sábado, 28 de abril de 2012

Sant Jordi

There comes a day in Catalonia when all the streets are full of roses and books, and you can’t help but join the common madness. Sant Jordi – Saint George’s – is one of the most important holidays in the region, even though it’s a labour day (unless you study at Pompeu Fabra who chose Jordi for its patron and so the classes are cancelled). It’s celebrated on the 23rd of April and it is compared to the tradition of St Valentine’s. ‘As if one Valentine’s Day wasn’t torturous enough’, was my first thought when I heard about Sant Jordi.
Turned out, the Catalan celebration is not at all a lovey-dovey-sickishly-lovely-full-of-red-hearts day to show how much you adore your loved one – this one day in a year. It’s a days of books and roses, traditionally women would give books to men and get a rose from them. Nowadays the tendency is a book AND a rose for girls and a book for guys. Improvement, if you ask me! And it’s not an exclusively couples exchange – you get books and roses from friends or even relatives.
Why rose? There’s a legend about a dragon pestering Montblanc in medieval times. It would eat all the animals and so people had to sacrifice themselves to keep the beast away. One day when they were drawing lots it was the princess’ turn to be eaten. In the last moment a knight on a white horse saved her and killed the dragon. In the paddle of the animal’s blood there grew a rosal. Jordi – the knight – gave one of the flowers to the princess. Kinda cute, right?
And why a book?  In the 20th century some book seller decided to commemorate deaths of Shakespeare and Cervantes (both died on the 23rd of April 1616) so he came up with a Book’s Day.
Sant Jordi in Barcelona is quite impressive; there are books and roses stalls behind every corner, lots of people on the streets and the atmosphere is cheerful. The best spot is La Rambla. The prices of books might scare you off – they do have some second-hand ones too though – but it’s so vivid there it’s worth it to pop by just for a moment.

jueves, 5 de abril de 2012

The foreign identity

My perpetual research on Catalan identity made me think about my own position in the Catalan society and my conclusion is: I am not a part of it. I live here but I don’t live Catalonia. Firstly, and obviously, I am a foreigner. And it’s not just blue eyes, weird accent and wearing shorts in February. Being ‘Erasmus’ I don’t have much contact with the locals so I haven’t really immersed in the culture and the local lifestyle. I haven’t even changed my eating habits – I still have dinner the ‘English time’ - unless I go out. What comes next is something that for me, as a language student, is crucial – Catalan. I have never learnt it simply because I don’t want to confuse my brain any more – it’s enough hassle with Spanish and Italian, but also because I know I’m here just for a little while.
And I know it because, although I am aware that I’m very lucky to be living here for a year and I do think Barcelona is one of the most amazing cities in the world – I cannot quite imagine myself living here permanently. It’s not that there is something in particular that makes me wanna leave, it’s rather lack of things take make me wanna stay here. Still, being an alien here made me realise where I actually belong – at least at the moment – and this makes Barcelona special for me too.
The last element that constitutes my foreign identity is the Catalan legacy. It’s something you’re exposed to from the very beginning and is transmitted through the language, the traditions, the food, the mentality. I have noticed the same trait in – if not every, at least the most of – Catalans I have met and it’s this rich heritage, the local identity and pride. I can be aware of it, understand it and admire it but I will never be a part of it. And that’s what really makes me a foreigner here.