Three Youths Harassed After Speaking Catalan at Music Festival in Spain

Three young people have reported incidents of discrimination and physical abuse for speaking Catalan at the Arenal Sound music festival in the eastern region of Valencia, Spain. Like in Catalonia, Spanish and Catalan are both official languages in Valencia.

The fourth Arenal Sound musical festival took place in Borriana in the south of Castelló province from 4-7 August, 2013. On the first night, Laura, a young woman from Castelló, was denied entrance to the arena for having addressed a security guard, who was manning the entrance, in Catalan. According to what Laura explained [ca] to the online newspaper Vilaweb [ca], the security guard demanded that she and her friends spoke in Spanish because he didn't understand any other languages. When the guard searched Laura, he found she was carrying self-defense spray. He used this as an excuse to refuse her entry and notify the Guardia Civil, the Spanish gendarmerie.

The Guardia Civil suggested that the young lady spoke in Spanish if she wanted to regain entry, but she and her friends preferred to abandon the festival rather than the right to speak their own language. They then demanded a full refund which they were denied because, according to the guards, the festival director was not informed. Laura and her friends wore their festival wristbands in protest against an incident which was not motivated by a genuine, language-related misunderstanding, but rather an act of humiliation because of the language they spoke.

Arenal Sound

Photo of the Arenal Sound festival-goers found on the festival's Facebook [es] page.

On Sunday night, another two youths, who had found out about what had happened to Laura, asked the guards if they spoke Catalan. The same guard who was involved in the previous incident confronted them.

According to the story that one of the young men, Christian, reported to Vilaweb [ca], Christian's friend accused the guard of being a fascist and it was from there that things escalated. They were surrounded by five guards and one of them pushed Christian to the floor and kicked him. The hospital report [ca] that the young men shared with Vilaweb provides evidence of the attack.

The festival organisers have not apologised. Their Facebook [ca] page has received some negative comments, but for now, the only statements [ca] in response are repetitions of what the director, David Sanchéz, said: “The security personnel came from a company in Jaén and therefore didn't understand Catalan”.

He also insisted that the festival does not discriminate against anyone “because of their language or origin” and that he had spoken to the security company so as to prevent this from happening in the future. However, news that Francisco José López Perea, a well-known neo-Nazi [ca], is the founder of Opcón Security which was the company responsible for the security at the festival, has caused many people to doubt this statement.

Valencian is a dialect of Catalan which is spoken in the Valencian Community, an autonomous community in Spain located south of Catalonia and to the West of the Balearic Islands. These three autonomous regions share a history together based on a common language and culture. Catalan is one of the four official languages in Spain, each corresponding to one region, and the Valencian Statute of Autonomy grants it “native language” status in the region.

Nevertheless, centuries of marginalisation and language shift has caused the situation regarding the lack of protection for the language to be worse than it is in neighbouring Catalonia, subjecting those that speak it to more severe attacks on their rights. Protests in support of the assaulted and against any of this type of discriminatory behaviour were not expected on the Internet like had happened previously with other cases of anti-Catalan prejudice. For example, the singer from Xàtiva, Feliu Ventura (@feliuventura) [ca] tweeted:

This has to stop. This apartheid is terrorism against the Valencian way of seeing the world. — Feliu Ventura (@feliuventura) August 6, 2013

Comedian and television presenter Eugeni Alemany (@EugeniAlemany)[ca] questioned the quality of democracy in a country that still today has to deal with situations like those experienced at the Arenal Sound festival:

It says a lot about the foundations of a country if 99% of their “security guards” support the extreme right. Violent, intolerant, controlling people? Deal with it! Eugeni Alemany (@EugeniAlemany) August 4, 2013

Musician and journalist Miquel Ramos (@Miquel_R) [ca] defended the right to speak Catalan:

Stop fascist attacks on those who speak Valencian. Stop impunity. #stopvalencianofobia — MiquelRamos (@Miquel_R) August 7, 2013

And in the same vein, philologist Bàrbera M. (@barberamaria) tweeted:

#stopvalencianofòbia We will not tire of saying that speaking Catalan is not a crime. Why does it bother them so much that we have our own language? — Bàrbera M. (@barberamaria) August 6, 2013

In addition to this, a mass tweet [ca] was organised via social networks on 10 August, with the tags #stopvalencianofòbia and @arenalsound in order to raise awareness regarding this linguistic discrimination and to force the festival organisers to apologise. Here you can read some of the most notable tweets from the mass tweet organised on Saturday evening, such as the tweet by journalist Amàlia Garrigós (@AmaliaGarrigos) [ca]:

Our language will only stay alive if we appreciate it. We can only show our appreciation by speaking it.#StopValencianofòbia @arenalsound — Amàlia Garrigós (@AmaliaGarrigos) August 10, 2013

Or the tweet from Miquel Gironés (@miquelgirones)[ca], member of the most international Valencian band, Obrint Pas, who has also been a victim of a police attack [ca] for speaking Catalan:

I would like @ArenalSound not to contract this security company again. Please apologise.

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