Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Taking A Festival To Court

There really are times when you wonder ... . I have a certain admiration for Ciudadanos in a similar way to having an admiration for Podemos. They occupy different political territories, but both are examples of how the status quo of a political system can be shaken up. Yet with both there are elements of the conservative and even the regressive. With Podemos, there is a Luddite tendency that wishes, for example, for "de-growth", an anti-capitalist return to an undefined era stripped of a great deal of the progress through tourism. For the C's, there is one great conservative non-negotiable - Catalonia. This is an essence of its being. Independence is a total non-starter, as is the advance of any Catalan nationalism beyond the borders of Catalonia.

The C's are doing rather well at present. In Catalonia they have secured the most parliamentary seats of any party. They have benefited, in part, from the electoral destruction of the Partido Popular, but more than this, they are solidly representative of the independence counterpoint. They have hung their hat on union, and there are very good numbers of Catalan citizens who agree with them.

Even before the Catalonia election, it was evident that the C's had been making ground in the Balearics. What happens in Catalonia has an impact here, even if this can at times be overstated. But the political atmosphere generated by Catalonia and by statements in favour of a Balearic independence by Més have done the C's no harm at all. Nor have their complaints about indoctrination in local schools.

The exporting of Catalanist nationalism that the C's attack comes in different guises. One of the more peculiar is what is due to take place on 31 December - Palma's Festival of the Standard. This is a fiesta deemed to be in the intangible cultural interest: not just deemed, is. The official nature of this interest was confirmed by the highest authority of making official - a statement on the Official Bulletin. It is there in black and white. In 2006, the Council of Mallorca declared the festival to be an asset of this cultural interest, and with this declaration came certain stipulations as to its maintenance.

The Council of 2006 was different in its political make-up to how it is today. It was still essentially the property of the subsequently disgraced Unió Mallorquina and Maria Antonia Munar. The UM, although ostensibly nationalist in a centrist sort of a way, was never strident in its ambitions, and its nationalism was one founded on its own version of history. Some years before the 2006 declaration, the Council had decided to make 12 September Mallorca Day. This was a recognition of the true founding of the old Kingdom of Mallorca. It was not a date for which there was wholehearted support. There was - in a Catalanist correct fashion - an alternative date: 31 December, the day in 1229 when Catalan culture can be said to have its origins.

Changing the date of Mallorca Day to 31 December was an obvious move. If there were to be a different date, then 31 December had far greater claim than any other. And so, for the first time, this coming New Year's Eve will be Mallorca Day as well as the Festival of the Standard.

For some, such as the C's, this combination was a form of pact between the nationalists of Més at the Council of Mallorca and at Palma town hall. It might not have generated overly much fuss, if it hadn't been for some consequent amendments to the festival protocol. Until now, and despite the 2006 declaration, the festival has been a Palma town hall occasion. In institutional terms, only the town hall has responsibility. Moreover, the declaration made clear that the responsibility for the maintenance of the tradition and guaranteeing the components of the festival was Palma's.

The pact between the Council and the town hall has, in the opinion of the C's, led to a unilateral decision to permit the Council to be represented in the official committee (retinue) for honouring King Jaume I and the Standard. Moreover, mayors from other parts of Mallorca are to be allowed to participate. The C's point to the fact that the 2006 declaration does not contemplate this additional institutional representation. Only the mayor of Palma and city councillors can form the retinue.

Because of this, the C's have taken the matter to court. They are seeking an injunction to prevent the protocol being altered. It is this that makes one wonder. How can a festival end up in court? Does it really matter who is represented in the retinue? It does if there are the politics of Catalan nationalism at play, which is what the C's are really concerned about. But they risk looking somewhat ridiculous and losing some of the admiration. They might disagree with the change to the festival, but going to court over it ... ?

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