In English Voices From Spain

Puigdemont, 130.5th President of Catalonia

Photo by Paweł Furman on Unsplash

Originally published in Spanish. ´Cataluña 130,5º ‘president’ Puigdemont´ J. Ignacio Torreblanca. El País. 

25th Jan 2018

Incisive though her questions were, professor Marlene Wind could have asked her interlocutor about the title (130th president of the Government of Catalonia) used by the Department of Political Science of the University of Copenhagen to introduce Carles Puigdemont.

Because, as is often the case with Catalonia, what has been accepted as established, considered an immutable truth and even incorporated into the rules of protocol actually makes little sense except as a distortion of history to fuel a myth and strengthen national sentiment.

Trump is the 44th President of the United States because (unfortunately, if you’ll pardon the irony) there is a political and institutional line of continuity between the office he now holds and the one inaugurated by George Washington in 1789. Just like Lars Løkke Rasmussen is the 53rd Prime Minister of Denmark because of the continuity of the Danish state dating back to the rule of Adam Wilhelm Moltke in 1848, but not all the way back to the medieval kingdoms of the Vikings.

It is also possible to establish a continuity with the first president of a Cabinet, Francisco Martínez de la Rosa (1834-1835) and thus say that Mariano Rajoy is the 164th president of the Government of Spain–but it would make little sense to mix in monarchies, regencies, republics, exiles, dictatorship and democracy.

Likewise, it would be illogical to try to establish a line of continuity between Rajoy and Álvaro de Luna, who was the first King’s favourite under John II of Castille (1406-1454), or with the royal secretaries appointed by monarchs such as Henry III of Castille (1379-1406). None of them was the president of a government.

Berenguer de Cruïlles (1359-1362), the first president of the medieval Generalitat depicted as idyllic by the nationalists, never presided over a government. He was a bishop (like almost every one of his successors in what was known as the Generalitat) at the service of the Crown, and otherwise an advocate for the Inquisition and the excommunication of dissidents. Mind you, at this rate, perhaps there is some continuity between that bishop’s inquisitorial theocratic absolutism and the exclusionary national-populism hoping to install what will apparently become the 130.5th president of the Generalitat. Sometimes history moves in circles. Or backwards.

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