The state crackdown on the Catalan drive to vote on their future on October 1st, coincides with what is perhaps Barcelona’s most important festival, that of the Mercé (the Feast of our Lady of Mercy), which signals the traditional end of the summer season.
It is celebrated with the parading of papier maché giants (gegants) through the streets and a breathtaking exhibition of human towers (castellers) in the rather small Saint James Plaza (La Plaça Sant Jaume) in the heart of the old city, where both Barcelona City Hall and the Palace of the Generalitat (The seat of Catalan Government) are located.
If you have never seen an exhibition of castellers (human tower making) you should really go on YouTube and take a look.
Catalans see this practice as being deeply emblematic of who they are as people in that it places enormous emphasis on what they often refer to as their exaggerated bent toward associacionisme, which could be roughly translated as their compulsive need to join together in voluntary civic organizations of a decidedly multi-generational configure to celebrate their culture, and more simply, the art of living together in joy and solidarity.
There are casteller clubs or collas, located all around the country, where people practice all year round to perfect this physically grueling, technically demanding, patience-challenging, and at times, dangerous, form of collective art.
At last reports, all was going smoothly with the Mercé in the face of the enormous pressures being unleashed upon the city by the central government. Indeed, like the stoic and patient castellers they are gathering to watch, the people appear to be reveling in their ability to hold out with grace and smiles on their faces upon their faces in the face of this unwanted outside force from the centralist authoritarians.
As reported yesterday, the Spanish government sent representatives to Barcelona to convince the head of the Catalan police force (Els mossos d’Esquadra) to cede his command to the dictates of the central government. He has refused to do so.
The Spanish constitution has mechanisms for both the suspension of the Catalan Statue of Autonomy and the takeover of the mossos d’esquadra. Both actions, however, would require a vote of the Spanish Parliament.
That, of course, would expose the true intentions of the Rajoy in a way that even the most obtuse and legalistically minded professor of political science could detect.
In the face of this, they have opted for the skilled authoritarian’s preferred weapon of choice: overwhelming coercion by backdoor means. In the case of the Statute of Autonomy, they have simply used the ministry of economy to cult the flow of funds. Anticipating this eventuality, the Catalan government had their own computerized revenue collection system ready to go. In the interest of quelling anxieties among Catalan government workers about being left high and dry, they paid them several days before their usual end of…