Saturday, May 19, 2007

So many cases of financial skulduggery are reported in the Spanish press one occasionally succumbs from fraud fatigue. And then comes along an instance which re-awakens one’s sensitivities. For some time now, we’ve been reading of an investigation of two companies which defrauded hundreds of thousands of punters who bought into grossly overvalued stamps. But yesterday the inquiry judge removed from the case the Association of Bank Users on the grounds it had fraudulently taken 1.2m euros in fees from the companies. Is nothing safe here?

All of this is against the background of the two major political parties miraculously arriving at the same election slogan – ‘Your Town Halls are More Crooked than Ours’. This is doubtless true but it would have made a lot more sense at any time during the 10 year property boom and not just as it’s ending. Or perhaps, with opportunities rapidly diminishing, that’s why it’s safe to say it now. Or am I being too cynical?

In Spain, citizens have 4 layers of government above them – national, ‘regional’, provincial and local. In a recent survey, a large majority of Galicians felt at least one of these was superfluous. One wonders why. Perhaps it’s down to reading stories about local mayors increasing their net worth fourfold during office. And getting tax rebates in the process.

As I recently surveyed a series of maps of Western Europe since the departure of the Romans, what became crystally clear is that, if there’s one region in Western Europe with a claim to nation status vastly superior to any of Spain’s, it’s Brittany. This was invaded by Celts from Britain in the 5th century, never formed part of the later Merovingian and Carolingian kingdoms and was only incorporated into France in the 16th century. Needless to say, Brittany has both ‘cultural’ and ‘political’ nationalists. But, like their Galician counterparts, neither of these seem to have much appetite for bombs. As the Wikipedia contributor nicely puts it – ‘As always in the realm of human affairs, the population of a given area or nation will embrace a wide range of opinions, with many holding views somewhere in the middle’. In France, the Breton Nationalist Party is classified as ‘regionalist’ as it demands only more autonomy and not independence. As I’ve said before, this logic would apply to our Galician Nationalist Party [the BNG]. But I doubt they’d accept the ‘regionalist’ label as it would imply Galicia isn’t, at best, a nation or, at worst, an ‘historical nationality’. What fun one can play with words. Especially when you have nothing better to do.

The second thing Brittany has which Galician Nationalists would love to share is a Celtic language. Plus its status as one of the “6 Celtic nations”. Here, these just remain dreams. Not that they do anyone any harm, of course. To the contrary, they contribute significantly to Galicia’s cultural heritage. And to the tourist industry, bringing us a wonderful Celtic Festival every summer in Ortigueira.

En passant, as you will all know, Brittany used to be known in English as Little Britain to distinguish it from Great Britain. And the London street called Little Britain was the location of the embassy of the Duchy of Brittany.


Xoan-Carlos said...

You get far more hits for "Seven celtic nations" on Google than you do for "Six ..." -- and the detailed "portal of all things celtic" doesn't seem to have any issues with Galicia being regarded as a Celtic Nation, putting the Galician flag on all of its merchandise.

Are you familiar with the Lebhor Gabalha (The Irish tomes recounting the story of the invading Galicians)? Also, the same Celts/Britons who fled the West Country for Britanny, also arrived in Galicia, founding the monastery of Britonia, near Mondoñedo.

If you can get hold of a copy, I would recommend Ramon Sainero's "La Huella Celta en España e Irlanda", a completely non-political book covering many aspects of Spain's (but mostly Galicia and Austuria's) celtic heritage shared with the British Isles.

Colin said...

Hola, Xoan-Carlos

Well, the first thing to note is that, having visited the site you cite, I now know I have a Celtic dog! Of course, the breed was only developed 2 or 300 years ago but this doesn't mattter, apparently. It's still 'Celtic' because it has a connection with Scotland that is apparently undiluted by its equal connection with Anglo Saxon England!

Secondly, I have never even so much as questioned the facts/theories about Galicia and its links with, say, Ireland - however far-fetched some of these seem. I have only said:-

1. Galicia is not so different from other parts of Europe and the Iberian peninsula in its 'Celticness', and

2. There are no traces of a Celtic language in Galego. For this reason, it is not accepted as a Celtic nation by the 6 'real' Celtic nations.

Actually, I would guess that - outside some groups in these 6 or 7 countries no one much cares one way or the other.

So, if you want to believe that Galicia is more Celtic than, say, north Portugal or Cantabria, I am certainly not going to argue with you.

The truth is that the very widespread Celtic heritage survived [via its language] in some parts of Europe and died out in all the others. The latter included, I suspect, Galica - only to be conveniently re-discovered by the romantics/ nationalists in the 18th century.

Fine. I have no problem with the retrieval of part of one's history - however selectively done - but the language is the key aspect for me and Galicia is never going to pass that test for me, however much I enjoy the gaita. And I do.

Cheers. Or whatever that it is in Gaelic.