Spain: Catalan Unionist Party Launches Controversial Viral Video

On November 25, 2012 Catalan voters will go to the polls for a round of early elections. After September 11th's separatist rally in Barcelona, in which more than a million individuals took to the streets to demand Catalonia's secession from Spain, these elections are shaping up to be a plebiscite for establishing an independent Catalan state (hopefully) within the European Union. The contentious electoral climate continues to provoke an intense online debate, driven in part by internet campaigns designed to stir the polemic.

Against this turbulent backdrop, the unionist party Ciutadans, which currently holds three seats in the Catalan parliament, has launched a viral video [es] called “The Andalusian Man,” which revitalizes the memory of a 1958 essay written by Catalonia's former president, Jordi Pujol, who presided over the Catalan government for 23 years leading CiU, the same political formation to which the current president, Artur Mas belongs. Neither the video nor Ciutadans’ press release [es] indicate that the essay was written fifty years ago, and that both in 1978 and 1997, Pujol publicly apologized [ca] for the work's problematic content.

In the video, a fragment of the essay is read aloud as images of historically important Andalusians, such as the philosopher Seneca, the poets Federico García Lorca and Antonio Machado, and the painter Pablo Picasso, pan across the screen [Editor's note: Andalusia is a southern region of Spain].

The fragment of the text reads:

El hombre andaluz no es un hombre coherente, es un hombre anárquico. Es un hombre destruido. Es, generalmente, un hombre poco hecho, un hombre que vive en un estado de ignorancia y de miseria cultural, mental y espiritual. Es un hombre desarraigado, incapaz de tener un sentido un poco amplio de comunidad. De entrada constituye la muestra de menor valor social y espiritual de España. Ya lo he dicho antes: es un hombre destruido y anárquico. Si por la fuerza del número llegase a dominar, sin haber superado su propia perplejidad, destruiría Cataluña.

The Andalusian man is not a coherent man, he is anarchical. He is decadent. He is, generally speaking, a poorly made man, one who lives in a state of cultural, mental and spiritual ignorance. He is rootless, incapable of enjoying an ample sense of community. He ultimately constitutes the greatest display of Spain's inferior social and spiritual worth. I have said it before: he is a decadent and anarchical. If his numbers allowed him to dominate without first having overcome his own perplexity, he would destroy Catalonia.

Jordi Pujol

Catalonia's former president Jordi Pujol, author of a controversial 1958 essay revived in video. Photo by Josep Renalias (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Andalusian emigration to Catalonia was strong at the height of the twentieth century. Today, a large percentage of Catalans are descended from that wave of immigration and this includes supporters of the region's surging separatist movement. The identity of Catalans of Andalusian of descent is therefore a contentious and heavily politicized one, leading unionist politicians to portray Catalan nationalism as a predominantly racist force in hopes of estranging this block of the electorate.

Given their political rivalry with CiU and therefore also Catalan president Artur Mas — who is campaigning on the promise of independence should he obtain an absolute majority — it is not surprising that Ciutadans has decided to revive the polemic of Pujol's 1958 essay. They have arguably been successful, since the topic has surged as one of the more relevant online Catalan-language debates. Under the hashtag #25N, Twitter users have commented on the video, both in favor of using it in the campaign and against.

Those who support the video release have highlighted the perceived racist and xenophobic attitude of one of Catalan nationalism's most influential thinkers:

@duendecolegiata Xenophobic and derogatory!! A video from Ciutadans with Pujol's opinions on the Andalusian people… via @elperiodico_cas
@ESCUPELOYACOM #YoNoMeCallo (#IWontShutUp) Excellent Ciutadans video highlighting Jordi Pujol's insults and slurs against the Andalusian people…

@juliansantosen No apoyo a Ciutadans,pero las palabras de Pujol sobre los andaluces, me reafirman en mi idea de que no se vote CIU ni PP,votar izquierda IUV

@juliansantosen I don't support Ciutadans, but Pujol's words about Andalusians confirms my belief that we shouldn't vote CiU or PP, but left-wing (IUV)

The video's circulation has compelled Jordi Pujol restate [ca] his past apologies. Netizens have also rushed to Pujol's defense, criticizing Ciutadans for taking a half-century old text out of context in order to discredit a political rival.

@ftcquirze @naciodigital C's manipula: no explica disculpes de MHonorable Jordi Pujol. No voteu a qui enganya als ciutadans. No fan honor nom d partit.

@ftcquirze @naciodigital C's manipulate, failing to mention the Very Honorable Jordi Pujol's previous apologies. Don't vote for politicians who lie to citizens. They disgrace the name of their own party.

@lalipuigderrajols Que Ciutadans retregui al president Pujol un vídeo de fa 50 anys n'hi ha per dir-los hi: Sempre et veuràs emmascarat per una paella bruta

@lalipuigderrajols That Ciutadans would publish statements from 50 years ago proves only thing: there will always be wolves in sheep's clothing

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