This year, more than ever before, Sant Jordi's day was synonymous with freedom. Now that freedom of expression is again under threat here in Catalonia, now that the winds of freedom are not blowing either here or in the wider world, World Book Day -a celebration rooted in Catalonia- is an opportunity to remember that neither ideas, nor fiction, nor imagination can be persecuted. We have the right -and the duty- to dream up other realities, to think of alternate worlds, to invent for ourselves the present and the future. And books are a natural terrain to do so with total, unlimited, freedom.
This Sant Jordi was, once again, a civic and cultural celebration of books and roses. As the front page of ARA reads every April 23rd, this is a country to "read and love". A festival that represents an ideal, at the same time a reality and an aspiration: to make Catalonia a cultured country, welcoming and free. A country that, based on its diversity of imagination and languages and its political and ideological projects, can decide its own future without fear or confrontation, but with dialogue. But this country has come face to face with the dragon of intolerance. It has come up against the inability of Spanish democracy to face the political challenge presented to it by a significant part of Catalan society. The response has been police repression, legal persecution, and financial penalties. With political prisoners and politicians in exile. For all of them, and especially for Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, it is not just one more day of celebration, but one less. Far from their loved ones.
We will find a way out of the legal conflict between Catalonia and Spain by respecting the opinion of others. Not by locking away ideas behind bars, which is akin to putting books in prison
If Sant Jordi has traditionally been an alternative national holiday in which politics played second fiddle to culture, this year it was a festival that returned to the basics of what lies behind a book: a festival to call for freedom. Any book is always an open window on the world. The best that we could do and did on this Sant Jordi’s day was to feel free, act with liberty, and show once again the true nature of our society: civility, pacifism, culture, harmony, and tolerance. That is, books and roses for everyone, regardless of their views. This is how we will find a way out of the legal conflict between Catalonia and Spain. With dialogue, with words that are not weapons, but only tools to express arguments and feelings. By respecting the opinion of others. Not by locking away ideas behind bars, which is akin to putting books in prison.
Any outside observer, while walking the streets of Catalan cities and towns yesterday, would have found it very hard to believe that this is a fractured, divided country. They would have found it very hard to swallow the lie invented by the judicial apparatus of the State and by the Madrid-based press that we are a violent people. It would be truly difficult to think that half of Catalan citizens are a band of xenophobic nationalists. On the contrary: they would have seen a people, despite the political harshness of the moment, enjoying a civic celebration shared by all, with emotion and conviction. They would have seen how the Catalan way is through dialogue and inclusion; they would have seen the maturity of a people who are simply demanding the right to decide their future in peace and liberty. Is this so hard to understand? Is it so hard to see this reality?