These transmitters were set up and maintained by ACPV, a Valencian cultural association. There is no cost to the taxpayer whatsoever. The Spanish Government (PSOE) could resolve this situation overnight if it wished to do so, as it has reserved powers in broadcasting issues, but has declined to intervene.

The (temporary) good news is that yesterday a Judge in Castelló halted the closure of the local transmitter pending an appeal logged in the Valencian High Court. Yet, I am not an optimist.

Of all the posts in this blog, I am particularly proud of the one linked above and Fading Nation. Sadly, time is proving me right in both.

I remember fondly my childhood spending summers in La Pobla de Vallbona, (Wiki) where my father was working in the construction of what would become an IBM factory. The local kids would mock my accent and there was good banter, but there was not ill-feeling, and most importantly, we knew we were speaking the same language with different accents. TV3 had been broadcasting for a few years and soon after the reinstatement of democracy and the PSOE electoral win in 1982, the language was being revived and saved from extinction.

It is a different picture now. For years, the Spanish Right has funded an array of media outlets, particularly in Valencia, whose only purpose is the dissemination of hatred against anything Catalan. When the PSOE-PSPV lost the regional government to the PP, the fate of Valencia was sealed. With control of the regional broadcaster, Canal 9, probably the most manipulative and biased TV station in Spain, dissenting views were silenced and dozens of Valencian intellectuals and journalists seeked refuge in the Universities or moved north to Barcelona for work. The Catalan media based in Barcelona is full of exiled Valencians who day-in day-out witness how their old country is fading out, how the language we share is being driven to extinction by the regional government, and how violent far-right groups operate with impunity, using violence against anyone who still has the energy and courage to fight for a seemingly lost cause: the survival of Valencian language.

The below links provide examples of how the Spanish Nationalists use violence to threated the good Valencians who still care about their cultural heritage.

A local councillor attacked by Spanish Nationalists:

Two months later, a local female activist of the same party, Bloc, was attacked by far-right thugs: Levante-EMV
This is on top of the attacks that the premises of cultural organisations like ACPV suffer on a regular basis across some towns in Valencia. Or the impunity in which the Spanish Far Right organises violent demonstrations in some suburbs in Valencia, as denounced by ACPV.

As ever, you can translate from Catalan/Valencia into Spanish/English or French using this translator.


Tom said...

Rab, we took our summer holiday last year in Benicàssim (for the pop festival) and we rented an apartment from what seemed to be a fairly normal, non-extremist, non-Catalanist couple. One of the views from the apartment was of the large transmitter, on the mountain behind the town.

We asked if that was one of the ones being challenged by the Generalitat Valenciana and the response was '... faxes de merda'.

I think there are still plenty of people in Castelló and Valencia in general who oppose this censorship. Whether they'll d anything about it is a different matter. I can imagine it's pretty scary being arrested by the Guardia Civil for protesting in favour of freedom of speech. It probably brings back too many bad memories.

nickedinburgh said...

It's a pity, but Catalans would perhaps get more sympathy abroad if they were more aware of how they sometimes come across to non-Spanish visitors...

Tom said...

Nick - that's not a typical experience. I've been here for more than 5 years and I've never experienced that kind of treatment. Not once. I have had problems in getting people to speak Catalan to me... they normally switch to Castilian when they detect my accent.

I sometimes wonder how it is that a tiny proportion of the visitors to BCN have this kind of story to tell. My suspicion is that the explanation lies not with the locals but with the visitors.

Roger said...

Another attack, this time in Benicassim:

And the mainstream Spanish media don't say a thing about this or any of the other attacks against Catalan people...

Rab said...


I am sorry but I don’t buy it and I am pretty sure that you are lying.

My mum is from Cádiz. She emigrated to Barcelona when she was 14-15.
After over 40 years in Catalonia, she still has to ask people to talk to her in Catalan –she is one of the few immigrants from the south of Spain who is keen to learn Catalan. Catalan-speakers switch to Spanish when they realise she is not a native Catalan-speaker, even when she asks them to keep talking Catalan to her. Only a minority of people keep talking to her in Catalan.

Now you are trying to persuade us that some Catalans refuse to speak to you in Spanish. And not only that, you claim you have seen a sticker in a shop with the message “Only Catalan spoken here”.

You are lying through your nose and you know it.

I challenge anybody to find this shop in Barcelona, name and address and photo evidence.

I have lived in Barcelona most of my life, and go on holidays regularly to visit friends and family and I have never ever seen anything like that. It is a lie.

As the Spanish idiom says: “Se pilla antes a un mentiroso que a un cojo”.
Look that one up in your phrasebook.

Rab said...


thanks for your message.

I found another act of violence in Valencia.

It is amazing how Spanish nationalist act with total impunity in Valencia, perpetrating acts of violence against anyone who challenges the status quo.

And the Police do nothing. And the Spanish media keep quiet. And the intimidation continues.