Monday, April 22, 2013

Sant Jordi, Lost Luggage, and What's up with Catalonia?

Yesterday, April 21st, the Catalan Institute of America invited me to present What's up with Catalonia? at their annual Sant Jordi/Books & Roses celebration at the 86th Street Barnes & Noble in New York City. The event, which is one of the New York-based Catalan group's major get togethers of the year, together with September 11th, was very well attended, with every seat in the house filled, as well as a fair number sitting in the back. Probably about 200 people in all.

The celebration began with a lovely puppet show for the kids. The hall was then lined with chairs and novelist Jordi Puntí and Mary Ann Newman took the stage to present the new English edition of Jordi's book, Maletes Perdudes [Lost Luggage]. Jordi and Mary Ann took turns reading passages of the book, Jordi in Catalan and Mary Ann in English, and it was both interesting to listen to the story itself, and the curious tale of four brothers whose names were a “sort of Latin declension” of Christopher, as well as listening to the translation and mentally comparing it with the original. Thoroughly enjoyable.

After a short intermission, with delicious chocolates donated from a famous Barcelonian chocolatier, Oriol Balaguer, next up were Laia Balcells, Assistant Professor at Duke University, Jordi Puntí, and myself, with columnist and political scientist Jordi Graupera expertly moderating a panel discussion on What's up with Catalonia? Laia explained how we got where we are, I talked about why and how the book came about, and Jordi gave us a Barcelona-based view of the September 11th demonstration and current atmosphere in the city.

There were a lot of good questions and comments from the audience. Perhaps the most emotional moment came when an older woman stood up and explained that, born in 1933, she had lived through the Franco years and she was determined to live long enough to see Catalonia's independence.

Laia Balcells will talk about What's up with Catalonia? and the Catalan independence process in general on Tuesday with Clara Ponsatí at Georgetown University, while I will be speaking with a group of Harvard University students on Tuesday, and a UMass Amherst group on Wednesday. Please join us at any of those events if you're close by!

Many thanks to all who helped organize these events!