In English Voices From Spain

Being Spanish is breathing

Originally published in Spanish. José Antonio Montano. The Objective.

A nation is not a metaphysics — it’s a result of history. It depends on the moment. And as of 1978, being Spanish is breathing, because it’s nothing else, it entails no particular content nor any specific way of behaving. Today, being Spanish is not a matter of being, but of having: having a citizenship. Democratic and European. Or if anything it’s an empty being, a structural one: being a citizen.

The metaphysics of nations — as Nietzsche put it referring to a different one — is the metaphysics of the executioner. Or of the prison guard. Or of the oppressor — the literal oppressor. The type that oppresses your lungs and covers your mouth with its treacle. The type that smothers.

Being Spanish was smothering too during the Francoist dictatorship, because back then it did demand particular contents and allegiances and a specific way of behaving, and there was a sentimental imposition and a meddling and an emphasis. The same things we now see in Catalan nationalism — our actually existing Francoism. Not the frayed Francoism of the late years, but the early one, the fascistic Francoism of Falange.

Today, Spanish nationalism is fortunately irrelevant. But nationalism is a beast and it occasionally rears its head, like when it lunged at Fernando Trueba for saying he didn’t feel Spanish. Ideally, one could say this and nothing would happen. And the truth is that, in daily life, except for these bothersome yet inconsequential little explosions, nothing ever does. This is what’s relevant.

Being Spanish is what I saw last Sunday in Barcelona. I went to the demonstration with some friends from Barcelona. They saw (and some carried) the Spanish flags as a pure breath of fresh air. Seeing the flags in their streets was, to them, seeing their streets reclaimed. Not ‘for Spain’, but for citizens. The one thing they wanted, their only yearning, was for nationalism to leave them alone. For the city to belong not to a few, but to everyone. Over there, that’s what being Spanish is.


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