dijous, 15 d’agost de 2019


Catalan basketball player Pau Gasol's marriage with Catherine Mc Donnell from the city of San Francisco has been recent news in the yellow press. Two weddings have been celebrated: one in San Francisco and another one in Catalonia, in the Empordà, to suit both members of the couple. Beyond coincidences or forethoughts during this summer, I guess many Americans who hear the names of Pau or Marc Gasol think such names are just anecdotes or curiosities. For them they are still "Spanish", but it should surprise them the Gasol brothers are not called Pablo or Marco. In fact, both names are Catalan and so is their mother tongue. 

I have written this introduction to explain that the "Spanish" are not really a uniform block as the American people usually think. If Americans opened their eyes they would realise variety and diversity are always everywhere. Current Californian, Hispanic, and Amerindian immigrants come from countries far away from one another: from Mexico, also from Central America, or from the South, with increasingly dissimilar dialects. However, if this happens to the ordinary citizens of the United States, why do North American university scholars not realise such diversity or do not talk about it? For example, let us take the time of California's exploration. If we start by sailor Sebastià Bizcaino who was presumably the first to explore the Pacific coast of New Spain, we will realise his surname was Basque. The last name of the Castro family became also the name of a well-known San Francisco quarter. That family originated in Galicia, in the northwest of the Iberian pensinsula. If we talk about Gaspar de Portolà and Juníper Serra, we know they spoke and knew how to write 18th century Catalan of Lleida and Mallorca. However, under the Bourbon kings administration they obviously had to make official communications in Spanish. Nonetheless, if they spoke among themselves, what language would they speak but their mother tongue?
In California, a great effort has been made to identify and recognise the diverse indigenous peoples that inhabited the different regions which form part of this state today. For example, in the San Francisco Bay (San Francesc, in Catalan), there are the Ohlone. In the rest of modern California there are many other indigenous peoples linked to their own countries and territories. This diversity, both ethnic and linguistic, has been sufficiently studied and acknowledged after so many years of contempt and colonization. However, this perspective has been denied by the side of the peoples who were part of the Spanish Empire.

Therefore, we realise the contributions of Catalans to the foundation of present-day California have been marginalised or even hidden. Above Gaspar de Portolà, the role of Father Serra must be emphasised due to the recognition and defense he had by the Catholic Church. There are a few books published about Juníper Serra in Catalan as well as in Spanish and in English. Such books are well written, but with certain shortcomings. Surprisingly, one of the few biographies of Gaspar de Portolà in English that could be found in California was written by Josep Carner-Ribalta during the first half of the 20th century. However, there is no current new edition and some other publications in California are just from the 70's and 80's.

Luckily, from the Catalan side good research has been done around the family origins and their military career within the Bourbon army. This has not been sufficiently explained or transferred to the Pacific coast. I would also like to point out that Juníper Serra was a Franciscan, as it is well known, but we should not forget that Gaspar de Portolà's father was also called Francesc, and that his body was buried in the Sant Francesc de Lleida convent. Surely the Portolàs also had to be closely linked to the Franciscan Order.

It has been well studied that California's name is Catalan. However, in the United States the name has often been derived from stories and literary quotations of diverse origin, which shows that none of them has any serious foundation. If California was already christened with a Catalan name, why should not be also the case with many other names of places in this state given the high possibility they have to be translated into Catalan? Starting with the city of San Francisco, the civilian part, and with the Dolores mission, the religious part. The same happens with the city of Los Angeles (Els Àngels, in Catalan), or to Sant Bernadino, which takes its name from the Mallorcan monastery of Sant Bernardí de Siena; or the capital of Sacramento (in Catalan, Sacrament), etc ... Thus we can continue to see how the Catalan saint calendar appears everywhere. It also happens with the names of the soldiers from the Companyia Franca de Voluntaris, the Free Company of Volunteers of Catalonia. They all put the foundations of what we nowadays call California, a Catalan word that means the space under the roof, in other words, the attic. California resembles the right half of a roof slope over what used to be New Spain, that is, Mexico in those former times.

Today, everybody boasts of globalisation as a mental framework of progress, but sometimes we realise this perspective does not really exist. We can even think that in the past, people were already aware enough of this point of view when they talked about universal concepts. To accomplish this, you need to use methodologies to connect places that are apparently distant from one another.. In this case, between the Catalan and the Californian coasts it would be necessary to build a bridge much longer and higher than the Golden Gate Bridge. 
NB: OV in Catalan by Sergi Turiella. Translation in English: Marta Pombo.

5 comentaris:

Mark Wade ha dit...

Well done! History has a way of fading and changing doesn't it?

Unknown ha dit...

Nicely written article, unique perspective. I would add that California at one time was a part of the Mexican state. Americans generally attribute all the names with Mexico, as we mostly do not know much about the Spanish origins.

Most of what we do know comes from Studying Spain, but when the subject of 'Word Origins' comes up in places that we know come from Spanish origin we tend to attribute it to either Mexico, South America, the in-between states like Panama, and to the Indian tribes of non-Spanish origin.

So most of our knowledge of the Spanish language comes from the study of Spain itself. Then we are encouraged to split these parts into subcategories.

Donald Standeford

Sergi Turiella ha dit...

Mark Wade, thanks a lot about your comment. Of course, life changes, and fade, but sometimes this change become under political pressure. So it's important to be aware of that, to reinforce the freedom of the people in front of the tiranny. That's one of the principles at the Declaration of Indepedence... so we do as Catalans...

Sergi Turiella ha dit...

Donald Standeford, thanks for your opinion. I would like to think about the diversity, not just in the present days, but also in the older times. Mostly truths are buried under political interests, and it's good to recover it. Going to the spring, and the original versions, it's something wonderful, like finding a treasure. I go further to discuss about this subject. There's not a single block against other, it's not just a front line, or a only one trench. If people would be aware of Catalan names, it would change the Official names: Sant Francesc de California, Carmel, Els Àngels, Sacrament, Sant Pau, etc... in order to respect the diversity of the peoples and lands???

Sergi Turiella ha dit...

I was wonder about the classical issue of this documentary... https://youtu.be/7mSaAuxVlNU