Sunday, 22 February 2009

ENG: The Vilanova Dances

When it gets dark on Carnival Sunday, those who have taken part in the comparses have a long day of walking, dancing, drinking and eating behind. Still, many of them turn up at the Plaça de les Cols to practise the so called Vilanova Dances (danses de Vilanova). These are performed in groups of three peole – one man and two women - and on this day the music is played by a live coble.

- - -
Technorati tags: Carnival, Catalonia, Festa, Garraf, Penedès, Vilanova

ENG: The Candy War of Vilanova i la Geltrú

Before each candy war (guerra de caramels), the first to enter the Plaça de la Vila are the flag bearers of each comparsa. Only after having given them a chance to show their skills with the flags, do the organizers put on la Turuta – an old military march which has become the signature tune of the Carnaval de Vilanova – and the rest of the comparsers come dancing in, arm in arm.

All of a sudden the speaker cries “La plaça és vostra” (“The square is yours”) and that marks the start of the candy war. Since there are many comparses they have to take turns fighting each other - this year there 85 comparses split into six sessions; two for children and four for adults. Most comparsers are quite friendly and throw the candy up in the air rather than aiming at other people, but there is always the odd fight which becomes a bit too agressive.

When the last candy war finishes around 3 p.m., the streets of Vilanova rapidly become totally empty. The comparses head off for restaurants (reservations in advance is a must on this day) and leave behind a town drenched in a sweet smell of 80 tons of candy. No wonder your shoes stick to the pavement during many days after this event.

- - -
Technorati tags:
Carnival, Catalonia, Festa, Garraf, Penedès, Vilanova

- - -
Media links: LaVanguardia on the diumenge de les comparses 2009.

ENG: The Comparsa Sunday of Vilanova i la Geltrú

On the Sunday, the carnival associations of Vilanova take to the streets. Already at nine o´clock in the morning do these so called comparses start to parade in big loops through the town centre. Each of them is being lead by its flag bearer (banderer) - the ribbons on the flags reveal how many times before a certain comparsa has taken part in the candy war (guerra de caramels) - and each of them has its own orchestra. Although the carnival week is a time when everything is supposed to be acceptable (“Per Carnaval, tot s’hi val!”), the comparsers have a strict dress code. They must look uniform and be easily distinguishable from the other teams. Women are expected to have an embroidered silk shawl (manton) over their shoulders and all men ought to wear a typically Catalan beret (barretina).

The comparsers dance around arm in arm in couples to la Turuta or other carnival tunes but also make several stops at bars for drinks and snacks before, somewhen after noon, it is time for them to head for the Plaça de la Vila and the candy war (guerra de caramels). However, since the very beginning of the day have they been throwing loads of candy up in the air or to the many spectators who line the streets. Apparently, that tradition comes from the so called “Indians” – Catalans who became rich at sugar plantations in Cuba during the 19th century and then moved back here again. To show their wealth, these used to throw almonds and small coins to the poorer inhabitants of the town.

They say that our carnival is based on participation, but on the diumenge de les comparses also people from the rest of Catalonia come here watch, have fun and try to catch as much candy as possible. When the weather is good - like this year - there are as many as 300.000 people in Vilanova on this day. Havin said that, from my own experience can I say that the atmosphere is unique even if it happens to rain a bit - the vilanovins simply love the comparses. Of the town’s 60.000 inhabitants, around 15.000 take part any given year.

- - -
Technorati tags: Carnival, Catalonia, Festa, Garraf, Penedès, Vilanova

- - -

Media links: LaVanguardia on the diumenge de les comparses 2009.

ENG: Who or What is the Moixó Foguer

The Moixó Foguer is a fantasy creature which originally comes from Valls. In the early evening on Carnival Saturday, his followers (all dressed in white night gowns) take him around Vilanova i la Geltrú in a small procession. Every once in a while they stop and the Moixó Foguer jumps up from his box and spreads feathers in the air.

- - -
Technorati tags: Carnival, Catalonia, Festa, Garraf, Penedès, Vilanova

ENG: ‘El Caramel’ Invites the Children to Sing and Dance

Carnival Saturday is reserved for the children of Vilanova. The funny character ‘Caramel’ invites them to sing and dance in the Plaça del Mercat. After that he jumps up in his ‘bicimòbil’, a fantasy vehicle, and leads everyone in a parade through the town centre.

- - -
Technorati tags: Carnival, Catalonia, Festa, Garraf, Penedès, Vilanova

Saturday, 21 February 2009

ENG: What is the Ball de Malcasats?

In Vilanova, the ball de malcasats is performed by the Agrupació de Balls Populars (the local folk dance association), but is it really a dance? Most of the time it is above all a satiric performance.

- - -
Technorati tags: Carnival, Catalonia, Festa Major, Garraf, Penedès, Vilanova

ENG: Has Anyone Missed that the Carnival King is Here?

El rei Carnestoltes (the Carnival King) wants to be seen. In the morning of Carnival Saturday, he and his concubines plus the flag bearers of the comparses do their best to cover the whole centre of Vilanova - all squares and all markets - to make sure that nobody has missed that he has arrived.

ENG: "l'Arrivo" - When the Carnival King Arrives in Vilanova

"L'Arrivo" (in Vilanova consequently spelled with a 'v' instead of a 'b') is the Friday carnival parade in honour of its king - el rei Carnestoltes. As of the local tradition, the focus in on satire, rather than on colours, feathers and samba.

- - -
Find photos from l'Arrivo 2009 here.

- - -
Technorati tags: Carnival, Catalonia, Festa, Garraf, Penedès, Vilanova

ENG: Carnival at the Schools of Vilanova

The week leading up to the Carnival are busy days for all parents of Vilanova. Every morning, before taking our children to school, do we have to prepare them for the theme of the day; be it simple things like putting on non-matching socks and painting their face white as a meringue or more advanced ones like dressing them as comparsers or in fancy dresses.

Since shools are closed on Carnvial Monday and Tuesday, activities reach their peak on the Friday. Then all schools here parade through the town and organize their own welcome ceremonies for el rei Carnestoltes, with music and dancing. And this 'indoctrination' into Vilanova culture starts early. Even our three-year-old was taken out for a small parade with the other children of his kindergarten. They were dressed in pineapple suits. What a pity I could not stay to take photos.

- - -

Technorati tags: Carnival, Catalonia, Festa, Garraf, Penedès, Vilanova

Friday, 20 February 2009

ENG: The Meringue War of Vilanova

Dijous gras (litterally fat Thursday) of the Carnival week can be dangerous here in Vilanova. During the merengada (the meringue war) you enter the town centre at your own risk, however, to get sticky meringue paste on your clothes is quite harmless compared to being hit by a boiled egg. Fortunately enough, during the last years there have been few incidents.

Like most other parents with small children I decided to be brave and enter the war zone. As stupid as it might sound, I felt really smart coming close to the meringue throwing children without getting too many stains on my clothes. Sadly enough I was the only one of our family group who enjoyed the merengada. The three-year-old was so horrified that he preferred sitting in his push chair to being in my arms, but also the five-year-old was very hesitant although he met some of his best school mates with meringue covered faces.

In a few years that will change and I can already picture how my sons will run away from me and join the happy crowd. And I will just have to make sure that their clothes are well covered. That is worth mentioning, by the way: the merengada is colourful - thanks to all raincoats.

- - -
Technorati tags: Carnival, Catalonia, Festa, Garraf, Penedès, Vilanova

Thursday, 19 February 2009

ENG: The Carnival of Vilanova – What Makes It Unique?

The carnival celebrations in Vilanova i la Geltrú can be traced back at least some 300 years and the tradition is as strong as ever. Since most activities are local in their character and lack Brazilian influences, Vilanova’s carnaval is the only one taken up on the Generalitat’s list of traditional festivities of national (i.e. Catalan) interest.

If we look back a hundred years, we will find out that carnival dinners and dances were typically organized by different societies and reserved for their members. Some of these were social and cultural associations which exist still today – eg. the Foment Vilanoví and El Coro (nowadays l’Unió Vilanovina) while others were related to the trades – eg. the confraria dels pescadors (the fishermen’s brotherhood).

Now that is exactly how the carnaval de Vilanova is built up still today. The number of carnival societies has multiplied as the town has grown – to the historical ones we can add those of sports clubs and others which only exist for the sake of the carnival – but the parties which they organize are private.

Historically, these carnival societies used to take part in public activities every day of the carnival week but the peak has always been on the Sunday. To the 300.000 people who come here to watch on this day, this is the guerra de caramels (the candy war), but in its core it is a competition between the comparses of the carnival societies in making themselves seen and heard and, above all, having the most fun.

I have learnt that the tradition to throw candy on the spectators comes from the people who returned to the coastal towns of Catalonia after having made it rich at sugar plantations in Cuba. On the diumenge de les comparses these so called indians would show off their wealth by throwing almonds and small coins to the poorer people who looked at them while they partied in the streets.

During the Spanish Civil War, Vilanova stopped celebrating the carnival and to take up the tradition afterwards became a challenge. The carnival had always been known for its satiric and erotic streaks, neither of which was particularly appreciated by Franco - especially not if people were allowed to hide behind masks. Since Spain was a dictatorship, the easy solution was to forbid the phenomenon, which also happened from 1937 until 1956. However, in Vilanova, where the carnival benefited from having its roots in private societies, to offend against the ban became a symbol in vindication of a Catalan identity; ‘el carnaval del poble’.

Like other Catalan towns, Vilanova changed the official name to “fiesta mayor del invierno”, but here the dates of the festivities always coincided with the last week before Lent. By 1954, the Foment Vilanoví recuperated the comparses on the Sunday and step by step did people become braver in using the carnival as an excuse for expressing their minds. However, an article about the carnival in the Diari de Vilanova from 1975 – published only nine months before Franco’s death – reveals that the police continued to monitor all celebrations in public places but that, that time, they did not intervene since the satiric comments had stayed within “reasonable limits”.

One year later, a new era began in Spain and since then Vilanova has revived the old festive ingredients like the arrival of the Carnival King (l‘arrivo del rei Carnestoltes) the Vilanova dances and the funeral of a sardine (l’enterro).

Que surts a la comparsa?” ("Are you in any comparsa?", in a free translation) is a question which I have received quite a few times during the last week. Coming Sunday, as many as 6.000 couples will dance to the march la Turuta and other tunes as they prepare themselves for the guerres de caramels, so when I answer that my wife still do not, our friends are surprised. Our excuse is simple - we prefer to enjoy this day together with our children rather than to leave them with a baby sitter. But who knows, by next year our youngest one might be old enough to cope with a long day of partying. After all, to fully enjoy the carnival of Vilanova you must not watch, but participate.

- - -
The sources of this entry are articles from Vilanova Digital by Joan Ingasi Gómez i Barrera, Miguel Ángel Gonzales Alaya and Eulalia Sòria, the official Carnaval de Vilanova web-page and

- - -
Technorati tags: Carnival, Catalonia, Festa, Garraf, Penedès, Spain, Vilanova

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

ENG: The Carnival of Vilanova - Day By Day

The full carnival program of Vilanova i la Geltrú is available in Catalan. If you know Spanish or French and let the descriptions in the entry below serve as a glossary to some quite local names and expressions, you will not have any problems to understand it. Officially, the Carnival of Vilanova i la Geltrú lasts from the 7th to the 28th of February, but here I will focus on the week usually considered to be the proper carnaval.

For moon crazy (llunàtic) Vilanova we have to start by making an exception. The Saturday before the Carnival is by tradition dedicated to the Ball de Mantons. This evening people dress up - all women in characteristic embroidered silk shawls - and go out and dance with the other members of their carnival societies respectively.

Dijous Gras (N.B: not mardi gras or Fat Tuesday) on carnival Thursday is when the festivities really take off. In the afternoon, pastry baker Blanch (Av. Francesc Macià, 43) throws out a huge meringue and that is the starting point of the merengada, a meringue war, at the Plaça del Mercat. In the evening, families gather for a traditional meal of xató for starters, and four kinds of truita (omelettes based on botifarra (a kind of sausage), artichoke, potatoes and aubergine) for mains and coca de lladrons or meringue for dessert.

Carnival Friday marks the arrival of the carnival king – l’arrivo del rei Carnestoltes. In the early evening, he and his concubines lead a parade through the town. The final stop is the Plaça de la Vila where the king reads a satirical sermon about what has happened in the town during the last year.

In the morning of Carnival Saturday, the carnival king and his followers pays visits to the markets and the Rambla of Vilanova. During the day there are several performances of the ball de malcasats – the local version of a Catalan folkdance based on satiric acting. In the late afternoon Caramel – a funny figure driving around in his bicimobil - arrives in town and invites all children to dance and sing. Some hours later the Moixó Foguer leads a procession of sleep walkers (people dressed in white night gowns). The Moixó Foguer himself is – believe it or not – a naked man, soaked in honey and covered with feathers. The night, in the end, is called the Nit de Mascarots and some of the carnival societies organize private masquerade parties, but a few walk around and dance in the streets of the town.

On Carnival Sunday, as early as nine a’clock in the morning, the Comparses start to parade through the town accompanied by their own loud orchestras. In front of walks a flag bearer, followed by the members - who come in couples - dressed in a way distinctive from the other comparses. While they dance through the streets they throw candy to all spectators. The epicentre of the activities is the Plaça de la Vila, where the comparses take turns in fighting each other in candy wars (guerra de caramels) which can be very fierce and leave the whole town with a strong, sweat smell.

Carnival Monday is reserved for the Vidalet – when three children's parades unite at the Plaça de la Vila where there is a show with music and dancing. In the early evening, choirs sing carnival related songs all around the town centre.

Carnival Tuesday is named after the Vidalot who historically were some unusually rowdy carnival participants who with feather dusters and carpet beaters in their hands threatened anyone who did not wear a masque. Nowadays, this is the day when competitions are being held in presenting the best masquerade costume, on the one hand, and writing the best erotic short story, on the other. New for this year is a parade to honour the old cannon of the Victor Balaguer Museum, since our neighbour town Sitges claims that it is theirs.

The carnival ends on Ash Wednesday (Dimecres de cendra) when the remains of the carnival king is paraded through the town in a sad and solemn procession, ending at the Plaça de la Vila. There, sardines are being served as a reminder that the carnival is over and the forty days of Lent (quaresma) - leading up to Easter - have started.

- - -
Those of you who do not plan to come here will be able to follow the main events of the Carnaval de Vilanova here on this blog, get more details in Joan Ignasi Gómez’ blog in Catalan and watch reports by local TV channel Canal Blau.

- - -
Technorati tags: Carnival, Catalonia, Festa, Garraf, Penedès, Vilanova

Monday, 16 February 2009

ENG: Warming Up the Children for the Carnival

The Carnaval de Vilanova is what will dominate the social and public life of this town during the next two weeks. Yesterday when our sons tried their fancy pirate dresses for the first time, both of them were totally excited. Today, however, the little one refused to put it on. The preparations which they made in kindergarten last week - putting on odd socks one day and painting the nose red the day after - do not seem to have brought him into a carnival mood.

But this evening, when we came to the first children's carnival of 2009 at the so called envelat, both children were highly content. The five-year-old was dancing around with one of his class mates, while his younger brother spent almost an hour sitting on a chair, eating a huge magdalena. Things certainly could have been worse.

- - -
Technorati tags: Carnival, Festa, Penedès, Vilanova

ENG: Vilanova Versus Sitges - This Time in a Music Challenge

The carnival of Vilanova i la Geltrú is here and since we compete with Sitges in hosting the best carnival, what better way can there be to start the festivities than to challenge them in music - the Competències Musicals?

The weather today served as a reminder that the carnaval, after all, is a winter event. Still quite a lot of people turned up to hear the Vilanova's music school Mestre Montserrat play from one side of the Plaça de les cols and Suburband from Sitges from the other.

- - -
Technorati tags: Carnival, Festa, Garraf, Penedès, Sitges, Vilanova

Sunday, 15 February 2009

ENG: The Penedesfera and a Lot of Good Wine

Yesterday, Saturday February 14, we were about fifteen bloggers who met in the beautiful L’Hostal del Castell de Gimenelles, not far from where the Alt Penedès borders with Baix Penedès and Garraf, respectively. These three comarques, together with parts of Anoia, make up what historically and culturally is known as the Penedès region, which is why our blogger community is called the Penedesfera.

The agenda for the day was to outline the content of the coming jornades de la Penedesfera, a formal and physical blogger meeting, similar to the one which we held in Gelida in June 2008. After a vivid discussion I believe that we agreed that there would be four distinctive blocs in the program:

• a general point on how blogging interacts with twitter, MySpace and social networks like Facebook.
• a presentation by wine cellars who are in the forefront of Internet based marketing
• young, local music groups who use MySpace etc to spread their songs
• a round table discussion between free, digital news services

The consensus of the meeting was to keep the format as open as possible – to discuss global phenomena with examples from the Penedès, rathen than to have a regional focus. I will, of course, accept this majority decision, but would have preferred for the Penedefera to play a more active role in reinforcing the concept of the Penedès. If we do not do this, who does?

Today this region is made up by one comarca – l’Alt Penedès – where a united "Gran Penedès" region is considered the most natural thing in the world, and at least two – the Baix Penedès and Garraf – where the majority of people simply could not care less.

I cannot help seeing it as typical that I – a foreigner – was the only blogger from Vilanova i la Geltrú took part in the Penedesfera meeting while, almost simultaneously but in the Diari de Vilanova, our young, local political commentator Nacho Corredor, questioned any project which connects our town “with the countryside rather than with the city (i.e. Barcelona)”

For young vilanovins it is natural to turn the back on the Penedès and see Barcelona as the stepping stone into the big world. For me it is the other way around; I come from the outside and thanks to the popular culture of this region do I today have much stronger roots in Catalonia than anyone of my expat friends in Barcelona. However, the Penedès which I have learnt to love – the hilly landscape which meets the sea, the world’s best castellers, falcons and xató and the vineyards – will continue to exist whether or not it formally becomes united in an administrative unit (vegueria). Maybe I should care less and just lean back and observe - preferably with a glass of chilled cava in my hand.

- - -
A big hand to Josep Guillén Viñas who organized yesterday’s meeting and to the wineries Cava Berdié, Jané Ventura and Mil∙lari for the rich sampling of their produce. By the way, I did not want to be less generous, so I did my best to hand out RFSU condoms labeled in Catalan.

- - -
Here are the Penedesfera blogs which were represented yesterday: Daniel García Peris - bloc, El bloc d’Enric Giner, GuillemCarol.CAT, Lo meu raconeT,, Per poder compartir visions, Pilarvi, Sergi Sabaté,, Vegueria Prò, Viniesfera and Wirdheim in Vilanova, of course.

- - -
Technorati tags: Barcelona, Expat, Garraf, Penedès, Penedesfera, Vilanova, Wirdheim

Friday, 13 February 2009

ENG: On “La plaça del Diamant” by a Student of Catalan

Now 70 years ago, when Franco’s troops invaded Catalonia, many people decided to go into exile. Among them was Mercè Rodoreda who later wrote La plaça del Diamant (published in English as “The Time of the Doves”) – generally considered one of the best books about the changing fortunes of a human being before, during and after the Spanish Civil War.

La plaça del Diamant takes place in Barcelona, where young Natàlia lets other people steer her life. At a dance she meets Quimet and already before she has fallen in love with him, has he persuaded her to break up with her fiancé and to marry him instead. Natàlia accepts that Quimet decides to call her Colometa, instead of using her real name, and that he turns their apartment into a pigeon shed, although she is not at all found of the birds and although he never seems to be able to make any money from selling what they breed.

The story is told in the form a long monologue, with the advantage that we can always follow Natàlia’s reactions to what happens and is being said around her. However, at least for non-native speakers, Rodoreda’s long sentences - often broken up with several sub-clauses and inserted quotations – can be quite a challenge. In the passage below Natàlia’s mother-in-law comes to look at the doves, which her son and grand son have been talking so much about:

“La mare d’en Quimet, que la veia molt poc perquè s’anava fent vella de pressa i venir a veure’ns era un viatge massa llarg i jo no tenia temps d’anar-la a veure els diumenges, un dia es va presentar perquè va dir que volia veure els coloms, que en Quimet i els nens quan l’anaven a veure, no pas massa sovint va dir queixant-se, només li parlaven dels coloms i que aviat es farien rics i el nen li deia que els coloms el seguien i que ell i la Rita els parlaven com si fossin els seus germanets.”

I must admit that I did not feel comfortable with this style at the beginning of the book and only when the plot captured me did I finally start to appreciate it. At least for non-Spanish students of Catalan do I recommend that you wait with this book until you have passed the Generalitat’s B-level exam. This is far from easy reading.

Having said that, this is a touching story taking place in a war which still haunts Spanish society, so anyone interested in Catalonia or Spain should pick up one of the many translations available. Rarely have I come so close to understanding when a parent can in fact kill his or her own children as when I read the chapters where Natàlia - on the brink of starvation - contemplates doing so. And, so typical for her, it is not her own actions or decisions, but a mere coincidence which stops her from proceeding with her plans.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

ENG: The Xató Comes from Vilanova

Today, Sunday February 8, it felt as if the whole town had decided to enjoy the sunny but far from warm weather and celebrate the fact that the pan-penedesenc sallad called xató has its origin here. Well, we have at least some historic records to fall back on in case you want to question this statement, and that is more than can be said for some of the other contestants.

And, yes, I bought a portion this year as well although - as a Swede - I am just too aware of how overfished the cod population is. Am I turning Catalan?

- - -
Technorati tags: Catalonia, Festa, Penedès, Vilanova

ENG: Vilanova Roller Hockey Proudly Beating Sitges

The sitgetans are richer, their town is more picturesque and they attract loads of affluent tourists. We are just a lot bigger and that is about it. Or, that is at least the typical inferiority complex which some of us Vilanovins work hard to suppress.

So, no wonder we love roller hockey (hoquei sobre patins) where our team Club Patí Vilanova l’Ull Blau yesterday beat visiting Club Patí Sitges with 4 to 1. What a great local derby – all Vilanova fans could leave the home stadion at the Plaça de les Casernes content and proud. But there is a little but. Sitges’ loss underlined how frail they are in the Spanish top division, the OK lliga. They way things look now there will not be any derbies next season.

OK lliga was, by the way, a strange name to me until I reminded myself that the letter h of hoquei is mute in Catalan. Well, that h is mute in Spanish as well, but I leave that to the side since this sport is so heavily dominated teams from Catalonia: of the 16 teams in the OK Lliga, only 3 come from other autonomous communities and out of these it is only Hockey Club Liceo de la Coruña which, at least relatively recently, has managed to challenge the best teams from Reus and Barcelona for the title.

Vilanova will remain in the OK lliga next season, Sitges will not. To me that is sad. If we do not play against them, how can we ever beat them again?

- - -
Technorati tags: Barcelona, Catalonia, Penedès, Sitges, Spain, Vilanova

ENG: The Official Carnival Poster 2009 – Sitges

Would you have believed it? It turned out that also our neighbours from Sitges had selected La Sala in Vilanova as the location to present the poster of their Rio inspired carnival.

Be it a carnival with hoards of thinly dressed boys and girls or a New York exhibition to the honour of Martin Luther King - for all its fame, Sitges never stops actively selling itself.

And here in Vilanova we just to laugh about it. In fact a quite common defence mechanism among people who want to be something more, but does not have the energy to go all the way.

- - -

Technorati tags: Catalonia, Festa, Penedès, Sitges, Vilanova

ENG: The Official Carnival Poster 2009 – Vilanova

Images from a kaleidoscope – that is the motif of the official poster promoting the carnival of Vilanova i la Geltrú of 2009, made by Judith Antolín. Today, Saturday February 7, this poster was presented to the public together wih the carnival program. Possibly it had to do with the nice setting at La Sala (the local centre of contemporary art) and possibly with the selection of Pere Tàpias to be the one to invite us all to this annual festa – this year’s ceremony had a clearly professional touch to it.

Like last year, I will do my best to picture our carnival as it unfolds. The Carnaval de Vilanova is a genuinenly Catalan carnival and therefore the only one recommended by the Generalitat as a Festa Popular of national interest. The celebrations date back at least 800 years and still enjoy an unbelievably strong support from the town’s inhabitants. Having said that, while a typical Festa Major is an event where everyone is invited to party together, many carnival activities are restricted to those who have signed up with any of the many comparses.

However, the main event on carnival Sunday (February 22, this year) - when the comparses challenge each others in fierce candy wars – is truly original and very visitor and picture friendly. Visit Vilanova on this day and you will discover the spirit of the town in its finest distilled version.

- - -
Technorati tags: Catalonia, Festa, Penedès, Vilanova

Monday, 2 February 2009

ENG: Let's Build This City

Saturday January 31, I went to Casa Ramona – the beautiful headquarters of the political party CDC (Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya) here in Vilanova. In order to open up the political discussion to more people, they organised four separate debates under the slogan “Fem Ciutat, Fem País!” (‘Let’s build the city, let’s build the country’).

There were quite a few celebrities among the participants: Oriol Pujol, a top CiU member of the Catalan parliament and son of the former Catalan president Jordi Pujol, took part in “Prescriptions for how to overcome the crisis” (Receptes per superar la crisi). At the same time, Eric Bertran, a well-known Internet activist campaigning for products to be labelled in Catalan, joined the discussions on whether it is “compatible to be young and a CDC party member? (És compatible ser jove i de CDC?).

The two topics which I had short listed was if Vilanova should strive to have 100.000 inhabitants (Vilanova ha de tenir 100.000 inhabitants?) and the rather intriguing 'Does the independent republic of Vilanova have a role in Catalonia?' (la república independent de VNG compta per a Catalunya?). After some thinking, I decided for the softer, more cultural one of the two.

Not surprisingly was the title questioned from the very beginning. Apparently, there are a some die hard vilanovins who consider that people from here are different from those from the rest of Catalonia, hence the ‘independent republic’. But debate leader Neus Lloveras explained that the title was an intended provocation and it did ignite an exchange of opinions about the spirit of Vilanova between Carles Campuzano (one of my favourites among Catalan politicians), Montserrat Comas (Director of the Victor Balaguer Museum) and – when he finally arrived – Francesc Escribano (writer and journalist).

Although everybody was proud of the cultural life of our town, the conclusion of the discussion was highly self-critical: Compared with its neighbours (notably Vilafranca and Sitges), Vilanova does not create projects which unite its inhabitants, we lack perserverence (constància) and we do not have the leaders who can help us to challenge ourselves. All this is clearly a problem for the future of the town, but also for the Vegueria del Penedès; an adminstrative unit where Vilanova – by force of the size of its population - would be expected to take the lead.

As I see it, Vilanova must under no circumstances dwell on negative feelings. We have an especially benign climate, nice beaches, a relatively well-preserved historic centre and a spacious Rambla with an active commercial life. And we are ‘festa’ and the only genuinely Catalan ‘carnaval’. However, it is true that we are poor at selling ourselves (“falten comerciants”). Now, to explain to the outside world what a wonderful new home I have found for my family was in fact among the reasons to why I started this blog. It remains so still today. Visca Vilanova!

- - -
Technorati tags: Catalonia, CiU, Convergència, Festa, Penedès, Sitges, Vilanova