Usually, when you ask someone where they’re from or about their nationality their answer is quick and simple; but if you’re from one of those few places in the world where things are complicated, telling people about your roots can be confusing.
I’m from Catalonia and today it was our National Day.
You must have heard about us: if you’re good at geography, you know Barcelona, it’s not an actual state capital, but it does function as one most of the times – the Olympics of 1992 were held there, not in Madrid; if you like football – and even if you don’t -, you know Barça, they have nothing to envy to any other big team of any country, they’re as good, known and beloved as anyone can be; if food is your thing, you might have tasted ‘pa amb tomàquet’, basically, tomato spread on a slice of bread with some olive oil and salt – it’s simple, yet delicious!; if you like art, you might know Dalí, he was a bit eccentric, but his art is universal and timeless; if you’re a book nerd – like me – you might – probably not, though – have heard of Rodoreda, author of ‘The Time of the Doves’, which was translated in many languages after its publication in 1962 – read it, I honestly recommend it!; and if you spend hours watching series on TV or Netflix, you might have seen a clip or two of ‘Red Band Society’, an awful American version of our ‘Pulseres Vermelles’ series, which is a piece of art – try watch it with subtitles, you might even learn some Catalan.
If you still are unable to locate us in a map: Catalonia is an autonomous community of Spain; it is also that little region on the northwest corner of the peninsula that has appeared in papers and newscasts all over the world because our constant unheard plea for independence.
Despite what you might think, ours is not the whimsy wish of a child feeling constantly bullied, it’s something that has been thought and rethought for many years. We’re conscious that the decisions of our ancestors have brought us to where we are, that we never were forced – although that depends on the lecture we do of history – to become part of the Spanish Crown, but the fact that after so long we still feel different from our neighbors, that we still have different aims for our future, different views about politics – and I’m not talking just left or right parties, I’m talking education, health, economy laws; I think it proves we have a point and we deserve the chance to try on our own.
So, going back to the actual point of this post, whenever I’m asked about my country of origin my puzzled face is not because I don’t want to tell but because I’m having a dilemma about what to say. I’m Spanish because I am a citizen of Spain, it’s what my Passport says and what I write down in any kind of official form; but I’m not Spanish because I don’t feel I am, I don’t speak Spanish unless I’m needed to and I don’t identify myself with Spain even though I like part of its culture and I accept it as part of my inheritance. I am Catalan because it’s what I feel, I was born in Catalonia, Catalan is my mother language and I identify myself with my country and its culture most of the time; but I’m not Catalan because it doesn’t say so in any document, as far as the administration is concerned, to be Catalan doesn’t mean anything.
Whatever answer I give, I feel like I’m lying, so I end up saying something like: ‘I’m from Catalonia, Spain…” which makes my country sound like a small town lost in the middle of the peninsula; or ‘I’m Spanish, well, Catalan…” which gives the impression I haven’t yet decided.
Anyway, today it was our National Day and I thought it was a good occasion for a quick silly rant about my actual country of origin.
Where are you from? Do you have any similar problems when answering that question?