This was started as a comment in dj/rupture's blog and I wanted to say a bunch more but didn't want to steal more space, so I came back home to think about it, maybe add an mpfree or two for texture.
The cultural nationalism in Catalunya is the cultural nationalism that exists everywhere else in Spain, and I'd wager, in most dead Western empires. As the civil war demonstrated, and as the struggles after la transicion have confirmed, there is still a large traditionalist influence in Spain that refuses to be ignored, especially as the groups that challenge the country's traditions realize that the changes that must be made are more overarching than thought previously.
"I think about -- and vocally criticize -- everywhere I have lived, New York, Boston, Madrid, Barcelona. Talking about the weaknesses of the cities we love is the only way to make them stronger, right? the typical US govt policy is to announce that everything is fine & ignore the subtle truths masking deep inequality.
I believe that activists for social justice are the true patriots," says Jace, and I agree.
This translates to truth for a lot of things we love, though, including our families. My aunt (legal, not blood) is Carmen Calvo, Spain's ministra de cultura, Zapatero's cabinet member at the head of the branch of government currently in charge of this supposed recontextualization of the various forms of nationalism in Spain. I must say that I've not interacted with her too profoundly, but she's from a small town called Cabra, in Cordoba, that I've had the chance to grow up in. It's a laid-back and rather bourgeois (Franco-friendly when it wanted to be) town in which folks typically think that what their town has produced is the best in Spain, from olive oil (me family's brand) to fruit (the old guy by the paseo's) to literature (Juan Valera's). Quality is to be parenthetically possessed there, and they argue with the town of Lucena, 9 km away, over who's REALLY at the very center of Andalucia, and (outrageously, but this is true) the world. And in a lot of ways, this is the attitude that's been brought to the ministry of culture.
What we should ask ourselves is what this signals. On one level, it can be understood as a subversive attack on the effects of nationalism (have folks getting into visceral discussions about pictures, sounds, and letters, instead of visceral conflict over rights and liberties), and on another it can be understood as a way of fomenting the "patriotism" perceived to be so necessary in what Sam Huntington would probably describe as a civilizational fault line.
This sedentary nationalism in Spain is rising in the four most autonomous regions of the country (even via 151 wannabes like Andalucia), and it is being aided by the government because it can play into Spain's new infatuation with theoretically non-violent means of securing itself (and the EU) against terrorism.
Because one thing that we are either forgetting to mention or are simply ignorant of is this: in Spain, art actually does matter, and it is a venue for change, not just in theory, and in practice, but perhaps most importantly, rhetorically. It is not written off by everyday Jose Maris as nebulous banter because it is an economic catalyst in their tourism economy and, as Velazquez demonstrates, the most tantalizing, nearly immortal reminder of the seven deadly perks of an empire.
But enough pessimistic, underdeveloped observations! Those make us feel sad, betrayed, cynical, hurt, misled, helpless, victimized. If we take these feelings and channel them into something constructive, who knows what could happen? We could build a chunk of a better world that's our own, we'd be happy with ourselves and our lives, we'd smile after finishing off a plate of seafood, rice, bread, asparagus, and a bottle of wine before nibbling on biscotti and sipping on some vi ranci (sailor's, or rancid, wine) for dessert. And we'd be listening to music that masks its purportedly progressive subject matter in wistful nostalgia for a time and place that never existed.
These songs come from the compilation Aquelles Cançons de la Canço, which was released to compliment the television series by the same name on TV3 (Catalunya's Catalan-only television station). The series is about Catalan singer-songwriters in the time of Franco, a time when simply singing in Catalan was a revolutionary act (the most famous of the Catalan singer-songwriters, Joan Manuel Serrat, aired the drama out in public through the supercheeeeeezy Eurovision Song Contest). The style of music in these songs is nearly uniform: it often sounds as if the only folks these people have been listening to are each other other and Charles Aznavour, and there's something about these songs (the self-confident delivery, the attention to structure, the quietly righteous indignation) that betrays a bourgeois sensibility that is seemingly inherent in Catalan culture, but was also intrinsic to the success and reach of this music at its time.
Who knows what they're trying to do with this music now, as these songs are recontextualized in the process of Spain's nostalgic national art push?
As a (half)Catalan who enjoys (some of) this music, I guess anything else I can tell you about how these particular songs can tell us about overt, sedentary, or latent nationalism can be gleaned from my gut reaction to it. I love the way the Catalan accent transforms the vocal part into something b0lder in its intrinsic escapism (one doesn't have to agree with something to love it). The arrangements are typically simple and dreamy, the singers wear their hearts near their sleeves, similarly to Jace's description of flamenco singers, but you can hear a conscious restraint or distance on their part to make their sonically-conveyed emotions less grating to the listener as issues of class and morality are addressed lyrically. In a lot of ways, this is the sound of a revolution made palatable at a time when that seemed like the only way to do it. And it reminds me of my dad, who's a pretty cool guy.
Maria del Mar Bonet - Merce
Maria Albero - Classe Mitjana
The post that led to this elicited a few very long comments. And of course, the two longest comments were written by Spanish-ish folk (me and Xoxote). Personally, I think this cultural nationalism thing gets too defensive a reaction in general from Spanish-ish folk (xoxo writes in Spanish, so most of you can't tell, but he gets pretty pissed and takes little cheap shots where he can at dj/rupture). Everyone in Catalunya has their own nuanced take on it, which is actually quite different from how it was just five or six years ago. For example, it definitely wasn't a high school identity thing then with the kids, as it is now. But the little jaded kids are performing their structural functions, and it's slowly becoming cliche to be sooo into the whole *nationalist* thing now...it's sooooo fun to watch, read, participate in society's barfing all over itself after too many drinks.