Thursday, August 09, 2007

Identity crisis? Television to the rescue!

AOG, Madrid

About a month or so ago, the Spanish media concerned itself very much with Spain's national anthem. You see, Spain's
Olympic committee had asked the public to submit lyrics proposals for the anthem, the rationale being that Spanish sportsmen are only able to hum when their anthem- one of the oldest in the world- is played at sporting events. They are right.

The question at hand was its lyrics: it doesn't have any anymore.

Or rather, no official lyrics. The collective memory of Spain being what it is, they forgot (the media that is) that the anthem has, in fact, at least two versions of the lyrics: one drawn up under King Alfonso XIII's orders, and the other during Franco's time. The issue even made it into the pages of The Economist.

More of the same...

This week, the papers published a story concerning the soon to be approved law which will regulate Spain's national/state television network TVE.

Within its charter, TVE is meant to help define the country's identity.
And that is a tall order and a half if ever I saw one. One of the things which defines the Spanish sense of identity, is that there is no Spanish identity. At least, not amongst the Spanish themselves.

Other people can see here and there traces of which, in a very generalized way, can partially define the Spanish character, ideology, etc.
However, it is obvious that they, and I have yet to visit a country which suffers from this too, have a problem defining what is Spanish, without offending all the various regional identities which also make up Spain.

For example, Spain has more than one official language (funny how Congress has an issue with making Spanish the country's second official language). Aside from Castellano (Spanish proper) which the entire country speaks, Catalan, Basque, and Galician are also official languages.

But there are more: Aragonese, Aranese, Asturian, Balearic (Mallorcan, Ibizenco etc) , Valencian... some even say that Spanish as spoken in Andalucia, is its own language (Andalúz).

This is enshrined in Spain's 1978 post dictatorship Constitution. Since Franco had so sidelined and even prohibited the learning of anything other than Spanish, the transitional governments thought they would right this wrong.

No problem there, except that now, in Spain -perhaps it was always like this- many people are far more loyal to their region (Spain is a semi federal country divided up into 17 different "Autonomous Communities"- a la German Länder), than they are to an all encompassing concept of Spain.

Another example, is how some people in Spain see other Spanish people as being different from themselves. Of course, every country on Earth has local and regional clichés. But in Spain, they are not seen as a joke, but rather as something set in stone.

Andalucians are lazy and only care about music, Catalans are stingy but great businessmen, Galicians will never give you a straight answer and are mostly Fishermen, Madrilenos are arrogant. As with every cliché, for every ounce of truth, there are 2 tons of untruth.

Yet in Spain, these views continue.
Since the end of the dictatorship, many have said that Spain's "Patriotism 101" class has not been addressed by any government. Many say it needs to be.

Four years ago, the Conservative Party (Partido Popular) raised huge controversy when it stuck a gigantic Spanish flag on Plaza de Colón (Columbus Square) in Madrid. A few months later, the Socialist party won. The flag stayed. Nobody talks about it, but there it is. True, the Town Hall is run by the Conservatives, but there have been moot calls to it being taken down.

Perhaps now, the Socialist party (a group known for advocating an international brotherhood, and which dislikes shows of patriotism or nationalism). is slightly addressing the issue, via television. It has to help solve this problem.

How? Well, no one knows yet. But somehow.
And so Spain goes to bed talking about its self-image issues arguing there are no such all its languages.

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