Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Some of you will know that the Galician city of Santiago – or Santiago de Compostela, to give it its full monicker – has been the end point of a pilgrimage for more than a thousand years. But you may not know that the first comprehensive guide – complete with pictures – was produced in the 12th century. By a monk, I believe. And, of course, in Latin. This has now been translated into Gallego (Galician), which seems only too appropriate. Though I blinked at the reported cost of 180,000 euros. Nice work, if you can get it. And somebody obviously did.

Talking of the pilgrimage – or the Camino, as it’s normally called – a Spanish friend who’s done it was telling me this week that not only is it far from religious these days but it’s now seen as a pretty good way to, shall we say, make friends. Or ligar, in Spanish. When she reminded me, ahead of my own trek in May, that 2010 is one of the special years called Xacobeo (pronounced shackobeo in Gallego), I was compelled to ask whether it wouldn’t more correctly be called Xagobeo . . .

I wonder if that will mean anything to American readers.

I’ve had quite a few dialogues with Galician Nationalists over the years. Most have been civil and, while I may not share the opinions voiced, this has certainly brought me to a better understanding of their viewpoint. Moreover, I’ve occasionally wondered whether I’d be a Nationalist if I were a young Galician now. In the same way as I’ve asked myself, over the years, whether I would have been a Scottish or Welsh nationalist if born there. Anyway, the latest dialogue was with an anonymous reader and can be found in the Comments to my post of Jan 9. In the end, we agreed to disagree but I couldn’t help think back on the exchanges when I read this comment today from the writer I mentioned last week, Rysard Kapuscinski:- Nationalism cannot exist in a conflict-free situation: it cannot exist as a thing devoid of grudges and claims. Wherever the nationalism of one group rears its head, immediately, as if from the ground, this group’s enemies will spring up.

Or, putting it the way it often is – Nationalists define themselves by their enemies.

Now, wouldn’t it be a wonderful coincidence if Mr Kapuscinski came from that other Galicia, in his home country of Poland?

Finally . . . Reader Ferrolano will be interested to hear the Spanish government has ordered that the last (equestrian) statue of Franco in the country be removed from its resting place in the Arsenal Militar in Ferrol. It was shifted there a few years ago, after several decades in the pride of place of the main square of his city of birth. Given the little fellow’s attitude to Gallego, I doubt the plaque is in this language. Now, there was a non-Galician-Nationalist who merited the accusation that, if you’re not one of these, you must – by definition - be a Spanish Nationalist. But who wouldn’t want to be defined as an enemy of the Generalisimo? So, we're all Galician Nationalists now, I guess.

15 comments:

Xoán-Wahn said...

"Making friends" on the Camino is just...gross. The state of a person that's been walking for miles and miles in rain and shine, carrying a large pack on their back and sweating like there's no tomorrow does not inspire "friendliness" at all!

On a completely different note, I've always wondered how one can be a Welsh, N.Irish or Scottish nationalist. How does it work? Wales, N. Ireland and Scotland are in a union with England, sure, but they are separate countries and Scotland has its own Parliament. A scot even heads the UK! Very confusing stuff, nationalism.

Anonymous said...

Colin, very interesting what that Polish fellow wrote about nationalism.

Now, my question to his "theory": And who are the enemies of that nacionalism that rears its head? My answer: Those who postulate another nationalism, and one that would loose status or power if the emerging nationalism took a grip on the power they hold.


You see, Colin, the widespread mistake among people is to think of the others as nationalists, not of themselves. Similar to people who think (no matter what language) that they “don’t have an accent“. Nobody leaves in the limbo, everybody has an accent, everybody abides by the rules of whatever nation they happen to live, or otherwise challenges them. But if you agree with them, then you are giving your tacit support to that nation/state, and consequently to the ideology that postulates the preeminence of that nation / language. Those who, like yourself, buy into the notion of a Spanish state with capital in Madrid and the pre-eminence of the (Castilian) language over other languages, like Galician, Basque or Catalan, are agreeing with a particular nationalism, one that is commonly known as “Spanish nationalism“. The aburd part of this is that most of you are very quick at poiting the finger at those who question this state of affairs as “nationalists“, but don’t apply that same epithet (nationalist) to yourselves, as your “friend“ Mr Cade rightfully signalled.


In other words, their nationalism, even though latent, is a reaction to yours.


With respect to Franco, if you are against him, you are against Spanish nationalism, which was his main tenet. Whether you are a Galician nationalist or not, it is another story ... you could postulate de “Iberian nation“, the “European nation“, the “Compostelan nation“ ...

By the way, my name is José.


Kind regards.

Anonymous said...

And another “observation” about that book translation. Leaving aside that there must be already several Portuguese versions of it, which could be easily “consumed” by the Galician reader, with a little instruction, the fact that that huge amount of money is used for “subsidized culture” illustrates that culture has been marginalised, not that it is “less valuable”. The same that adjudicate that money to Galician language initiatives are the same that support or co-operate with Spanish nationalist in the secular marginalization of the original language of the country. So they are not “giving”, but in fact they keep “stealing”, and now and then give something for charity, or to keep some happy. This is the vision outside Spanish nationalism.

And now, taking another step away from the Spanish Nationalism, is it that bad to spend money and resources in cultural “products”, such as fostering the knowledge and use of native languages / books? Furthermore, how much money is spent, directly or indirectly, in initiatives to promote the Spanish language, and to sustain its hegemony? 10 times more, 100 times more, 1000 ...?

José

Colin said...

Oh, God, X-W. Just don´t go there.

Anyone can be a nationalist. All that you need is a belief that the place you live in (Perejil Island?) is a nation and that you are the victim of suppression by whatever nation it is that the rest of the world thinks it belongs to.

Though this is something of an over-simplification.

Colin said...

Jose,

I never said the translation was wrong, just expensive. It seems very belated to me. Why has it taken so long since the end of Franco's regime? And why didn't it happen before? Could Madrid really have stopped it?

BTW 1: - If someone was rich enough to want, say, Beowulf put into Cornish, would the fact that this hadn´t been done before show that the Cornish people and language had been suppressed by the English?

BTW 2: I decide to set up a nation in Arbo because our Gallego is closer to Portuguese than yours in Santiago. So, now we have two more sets of nationalists, the Arbo National Front and, by your argument, the Condado Nationalists who want to keep Arbo within their sphere of influence and to avoid losing their status and power.

And, by your may of thinking, the Arbo Nationalism would be a reaction to the actual/latent Nationalism of everyone else living in Condado.

Sorry, but I just don't buy it. It could be never ending, with the world atomising bit by bit.

Anyway, that's my last word on Galician Nationalism. As I say, there are bombs in the Pontgevedra air. Plus I'm sorry to say I'm rather bored by it. Plus it's not me you have to convince but the 85% of Galicians who don't vote for the BNG. You are wasting you time and energy on me. I will remain a Galicianist (by my lights) but will never be a Nationalist.

Colin said...

Sorry, I should have reciprocated your kind regards.

Anonymous said...

Colin,

I am sorry to say this, but I am starting to think that your Galician “friend”, Cade, wasn’t that way off the mark.

First, the translation thing: why wasn’t it done before? Well, until very recently Galician was banned from education and public life. Who banned it? Was it London, Barcelona or Madrid? When you ban a language, that includes translations from other languages to it. But no banning on translating foreign books into Spanish though ... is that fair?

Second, even though Cornish was suppressed by English (unless you believe that it was the Castilian who suppressed it, or perhaps it was the Cornish people who decided to stop talking their own tongue) Beowulf has no bearing with their culture. On the other hand, the pilgrims guide is very relevant for Galicians. So I can’t see what you are hinting at.

Third, this Arbo nationalist thing would need to prove they have: a language distinctly different form their neighbours, who all seem to have Galician as traditional language. A history of ancient Roman province, ancient Suevish kingdom, ancient independent kingdom, prestigious vernacular literature, not only at home, but abroad, as Galicians had, several nationalist parties (now matter how marginal) ... do they have all of this, or even a single thing of it. Again Colin, I’m very disapointed at your oversimplifications, always with the aim of belittling Galician nationalist ...

And finally, if you claim in so assertive terms that you are not a Spanish nationalist, why do you keep picking on Galician nationalists, as they do? Is not that very symptomatic? How can you claim to be a “Galicianist” when you subscribe to all Spanish nationalist tenets, especially the one referring to the pre-eminence of the Castilian language in the whole of the Spanish state, and even deny the existence of the Galician nation? I am sorry, but this I can not understand.

José

Ferrolano said...

Colin,

Due to other commitments (work), I missed your blog for a couple of days and this morning when doing catch-up, what a shock with the news that the Spanish Government has ordered the removal of the statue of Franco from the naval base in Ferrol. I thought that the present location was ideal as the man off the street has only to visit the maritime museum at the Arsenal to also see the statue – historically speaking, the museum does a grand job of displaying both events and personalities of the city. Leave the statue where it is!

Xoán-Wahn said...

José, I'm sorry to jump in here as this conversation really is between Colin and yourself but I have a question that has been bugging me lately and I was hoping you could answer it. Do you think it is really fair for Galicians to want to separate from Spain because of historical suppression whilst claiming other periods of suppression as a reason for independence?

You point out some very good facts in one of your responses to Colin in that you state Galicia as a whole was once a Roman province and a Suebi kingdom but is that really something to be proud of in this case? Remember that when the Romans INVADED and CONQUERED Hispania (as in with their ARMY), they fought against the Hispanic tribes, including the Gallaecians who, we can assume, didn't want to be Roman. Then, the Romans divided Hispania into two provinces, leaving Galicia off the map as it were.

It wasn't until much later that the Romans redivided Hispania into three provinces, splitting Hispania Ulterior into Baetica and Lusitania. Again, Galicia was nowhere to be found and the Gallaecians were not treated in any way different from the rest of the Hispaniae! My point is that Galicia wasn't even a Roman province until the Tetrarchy so you can't really claim Roman history for independence because not only did the Romans not consider Galicia different or special in any way but they conquered and ruled it against the will of its people!

The Suebi Kingdom is another matter but a very similar one. I'm sure you know that the Suebi or Suevi were a foreign Germanic tribe whose language, religion and culture differed completely from that of the native Galicians and who basically just took over Galicia when the Romans became too weak to hold it. In other words, they became the new masters of a land and people that didn't belong to them! And it wasn't even like the Kingdom of Galicia was looked at as a place of splendour. The Bishop of Zaragoza describes it as "the edge of the west in an illiterate country where naught is heard but the sound of gales".

It just seems to me that these historic periods were possibly not the proudest for Galicia and probably shouldn't be used as an argument on which to base the fight for independence as Galicia and its people were in no way independent at the time!

Colin said...

Jose,

So, no one published any books in Gallego between the 12th century and the the post-Franco era. Public institution or private individual. And there were no books published in Gallego during the Franco era? If, so he was even harsher on his fellow-Gallegos than on the pesky Catalans.

My Arbo point is that, just as they say these days Art is whatever any 'artist' says it is, so 'nation' is anything a nationalist says it is. All the criteria you cite may well be relevant for Galicia but are not necessary for a claim of 'nationhood' to be made. Anything will do. And whether the case is weak or strong, the point that I keep making is that you have to convince other Galicians of your viewpoint so as to create the nation you think actually already exists. And, though I have every sumpathy with your aspirations and your challenge, I think you are up against it, rightly or wrongly. Being neither Spanish norn Galican nor Spanish, I really don't much care about the outcome and just wish all the stuff I have to read was in both Gallego and Spanish, especially when it is the fomr and the guide about payng my bloody taxes. I feel the fact that I am paying these justifies my demand that these are in both officil languages. Though I understand, of course, why the Nationalists don't want their cause weakened in this way.

I will make my final comment in tonight's post. If I get through the day unbombed.

This is a joke.

BTW - I don't think I keep having a go at Galician Nationalists. Unless they live in Britain and are abusive. Neither of which applies to you. I believe.

Regards,

Anonymous said...

Hi Xoán-Wahn (Sino-Galician nick?), please make yourself at home, with Colin’s permission, of course, in this debate. About whether it is fair to think about Galician secession from Spain, I think it is too early to pose this question, as most of Galicians wouldn’t subscribe to that political emancipation. The question we must ask is whether it is fair to claim the sovereignty of Galician language in Galiza / Galicia. Or in other words: is it fair that (Castilian) Spanish, imposed by force during the last centuries, should keep enjoying this status? And the same in Catalonia, or in the Basque country.

You have a multicultural country like India, where no language rules over the whole country, as each one has its own area. English may be the “lingua franca”, but no Indi is imposed in, say, Calcotta. So, what makes Castilian more rightfully entitled to be official away from Castile and the Castilian vernacular areas? Is it only by sheer imposition and marginalization of other tongues? In Asturias or Aragon their vernaculars are all but gone, but in Galicia or Catalonia they still are widely spoken, even if much “polluted” with Castilian. Would it be fair to turn the tables of history and try to impose Catalan in Madrid, for exemple? So, why madrid language has to be imposed in Barcelona?

About the historical past, Xoán-Wahn, I advise you to do some history reading. Gallaecia was a Roman province, precisely based in ethnic homogeneity, and it reached down to the Douro River and East as far as Palencia. The Suevish kingdom took advantage of this homogeneity to establish itself (easier to rule in over one country than over two or more). Even though the old Galicians or Gallaecians lost their language to a Latin vernacular, the fact that they came to speak one and distinct language, Galician (with clear pre-roman elements still on it, to this day), illustrate their homogeneity. Then follows the medieval kingdoms, and to this day we still have the national claims. We don’t have Compostella’s national claims, nor Arbos ... just Galicia / Galiza. But in history there are losers and winners, and we know who write history ...

So a deeper reading of history, especially if away from Spanish historiography, accounts for a legitimate claim for Galician nationhood, and as legitimate as the Spanish one. Or perhaps more, as the latter admits to the existence of historical nations within the very Spanish Nation ... how can you explain that?

Regards,

Jose

Anonymous said...

Colin,

someone that prides himself as a Galicianist should know better as to being so blatantly ignorant of the history and culture of the country he lives in. I can’t believe you still bring that Arbo theme up. But perhaps it has an explanation: equalling Galician nationalist claims to any other possible localist claim, to demean their legitimacy. I wonder what real idea you have of the country, and whether talking to a few people of the same environment and social extract is giving you the wrong idea about Galicia / Galiza. You say you are not Spanish nationalist, but by denying the Galician nationhood you are being more nationalist than them: even the Spanish constitution recognises the Galician nationality. But not you. Who are a Galicianist.

I’m sorry Colin, but I’m starting to think that your Galician “friend” had a more than fair axe to grind with you. You are lucky that most “cades” can’t read English ...

Kind regards,

José

Colin said...

Jose,

I'm not trying to equate the Arbo hypothetical case with Galicia. And nor am I trying to deny CLAIMS to Galician nationhood. I wonder whether you understand my point at all.

As for the Spanish Constitution saying Galicia is a nation, my understanding is that it doesn't and that using the word 'nationality' is/was a fudge to avoid exactly this. Whay do you think they are having all that fuss in Catalunia now about the new Estatut including the word 'nation'.

Time to stop. We've all made our points. But I'm perfectly happy for you and X-W to continue here, if you want. Or you can transfer to his blog, if you prefer. I will let you know if there's a clamour from the readers that you both return.

Meanwhile, I recommend that you ponder the fact that the world is not black and white and everything isn't a zero-sum game. There are as many shades of grey as there are opinions.

As I say, I wish you luck with your democratic campaign to achieve Galician Nationhood. But not the Vigo guys with the bombs, of course. They do your cause even more harm than Cade.

Anonymous said...

Colin,

you obviously have not read the Spanish Constitution, how can you expect to be taken seriously? Just google it. Then you say that you are not “trying to deny CLAIMS to Galician nationhood” ... when that denial is what precisely started the debate ... so, what are you playing at? This is not about what colour things are, but about proving your claims, which, so far, you have failed to, and now you are “pulling out” of this debate that you initiated by stating something that you can’t prove ...

By the way, I’m not involved in any campaign for Galician nationhood, nor I have said that there exists a Galician nation. I am only trying to prove the fallacy of your “nationhood” criteria and your Spanish nationalistic ideology. Someone who calls himself a “Galicianist” and who is the administrator of an Anglo-Galician club should be less ideologically pro-Spanish nationalism, don’t you think?

Kind regards,

José

Xoán-Wahn said...

Hmm, you bring up some very good points José and have inspired me to do a lot more reading on the subject. I've actually been planning to do some reading on Galician and Spanish history as historical fiction is my favourite genre and it's about time I get more into historical fact!

My understanding (and I could definitely be wrong) is that Gallaecia was indeed a separate Roman province but not until very late in Hispania's Roman history and that the Gallaeci were themselves just one of many tribes that inhabited the area (others included the Lucenses and Braccarenses, which may or may not have considered themselves equal to the Gallaeci). Gallaecia was also in fact quite large and included what is now Asturias, the home of the Astures which is also just a general name given to a vast number of different tribes (Lugones, Orniacos, Vincianos, etc). I'm not sure they would have considered themselves homogeneous especially since they worshipped different gods and probably spoke related but differing dialects of "Celtic".

It's kind of like saying the Welsh are a separate nation because they are a homogeneous people completely different from the English and have their own language. Well, yes and no! The Welsh are a homogeneous people but they are not separate from the English as the inhabitants of Great Britain are mostly descended from the original inhabitants of the Island and both Celtic and Anglo-Saxon invasion brought cultural but not genetic change! Furthermore, the Welsh language and Welsh culture are relatively recent as they are the result of the union of various Celtic tribes in Wales after the arrival of the Romans/Saxons and did not always exist!

We must consider the possibility that what we call Galicia/Galiza was formed neither before nor despite the various conquests and impositions but perhaps during and because of them. In a twisted sense, Galicia could owe its culture to the history that a lot of Galician nationalists consider negative. But I will definitely do some reading on the subject.

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