Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Columbus was Catalan

There are several advantages to living with a rich minority that is oppressed. Such is the situation of Catalonia in Spain. Spain hates the Catalans so much that all they want is the Catalans to be Spanish. Such contradictions are common, and, as a result, you have to think twice about everything you're told because it makes no sense. Much like this opening paragraph.

This morning I was told that last year the Spanish government vetoed a bid by a Catalan gas company to buy the Spanish state electrical company for reasons of pure hatred of the Catalans and instead let a German company buy it. The logic in Catalonia is clear. Madrid wants to screw us and would rather sell off national industries to foreigners than to let, for one second, the Catalans benefit from Spain.

The craziest story of them all, however, is that Columbus was a Catalan. Our narrative goes that Columbus was from Genoa and got the kings of Castille to finance his trip to the Indies. The consequence of Columbus, I might add, was to increase Castillian power within Spain and to make Spanish a dominant world language, leaving Catalan in its provincial dust. Nevertheless, the Catalans will tell you that Columbus' real name was Cristòfor Colom. The statue of Columbus in Barcelona only fuels this confusing fire.

The basis of the Catalan argument is that Columbus' writing in Spanish and Genoan used Catalan or Portuguese phonetics. I even found an article on-line debating whether his writings in Spanish should be considered part of the Catalan literary canon! The other strong-point of this mystifying claim is that because so little of Columbus' early life was known, how can you refute the Catalan claim?