TL;DR just check it out.
The Catalan independence process is heating up and the elections that could set the country off on it’s own course take place later this month. It’s a very exciting and uncertain time and at the time of this writing, the elections have about an even chance of going either way.
Today, I am launching News Cat to make it easier for English speakers around the world to follow complete and up-to-the-minute coverage of this interesting phase for Catalonia, Spain, and all of Europe.
This has been brewing since the 15th century when Catalonia became part of what today is Spain through a royal marriage and subsequently by actual conquest. At the time of the royal marriage that joined Catalonya and neighboring region Aragon with the crown of Spain, most governing was local and far-off Kings had limited impact. But over time, as Madrid imposed its taxes and its rule of law, the Catalans rebelled but were eventually put down in a struggle that ended on September 11, 1714 – the reason September 11th is observed as a holiday celebrating Catalan nationalism as much as commemorating a painful time in history.
In 1410, King Martin I died without surviving descendants. Under the Compromise of Caspe, Ferdinand of the Castilian House of Trastámara received the Crown of Aragon as Ferdinand I of Aragon.
His grandson, King Ferdinand II of Aragon, and Queen Isabella I of Castile married in 1469, later becoming the Catholic Monarchs; subsequently, this event was seen by historiographers as the dawn of the unified Kingdom of Spain. At that point, though united by marriage, the Crowns of Castile and Aragon maintained distinct territories, each keeping its own traditional institutions, parliaments and laws. Castile commissioned in monopoly the expeditions to the Americas and benefited from the riches acquired in the Spanish colonization of the Americas. Political power gradually shifted away from the Aragonese and Castilian courts to the court of the Spanish Crown.
In more recent centuries, subsequent dictators in Madrid and other governments over the years have suppressed the Catalans, banning the speaking of their language, taxing the region far more than gets re-invested and many of the Catalans have felt treated as second class citizens of Spain despite being the economic motor of the country.
On September 2, 1986 (i.e. twenty-nine years ago today) I arrived for the first time in Catalonia. I was a teenager and I was on a study-abroad program. Little did I know it would become my long-term home.
I have called Catalonia home for well over half my life and even as I have gone off to pursue my career in the music business in New York, my wife and I have kept our place in Barcelona, have residency and spend about one of every three months in the Catalan capital and surrounding areas.
I have been involved in Catalan culture and society for many years. I speak Catalan like a native and I speak Spanish like a Catalan. I was behind the introduction of the first Catalan watch / clock back in the early 90’s and artistically (although not very good from a musical perspective) I released a pop/rock record through independent label DiscMedi in the late nineties which garnered two minor hits, written and performed by me in Catalan. I was the first American to ever release an album entirely performed in Catalan (and I think I’m still the only one). I was also the only American to ever publish original text in Catalan when I become an entrepreneurship and marketing columnist for a couple years in Dossier Economic de Catalunya, a national economic weekly newspaper.
Later on, I become a marketing director at the company that manages the Palau Sant Jordi arena and the Olympic stadium next door. My boss’s boss was the mayor; first Pascual Maragall, who later become president of Catalonia, and then mayor Joan Clos. My job was to coordinate with local and international promoters to pull off some of the biggest concerts by the largest international acts like Madonna, Gloria Estefan, The Cure, Pearl Jam, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Aerosmith, The MTV Europe Music Awards, and way too many more to mention. In that role I developed deep relationships with the local tour operators and the Barcelona Convention Bureau.
I have been privileged to get to know many of the political and business movers and shakers of the country and I maintain a rich social life with people from all walks of Catalan society as well as Spanish society. Many of my company’s investors are from Madrid and I have close friends and business partners all over Spain.
Today, I am in my 6th year of partnership with Future Music Forum, an annual conference that brings together the biggest companies and executives in the international music business in Barcelona. So every year I essentially play host to a big party in town that coincides with La Merce, the city’s patron saint festival.
In short, while I’m not the world’s foremost expert, I do know my stuff when it comes to Catalonia and the Catalans, the rest of Spain and the Spanish so you can take what at I write on my blog on the topics of Barcelona, Catalonia, & Spain in the context above.
I hope you enjoy this in-depth topical focus on my blog, especially over the next few months as we see together how this drive for Catalan independence plays out.