Friday, 30 December 2011

Penedès Agenda January 2012

January 1
Public holiday: New Year’s Day
Read more in Spanish

January 5
Igualada (Anoia); 18:00-21:00; town centre
Three Wise Men parade: Cavalcada dels Reis Mags
The Festes dels Reis d’Igualada are one of the oldest (1895) and most spectacular three wise men parades throughout Spain.
Read more in Catalan: and

January 5
Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf); 18:30-21:00; Castell de la Geltrú, Rambla and surroundings
Three Wise Men parade: Cavalcada dels Reis Mags
Read more in Catalan
Earlier posts about this tradition: 2011 and 2009

January 5
Sitges (Garraf); from 17:30; from the school Miquel Utrillo to the town hall (ajuntament) via the town centre.
Three Wise Men parade: Cavalcada dels Reis Mags
Read more in Catalan

January 5
Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès); 18:00-21:00, plaça de la Vila and surroundings
Three Wise Men parade: Cavalcada dels Reis Mags
Read more in Catalan

January 5
El Vendrell (Baix Penedès); 18:00, town centre
Three Wise Men parade: Cavalcada dels Reis Mags
Read more in Catalan

January 5
Calafell (Baix Penedès); 18:00, Teatre Auditori Municipal and surroundings
Three Wise Men parade: Cavalcada dels Reis Mags
Read more in Catalan

January 6
Public holiday: Epiphany - The Day of the Three Wise Men
Read more in Spanish

January 7-22
Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès)
Festa Major d’Hivern: Festes de Sant Raimon
Concerts, theatre performances, sports events, open lectures etc.
Read more in Catalan

January 8
Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf); 13:00, plaça de les Casernes
Human towers (castellers): Festa Major d’Hivern
By: Bordegassos de Vilanova
Read more in Catalan

January 8
Sitges (Garraf); 18:00-19:30, Sant Bartomeu church
Concert, organ and choir: Interpretació del "Rosari Pastoril" etc.
By: Amics de l'Orgue and Francesc Pi
Read more in Catalan

January 14
Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf); 19:00-20:30, La Sala
Concert, Catalan music: Sant Antoni - Tres Tombs
By: Venus
Read more in Catalan

January 15
Sitges (Garraf)
Half maraton: XXIX Mitja Sitges
Read more in Catalan

January 15
Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf); 12:00-14:00; town centre,
Peformance parade – giants (gegants), the horse dance (cotonines) etc. - Festa Major d'Hivern
Organized by: Moixiganga de la Geltrú
Read more in Catalan

January 15
Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf); 19:00-20:30, Auditori Municipal Eduard Toldrà
Concert: Festa Major d'Hivern
By: Banda Municipal de Música Mestre Montserrat
Read more in Catalan

January 16-17
Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf)
Festa Major d’Hivern: Sant Antoni - Tres Tombs
January 16; at 12:00, plaça de Sant Antoni
Opening ceremony with 12 mortar shots and church bell ringing
January 17 (local holiday), 12:00-15:00, Rambla and surroundings
Horse parade: Tres tombs de Vilanova
Read more in Catalan: 1, 2,
Earlier posts about this tradition: 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008

January 16-30
Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès)
Gastronomy Exhibition: Mostra gastronómica de l'Alt Penedès
17 restaurants serve especially created menus perfectly paired with Penedès wines.
Read more in Catalan

January 17
Sant Pere de Ribes (Garraf): 19:30, town centre
Correfoc (Catalan devils dancing with fire): Festa Major de Sant Pau
If you also want to dance under the fire, make sure to wear old clothes and to cover your hair.
Read more in Catalan

January 22
Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès); Rambla de Sant Francesc
Food Festival: Festa del Xató
Xatonada - a festival dedicated to the typical Penedès sallad xató.
Read more in Catalan

January 22
Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf); 19:00-20:30, C/ Esglèsia, 14
Concert, Choir: Gran concert de Sant Antoni
By: Orfeó Vilanoví
Read more in Catalan

January 24-25
Sant Pere de Ribes (Garraf)
Festa Major: Festa major de Sant Pau
Sant Pere de Ribes is one of few municipalities where the main festa major is celebrated in the winter.
January 24; at 13:00, town centre
Opening ceremony with fire crackers and church bell ringing
January 24; 18:00, town centre
Performance parade, Catalan Folkdances: Cercavila dels balls populars
January 25 (local holiday), 13:00 and onwards, plaça de la Vila
Catalan folkdances, satiric verses and devil dancers: Passada dels balls populars, versos dels circolets and ball de diables
Read more in Catalan: and

January 29
Sitges (Garraf); 19:30-20:30, Palau Maricel
Concert: World Music – Japan
By: Duo Shirabe
Read more in Catalan

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This agenda is also available in German, Russian and Swedish.

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The Penedès Agenda is a collection of celebrations, cultural activities and traditions which I recommend to foreigners (expats from Barcelona, tourists in Catalonia and others) who want to explore Penedès or events which I consider important from a – highly subjective – international perspective. It is biased towards the comarca Garraf (Vilanova i la Geltrú and Sitges) but also covers Alt Penedès, Baix Penedès and Anoia.

The agenda posts are up-dated when I receive new information. To the greatest extent possible I link back to official pages for information on time and locations and cannot guarantee the accuracy of the data presented. Feel free to inform me about events which you think would fit in here, either by writing a comment or contacting me on twitter: @wirdheim

Thursday, 22 December 2011

May PP government be Christmas gift I most wished for

Since the new PP government of Spain has now been sworn in and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has announced that there will be policies to balance budgets and create a more business friendly climate, you might consider that I have already received the Christmas gift which I most have dreamt of. Partly that is true – I have never lived in a Spain governed by PP, but I am totally convinced that they will do a better job than Zapatero. However, since I live here in Vilanova i la Geltrú (Barcelona) I cannot help worrying about the negative comments some commentators are now making on the communication between the new central government and the one representing our autonomous community.

Possibly this is nothing but a media spin. As a result of the general elections, November 20, PP holds an absolute majority in the Spanish parliament so there was never any doubt whether Rajoy would be installed as Prime Minister. Given this lack of excitement, many journalist turned their focus on how the other parties positioned themselves and immediately found out that the representatives from the Basque Country did so totally differently than ours from Catalonia.

Among the Basque members of parliament, PP’s own people (3) voted yes to letting Mariano Rajoy be the person to form the new government, but 11 more (PNV and Amaiur (!)) abstained from voting, so of 18 in total, only the 4 socialists voted against him. Contrast this with the 47 Catalans, of which 36 voted no to Mariano Rajoy (CiU, PSC, ICV-EUiA and ERC) and nobody abstained, while PP’s 11 own members obviously voted yes. Is this the final proof that Basques are in fact better than Catalans in understanding how to negotiate with Madrid?

Since Catalonia is such a vital part of the Spanish economy I truly hope that Mariano Rajoy will be able to see beyond any symbolic issues. Let us be honest, last year PP voted against Artur Mas being the President de la Generalitat, and still CiU and PP have been able cooperate in many areas. True, José María Aznar could usually count on the Catalans when he was Prime Minister, but this time CiU already in the election campaign conditioned their support for any prime minister on a new fiscal model which limits the tax transfers from Catalonia to other autonomous communities. During the last days before the installation took place, they asked for a gesture which would give them a reason to abstain (be it a promise to sort out what the state owes to Catalonia in terms of the so called fondos de competividad or disposición addicional tercera del Estatuto – money already committed but not never paid by Zapatero). Rajoy decided not to enter into these discussions and CiU, consequently, voted as of their earlier messages.

As residents of Catalonia we have every reason to hope for a better colaboration between the biggest political force here and the biggest political force on the Spanish level. All our complaining about the current model for regional tax transfers will lead to nothing unless those who represent the state are prepared to listen.

PP does not need CiU during this term of office, but can still benefit from seeing the ties strengthened. Artur Mas’s commitment to fiscal austerity in Catalonia – in spite of how it reduces the popularity of his government – is, as far as I understand, still unique in Spain and therefore an example. And on the state level, Duran i Lleida’s ability to ideologically defend liberal reforms of the economy will be quite useful already in January, when it is time to sell in the planned labour market reform to the Spanish citizens, although the trade unions will say no (Who thinks they will not?).

Politics is politics, but it is time to shake hands and work together. For the sake of my company and for the sake of our family economy, this change of government is a Christmas gift which I cannot allow anyone to spoil.

By the way: Happy festive season! Bones festes! ¡Felices fiestas!

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It is a well known fact that within CiU, it was the bigger part of the federation, Artur Mas’ CDC which was not prepared to support PP without receiving anything in return, while Duran i Lleida’s UDC desired to show a bit more of flexibility. Not surprisingly, Duran i Lleida was one of the first politicians to express that the ministers of the new government had a “good profile”. Well done!

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And as always a few links:

SPA - LaVanguardia: Enric Juliana - Rajoy, presidente, con aliento vasco
SPA - LaVanguardia:
El PP amaga con rechazar los presupuestos tras el no de CiU a la investidura de RajoySPA - LaVanguardia: José Antich - Matices de una investidura
CAT - Ara: El Govern suspèn per primera vegada en una enquesta del CEO
CAT - Ara: CiU vota 'no' a la investidura de Rajoy

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Watching “el Clàssic” in my new home away from home

This Monday evening, it was not my plan to switch on 8tv and watch “Tu diràs”, but in the end I could not resist it. I guess that many of you did the same – to relive some of the moments of el Clàssic last Saturday and hear just how the commentators would phrase their praise for FC Barcelona. Now, the funny detail is that while all of my friends here in Vilanova i la Geltrú consider it perfectly normal that I felt this urge, those who know me from before – my wife is probably the best example – keep being surprised with how I have changed. The truth is that until I moved here I was as interested in football as I am in, let us say, orienteering, i.e. close to zero.

It goes without saying that the feelings I today have for Barça do not originally stem from the brilliant play which Xavi, Iniesta, Messi and the others showed us in the match against Real Madrid. Their technique is something I am only slowly starting to appreciate – it is usually much too fast for my untrained eyes. Instead it is the role football which football plays in society here which, over the time, has captured me completely.

Possibly this is unique for Catalonia where FC Barcelona, as we all know, is far more than a club, més que un club (I cannot compare with other parts of Spain), but here the match schedules set the pace for social life, not only for football fans: all other activities must adapt. In Sweden, for example, a political party would not change the time of a meeting if it happened to coincide with a football match – here it is equally unthinkable not to change it, since if you do not, people simply will not turn up.

Influenced by many friends who are Barça members and, literally, do not miss a single match, I have started to think that football is important! Nowadays I enjoy that our neighbours shoot off fireworks even after the smallest victory and I have developed a need to take part in the big celebrations, when the police conveniently redirect the traffic so that they can take place in the main street of Vilanova - our local version of Canaletes in Barcelona. And then, the day after a victory, I love watching all children who refuse to go to school in anything but their Barça t-shirts. Honestly, we have nothing of this where I come from.

On top of this, learning to understand football is a lot easier here thanks to the – for a Swede strangely intensive - panel discussions (tertulies) you find on all serious Catalan and Spanish radio and TV stations. Since they are so frequent (RAC1 - Catalonia’s most popular radio station -, has at least one daily program dominated by Barça related news) you simply cannot avoid picking up new knowledge. And the constant exposure has for sure helped me develop my Catalan in general but my football vocabulary in particular, which today is far more extensive in Catalan and Spanish than in English or even Swedish. I have, in fact, once found myself in the embarrassing situation not to be able to express such a basic concept as falta (foul) in my native language.

If living here was what made me start following FC Barcelona, taking interest in football now helps me to integrate further in Vilanova – "my town" and "my team" are closely connected. With this in mind, you might understand that I was not exactly happy to realize that my wife had booked tickets for us all to go to Switzerland during the same weekend as Barça was to play the first clàssic of the lliga 2011-12. That is until I realized that I could watch the match in a Barça fan club. So that is where I spent the magic night, Saturday, December 10 – in the Penya Blaugrana of Zürich. Thanks to my new home here, I have gained a lot of homes away from home, all around the world.

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And a few links:

SPA - LaVanguardia: Roberto Rodríguez - Cesc y Alexis Sánchez le dan la razón a Guardiola
SPA - LaVanguardia: David Ruiz Marull - Cristiano Ronaldo, el reflejo del Madrid de Mourinho
SWE - DN: Erik Ask - Tillbaka till ritbordet

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Debate or consensus when PSC elect their new leader?

Evil tongues say that the enormous losses which the Catalan socialists PSC saw in the recent elections to the Spanish parliament were predictable. The party did badly in last year’s elections to the Catalan parliament but did not react. Then in the May municipal elections, more surprisingly, they saw CiU taking over power in many places – most notably in Barcelona –, but still did not react. With this perspective, November 20 was only the latest and most embarrassing part of this disastrous trend and the question is what will happen next. In the warm-up ahead of the coming congress, December 16-18, everybody agrees that there is a need for a profound remodeling of how the party operates and its politics, the problem is to determine in which direction to go. That is, of course, especially difficult in a movement which prides itself to unite various spirits (ànimes in Catalan, almas in Spanish).

Which these spirits are can, according to senior PSC member Raimon Obiols, be exemplified by three of the people aspiring to lead the party: The most well-known of them is Miquel Iceta, spokesman of PSC in the Catalan parliament. With a background in the municipal council of Cornellà de Llobregat he is the candidate which best represents the socialists of Barcelona’s “red” suburbs (el cinturó vermell), above all the populous comarca Baix Llobregat. Here the majority of the inhabitants first and foremost feel Spanish, and only after that (if at all) identify themselves as Catalans. The opposite can be said about the two others: Àngel Ros is, in his position as Mayor of Lleida, firmly rooted in a Catalonia which does not accept being just another part of Spain but the same catalanista spirit can be found with Joan Ignasi Elena, former Mayor of our town, Vilanova i la Geltrú. The big difference between the two is that Ros wants to focus on challenging CiU by giving PSC a solidly Catalan identity combined with a general left-wing program, while Elena has set his eye on the Catalan left – ICV-EUiA and ERC – which he wants to attract over by turning PSC into an open, but more radically socialist platform.

Having said this, a forth candidate - Pere Navarro, Mayor of Terrassa, - is considered to be best connected in the current PSC leadership. And while he might not embody any of the PSC spirits in their purest form, he certainly represents a big part of Catalan reality; Terrassa belongs to the province of Barcelona without being a part of the metropolitan area, it has strong Catalan traditions but has changed due to a major influx of Spanish speakers - not the least during the Franco era – but, above all, it is a typical former industrial town struggling to find its place in the modern economy.

Interestingly, all candidates have expressed their desire for a fruitful debate, but at the same time most of them want to see themselves as the leading personality of a united candidacy. The excitement decreases further since it seems clear that Pere Navarro will win in the end –he has the support of PSC Barcelona and estimations indicate that 70% of the delegates hold him as their favourite.

Iceta can be expected to be the first to throw in the towel and join him – the formal excuse could be that Iceta realizes that he is not perceived as a new face (How could he ever be for anyone who has watched the news on TV3 during the last few years?), while I assume that the real reason can be found in an existing (but changeable…) party rule which says that any non-elected candidate is barred from subsequently joining the core team of the winner.

But where does this leave Ros and Elena? Well, as I understand it, the case of Ros is that he will use the congress to build his profile within the party with a view to the primary elections for President de la Generalitat, to be celebrated at a later stage. Elena, on the other hand, is somehow expected to fight until the end, well aware of the consequences, and then accept the role as a left wing conscience within the organization.

In the end, I cannot help wondering if we will see an intense debate on this congress, since all delegates on beforehand know that one candidate has the right answers on hand, and that these answers are, more or less, a continuation of the ideas defended by the outgoing leadership. But maybe I am wrong. Maybe there is still a lot to discover. Maybe PSC will again be a force to count on not only in Catalan but also in Spanish politics.

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By the way, the youth organization Joventut Socialista de Catalunya has sent out an open letter to all the delegates of congress, reminding them that a PSC only represented by leaders who started their political careers during Spain’s transition to democracy, will only attract voters who remember that era. On top of this they want a party with a strong socialist and catalanista identity. I interpret this as support for Joan Ignasi Elena, without mentioning his name, but maybe I am just being Vilanova-chauvinistic! ;)

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And a few links:
CAT, SPA - PSC’s web page
SPA - ElPeriódico: Ramón de España – Por qué dejé de votar (al PSC)
SPA - ElPeriódico: Joan Tapia- La batalla de Nicaragua
SPA - LaVanguardia: El PSC se plantea votar por separado al líder y la ejecutiva
CAT - Ara: Sara González - Navarro ja té prou suport per ser el nou líder del PSC
CAT - Ara: David Miró - La decantació terrassenca
CAT - Ara: Àngel Ros es presentarà a unes primàries del PSC per ser candidat a la Generalitat encara que no sigui primer secretari
CAT - Ara: Les joventuts del PSC demanen primàries obertes i reforçar l'agenda catalanista

Friday, 2 December 2011

Living in Vilanova, yet not foreseeing the collapse of Spanish and Catalan socialism

Given the continuing force of the crisis, I guess that quite a few socialists here are happy that PP now take over the responsibility to govern Spain. That does, after all, give PSOE a chance to take a leading role in the protests against austerity policies which we will see within shortly. But while it might feel nice to reunite with old friends from the trade unions, let it be clear that demonstrations do not solve the real problem for the Spanish "workers' movement". Please, just have a look at my native Sweden, where the Social Democrats - during decades a symbol of strength for the European left but now living a second term in a row as opposition – are weaker than ever although there are things to be upset about also in Swedish society.

Without any intention to minimize PP’s election victory, let me stress that what above all happened in Spain on November 20 was that PSOE (PSC in Catalonia) lost their support. This is easily illustrated with figures: During Zapatero's last term as Prime Minister, PP won the vote of 552.683 people (in 2011, 10.830.693 people voted for them compared with 10.278.010 in 2008). In fact, that number of votes is lower than what PSC lost here in the province of Barcelona alone (they went from 1.309.171 votes in 2008 to 725.669 this time – a loss of 583.502 people!) To make things worse, only a few days before the elections, PSC’s top name in this constituency, outgoing Defense Minister Carme Chacón, was full of hope that this would be the only socialist stronghold to remain more or less intact. Instead the opposite happened. Why?

Was it because of Zapatero’s and his government’s lack of action in handling the galloping unemployment rates or his overoptimistic predictions (2008, -09, -10 and -11!) that the seasonal improvements which Spain sees every spring were indeed the brotes verdes of a turning point? Or was it the tragic comic situation which we observed earlier this year when the socialists in Catalonia accused the CiU government for making too tough budget cuts, while their comrades in Madrid demanded even more? Or when PSC was the only Catalan party to vote against CiU’s request that the Spanish government pay out the so called fondos de competitividad?

Or was it Zapatero’s promise that Catalonia would have a new Estatut such as the Catalans had approved it in a referendum, but then rapidly accepted how the Spanish Constitutional Court diluted it? Or Carme Chacón’s celebration of the form the Estatut finally got – publically manifesting her personal point of view although it was out of line with PSC’s official position? Or can it have been the funny little detail that the same Carme Chacón - only two days before the final election debate was about to take place in Catalan 8TV and when we all (including all the other candidates) were truly looking forward to it - decided not to participate, although she had received the invitation two months in advance?

Although I personally have had a growing list of areas where I have been irritated with Zapatero, I must admit that I never foresaw that the punishment would be so heavy. And that bothers me since here in Vilanova i la Geltrú – a former industrial town of some 65.000 inhabitants – we live in the middle of the change. In 2008, a record 50,22% (!) of the local electorate voted PSC - this time only 30,24% did so. From the figures we can guess that half of them opted for other parties - CiU, PP or ICV-EUiA (in that order) - but we can also assume that the other half simply stayed home (like in the rest of the province of Barcelona the participation dropped, here from 71,24% to 66,43%).

But in the end, here I spend time reflecting over why things went so totally wrong for the Spanish and Catalan socialism, although I am anything but sad it did. For PSC’s and PSOE’s many professional politicians, however, this is a question about their very reason to exist. Many of my Vilanova neighbours know the answer. I wonder if anyone will bother to ask them.

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The fact that PSC lost more votes in Barcelona than what PP won on the state level, does not mean that PSOE-PSC could have stayed in power, had only the Catalan socialists repeated their 2008 results. One of the peculiarities of the Spanish election system is that a vote in the big provinces (especially Madrid and Barcelona) does not have the same weight as one in the small ones.

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The full Vilanova i la Geltrú results in the November 20 elections were: PSC 30,24% (50.22%), CiU 28,27% (19,93%), PP 17,95% (13,16%), ICV-EUiA 9,04% (5,80%) and ERC 6,88% (6,90).

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A few interesting links:
CAT - Ara: Eleccions 220-N, dades
SPA - LaVanguardia: Fernando Ónega - PSOE, tienes un problema
SPA - LaVanguardia: El PSC rompe el frente catalán en el Congreso
SPA - LaVanguardia: Rafael Nadal - Moneda de cambio
CAT – Ara: La sagnia del PSC alimenta totes les opcions
SPA - LaVanguardia: La Junta Electoral Central da la razón a 8tv en el recurso por el debate boicoteado por Chacón

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Wirdheim in Vilanova Newsletter 'Penedès in English' has just been sent out

A summary of the Penedès Agenda for December and a selection of local news from the month of November has just been sent out to those who have subscribed on my free newsletter Penedès in English.

Find here a link to the latest edition and here the form where you sign up in case you want to receive it on a regular basis. A presentation of the idea as such can be found here.