One unusual piece of local news that doesn’t seem to have made it into the foreign media is the gift that the parties which currently hold sway in Andalusia have decided to make to Valencia and Catalonia: one hundred thousand euros for Andalusian residents or their descendants in the latter communities who have ’suffered the effects of linguistic immersion’, a term referring to the use of Catalan (which in Valencia they call Valencian) as the main language in schools. Now, this is odd, to put it mildly. For one thing, in the País Valencià parents can choose between three educational models, only one of which involves linguistic immersion. In Catalonia, on the other hand, all state education is in Catalan. In both cases, full knowledge of Spanish is guaranteed and, as the teachers’ trade union USTEC never tires of pointing out, in Catalonia is two points higher than the average for the whole of Spain. In other words, everyone who comes out of the Valencian and Catalan school systems at 16 or 18 is bilingual, at the very least. But what makes the Andalusian offering even odder is that nearly all first generation Andalusians arrived in Valencia and Catalonia between the mid-sixties and mid-seventies – when Catalan was banned in schools – and are now senior citizens (or deceased). Many of them, by the way, began to learn Catalan when they retired, as I know from personal experience when giving talks at Catalan language centres in towns like Hospitalet de Llobregat, where many Andalusians settled. Their descendants – the vast majority of ’Andalusians’ in Catalonia – are de facto Catalans, and if they’re under 40 can speak, write and read Catalan and Spanish without any problems whatsoever. What is more, knowing both languages is a plus for a whole variety of jobs (in the media, in town councils, in the administration…). So to deprive people of Catalan – which is what would happen if linguistic immersion were not mandatory – is to give those who do speak it an unfair advantage. Not to mention that non-speakers would also miss out on Catalan language TV programmes, newspapers, literature, music, etc. And it goes without saying that anyone of Andalusian descent who wishes to celebrate their Andalusian roots can do so freely, and not just at the Feria de Abril, the big Andalusian festival held every year in Barcelona: Andalusian culture is not illegal or even frowned upon in either Valencia or Catalonia, quite the opposite.
Of the three parties who have dreamed up the said handout, two form the coalition that governs Andalusia: the right-wing Popular Party and Citizens (which is also right-wing but insists it isn’t). The third party, Vox, is not in power but has enough leverage to make pacts with the government which conform to its own agenda, which is misogynistic, racist, ultranationalist, neo-Francoist and viscerally anti-Catalan.
At around the same time as the handout was declared, the incumbent Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, prevented the most voted party in the recent municipal elections, the pro-independence Catalan Republican Left, from taking office, by making a pact with both the unionist, authoritarian Catalan Socialist Party and also with Manuel Valls, the former prime minister of France who, during the election campaign, was the front man for none other than Citizens, the party that, in Andalusia, makes pacts with the fascists of Vox. Ms Colau was put under extraordinary pressure – not least from Valls – to make this curious pact (during a live radio interview she broke down in tears when the subject was mentioned). As for Valls, no one quite knows how his campaign, including a €20,000 monthly stipend for himself, was financed. Faites vos jeux.