Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

Originally published in Spanish: “Quim Torra, agitador integrista” . Joaquim Coll. Crónica Global.

10th May 2018

After the political change in the Barcelona municipal government in 2011, with the arrival of Xavier Trias (from Convergència) to the mayorship, the Born project morphed from a cultural center into a temple of victimhood over the celebration of a tricentennial that the secessionist movement was carefully preparing. It became something like embodiment of “resistance against the enemy”, it was presented as “zone zero” of destruction in the war of 1714. Far from helping understand the complex succession war for the Spanish crown in the Eighteenth century, the Born was transformed into a highly symbolic piece of secessionist propaganda in the year when the 9N consultation was held. All this happened under the hand of its director, Quim Torra, who was appointed director after briefly serving as a public works manager in Ciutat Vella. Little did it matter that he wasn’t a trained historian or that he had never managed a museum, what was being recognized was his secessionist activism from cultural associations, his propagandist work as an editor and as a fiction essay writer where he mixed history and journalism. In addition, of course, to his party membership.

Instead of hosting the long-requested provincial library, Josep Fontseré’s magnificent restoration of the glass and iron building of the old market of the Born (1873), was in the end, by means of nationalist obsessions, turned into a luxury mausoleum to showcase some semi-archaeological remains of little interest and over which not much analysis was possible other than a sort of “magical approach, the almost telluric soul of a people”, as its director waxed lyric on the day of its grand opening, feigning emotion. A luxury mausoleum to spread a tale that presented the War of the Spanish Succession simply as the colossal epic of the Catalan struggle for freedom.

The highlight of this falsification of history was the Donec Perficiam (“until we achieve it”) exhibition, which focused on the dramatic siege in 1714, emphasizing the heroic resistance of the people of Barcelona. The exhibition sought to move the visitor but also to enrage them over what was presented as the destruction of the Catalan state by Spain. The exhibition, free to visit, sought to confuse citizens, by establishing a direct relation between past and present, conveying the idea that under the succession conflict from the XVIII century, lied a Catalan wish for independence that linked with the one now pursued by secessionists. A visit to the library, where an enormous assortment of secessionist political essays were available along with all kinds of merchandise with the starred flag, would clear any remaining doubts about the goal of the whole endeavor.

This Thursday, Carles Puigdemont has designated Torra as his preferred candidate for president. Immediately, some ultra-nationalist tweets from Torra surfaced. In 2015 after Muriel Casals left to become a member of parliament, he became temporarily the chairman of Òmnium. Those messages had already created quite a stir back in the day. With this controversial choice, the profile of Junts per Catalunya becomes more clearly that of a xenophobic and unabashedly supremacist party. It is dramatic that the regional presidency will likely be held by a fundamentalist agitator who has written that “We Catalans have lived under occupation since 1714”. Brace yourselves.