Monday, 26 January 2009

ENG: A Catalan Student on “Mirant al cel”

I have wanted to see the movie Mirant al cel, by Jesús Garay, for quite some time, but have not been able to find out where to do so. Therefore, I was happy to discover that the Institut d’Estudis Penedesencs were to show it here in Vilanova, as a part of their lecture series on the franquista bombardment during the Civil War.

The plot is about a old Italian expert on the Divine Comedy by Dante, who returns to Barcelona - a city where he considers that he has never been. After all, the young pilot who flew in over the city to drop bombs was not him – it was another person, in another time. And as he was so high up in the air, he never actually saw the city, let alone had to hear the screams of horror and pain by the damage he caused.

However, a Catalan journalist who is collecting eye witness reports by survivors who were in the streets of Barcelona when bombs fell over them, has decided to force him to talk about history. To her, the Italian is one of the few living witnesses of what happened, and she wants him to ask for forgiveness to her grandfather, who fought on the Republican side, defending the city.

Mirant al cel is built up as a fiction movie but incorporates a lot of archive material. I would not have wanted to see it with a lower level of Catalan than what I have today (B) and admit that I sometimes had difficulties to understand the accents, or even more the pronunciation of some of the veterans interviewed in the movie.

In Mirant al cel, the old Italian man wants to see himself and everyone else who lived those terrible moments as victims of a war. The journalist protests that he as a pilot did not lose anything, while her grandfather did not only lose his house, but also his nation and the democracy which he fought for. Today, exactly 70 years have passed since republican Barcelona surrendered to the franquistes but these two perspectives still confront each other in discussions about the memòria històrica. Is it better to forgive and move on, or investigate what actually happened?

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Technorati tags: Barcelona, Catalonia, Penedès, Spain, Wirdheim

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

ENG: The Civil War Bombings of Vilanova

Today, February 19, exactly 70 years have passed since the last bombardment Vilanova i la Geltrú suffered during the Spanish Civil War. That day, in turn, marked the end of one year of occasional raids carried out by Franco’s air force. This part of the Catalan coast never constituted a front line, so there were relatively few casualties, but the railway station as well as all major factories (among them the old Pirelli plant) were partly blown up.

With the title “Franquista Bombings in the Penedès Region”, the Institut d’Estudis Penedesencs (IEP) has organised a cycle of lectures in different towns. Tonight, the last one was held here and it centred on the new book “La Guerra Civil a Vilanova i la Geltrú (1936-1939) Aspectes Militars”, written and presented by the young historian Adrián Cabezas Sánchez, and put into a broader context of the Civil War in Catalonia by Francesc Xavier Puig Rovira.

Military aspects, above all coastal defence, is what Cabezas is writing his doctor’s thesis about and IEP President Ramon Arnabat rounded of by concluding that that is an unusual perspective. Historical research tends to focus on social aspects like politics and repression during and after this time period, but neglects to study the war as such.

“How typical”, my wife said when she learnt that I had bought the book. Now I will have to force myself through detailed descriptions of bunker technicalities. I will be able to muster some interest – I did after all do my Swedish military service as an interpreter and interrogation leader. But I do hope that, along the way, I will also learn more about the people of Vilanova. The famous social aspects.

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Penedès, Spain, Vilanova

Saturday, 17 January 2009

ENG: Vilanova i la Geltrú Honours Sant Antoni

On January 17, Vilanova honours Sant Antoni – the patron saint of animals. Some inhabitants of the town take their pets out for a walk on the Rambla (except for innumerable dogs, today we also saw one parrot and one polecat) but the big event is a the parade of horses, carriages, some donkeys and a couple of pigs. This year, this date fell on a Saturday with a fantastic weather and that, in combination, attracted so many participants that my wife and my children wanted to go home long before they had all passed by.

The 'tres tombs' parade requires a lot of organisation and it is, indeed, a big happening in itself. But is it enough for a festa major d’hivern in a town like Vilanova? My children certainly did not miss the “tres tombs de foc” - the evening parade of dancing devils and fire spitting dragons which had been removed from the program for cost saving reasons - but I did. I think that we can do better.

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Link to my 2008 post on the tres tombs.
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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Festa Major, Penedès, Tres Tombs, Vilanova, Wirdheim

Sunday, 11 January 2009

ENG: The Tres Tombs of Vilanova i la Geltrú

Next Saturday is the main day of Vilanova i la Geltrú’s festa major de l’hivern and throughout the coming week will teachers warm up the children by talking about domesticated animals. Tomorrow, our five-year-old will create a pig mask at school but already this Saturday did both our sons have the chance to make their own hobby-horses at the Orfeo Vilanoví, a classic hall belonging to the church.

The older one had decided to like the activity even before we got there and immediately recognized some of his class mates in the crowd. As so often, the younger one was harder to impress. Hesitantly did he listen to the tres tombs related fairy tale and he let me do most of the painting of his horse. But when we were served sweet buns and hot chocolate his mood rapidly changed and soon he was riding around together with his older brother. “Cavall, cavall” ("horse, horse", in Catalan) he kept cheering as we walked home.

On the day of Sant Antoni, January 17, the tres tombs will be celebrated in a number of places around Catalonia, but Vilanova is known to hold the most spectacular horse parade. It starts at noon from the church Sant Antoni Abat at the top of the Rambla.

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Link to the official tres tombs program, 2009 (in Catalan).

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Links to my entries related to the tres tombs 2008: 1, 2, 3

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Festa Major, Penedès, Tres Tombs, Vilanova, Wirdheim

Saturday, 10 January 2009

ENG: Support This Blog – Buy Condoms!

I could have picked a better time to buy a company but, at the same time, how often is the distribution of a brand which you really identify with up for sale? Now, things are as they are. I have become the proud majority owner of Puck Import, S.L. and sell condoms and lubricants by RFSU in Spain and in Andorra.

RFSU (Riksförbundet för Sexualupplysning, in Swedish) is a non-profit association, politically and religiously independent and founded in 1933 by Elise Ottosen-Jensen. It started to provide sexual education and promote the use of preservatives in an era when that was still illegal in Sweden. Since the condom quality of those days was poor, RFSU started a company with the same name (RFSU AB) to manufacture its own products. The YouTube clip “Another Saturday” shows how closely interconnected the two entities are. Profits from the company are reinvested into the NGO, which in turn is dedicating more and more resources to campaigns in developing countries.

Condoms are products which many of us use so I humbly ask all readers who like this blog to consider buying ours – in specialty stores in Barcelona, in some pharmacies or over the Internet. By doing so, you support me and my family, but above all get some of the most ethic and most tested condoms available in the market.

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Technorati tags: Barcelona, Spain, Wirdheim

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

ENG: Christmas Cribs with Catalan References

Before the season is over I have to come back to the topic of pessebres, i.e. Christmas cribs or nativity scenes, as I have learnt that they are called. Under no circumstances must be this interpreted as a sign that my efforts to integrate are turning me into a Catholic. It is just that in Protestant Sweden we do not have anything which can match these and they are so beautifully elaborated.

And there are very many of them. In Vilanova, except for the large outdoor crib which the Associació Pessebrista build on the Plaça de la Vila every year, in their premises they exhibit fifteen smaller ones. There are benches for children to stand, so when I went there with my two little sons I did not have to lift them up but they could explore everything by themselves. Neither did I have to worry about them touching the fragile cribs since they are all placed in protecting glass cases.

The figures are being recycled year after year, but the landscapes are always built from scratch. Thanks to spotlights and thought-through modelling they look very realistic. Many scenes present traditional calm settings from Betlehem or Jerusalem, but one of the artists has put the holy family in a war zone (possibly as a reminder of what is currently going on in Gaza).

There is also an interesting interaction with references from Catalonia - above all Vilanova motifs like the Castell de la Geltrú or the Plaça de les Cols, but also a huge fictive town from the Pyrenees with a typically Catalan Santa Llúcia market. Look carefully and you will see that not even the caganers have been forgotten.

The exhibition can be found at C/ Cabanyes, 17 baixos and will remain open until January 18 (Monday-Saturday: 19.00-20.30; Sundays and holidays: 12.00-14.00 plus 18.00-20.30).

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Penedès, Vilanova, Wirdheim

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

ENG: The Most Magic of Nights

Tonight is the most magic of nights, la nit més màgica, they tell us on Catalan TV3. Well, it certainly has been a very long day for our five-year-old. He has been almost as impatient as he was on Christmas Eve when he and his little brother, like all Swedish children, received most of their gifts from Santa Claus. I have managed to bring down his expectations – he knows that there will only be one present each for them when they wake up tomorrow – but that has not diminished his excitement.

Like all other families with children, today in the afternoon we went out to welcome the three wise men (els reis mags de l’Orient) to our town. Although we have lived in Vilanova i la Geltrú for four years by now, this was the first time we saw the ceremony here and with real horses, falconers and stylish carriages, I was impressed with the standards.

The three-year-old was not as happy. Used to Catalan traditions, when he heard the sound of drummers he expected that there would also be loud firecrackers and immediately started to cry. But we could not go home – then I would have had the five-year-old protesting instead. And at least he was really content afterwards. His only complaint was that he received far more candy last year in Sitges. How sensible of our ajuntament not to overdo it.

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Up-date: When reading LaVanguardia today it seems that there is a competition between towns in how much candy they hand out. If that is the case, then Vilanova plays in a low division.

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Vilanova, Wirdheim

Sunday, 4 January 2009

ENG: Back to the Blogosphere

It is only the fourth of January but my wife and I feel as if the Reis mags de l'Orient have already been here. We are back on-line by ADSL speed again. What a feeling!

Not to have high speed Internet at home has been a big brake on my motivation to blog. There certainly have been many things to write about, but without the possibility to spend time searching information - and to check my language - I have not felt comfortable to comment on them.

Now that will finally change, but I am not sure what comes next. Firstly, because I will have to spend most of my time selling condoms. Secondly, because I have re-discovered how much I like to read books.

Having said that, I have a half-finished entry on castellers which I will publish soon and I really want to come back to making summaries of how the Catalan language is being portrayed in the news. And the fact that my company is based in Castelldefels will inspire some texts - Catalonia as a whole is bilingual but although we are only a few kilometres away from each other, the linguistic situation in Baix Llobregat is amazingly different to what I am used to out here in what one day might be the vegueria Penedès.

Finally a big thanks to those of you who have kept coming back to Wirdheim in Vilanova, although I have not had much to offer. Today I have found out that some of my entries have even resulted in comments on other blogs. What a nice encouragement to get going again.

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Technorati tags: Bilingualism, Catalan, Catalonia, Vilanova, Wirdheim