Some days after recent Francesc Candel Tortajada decease, I would like to write a few lines in this blog about him and what people who desire a better Catalan society may learn about.
Born in a small village in Rincon de Ademuz, a Spanish-speaking comarca of the Valencian Country, he moved to Barcelona with his family when he was still a little child. During Francoist regime, living in a humble district of the Catalonian capital, he got in close contact with the Spanish immigrants that started to arrive at the city and its surroundings.
Because of his deep knowledge on the Spanish immigration in Catalonia, which actually represented around 40% of the whole population during the 1960s, he became one of the main defenders who worked for the integration of newcomers in Catalan society, against their poverty and marginalization, and also as an active antifascist fighter.
His main work, Els Altres Catalans (the Other Catalans), a journalist essay about Spanish immigration, is still sold after more than 40 years of having been first published.
Thanks to his efforts, people like me, of Andalusian ancestry and from families which migrated during that period, are now simply Catalan regardless of their origin.
When this integration has not been possible, in its most dramatic and extreme circumstances, the youngsters which were children of these immigrants have been sometimes seduced by Spanish fascism. Recent criminal cases have been the killing of an independentist boy during Berga town celebrations, or the beating of a South-American girl inside a train near Barcelona. Sadly, similar cases often repeat all along the Catalan Countries, being especially prevalent in Barcelona and Valencia metropolitan areas.
Even after Franco death, Spanish nationalist authorities, parties and lobby groups have repeatedly tried to hinder integration of newly-arrived immigrants into Catalan society, trying to spur a linguistic conflict and often minimizing, ignoring or even backing bursts of violence such as those mentioned before.
If the Catalan Countries are to continue existing in this global world and avoid entering a progressive and slow decadency towards social and national nihilism, we will need more people like Paco Candel; people who do not hesitate to bring a hand near their recently arrived home-neighbors.
As he suggested, this is not a matter that should only be handled by public administrations, because that would mean to be doomed to failure; but above all, directly by the individuals and the network of local associations which make up this country in the end.
As Catalans, if we are not able to start working on attaining this and getting rid of whatever is blocking this path, things will only get worse and problems will continue coming from more diverse sources than even nowadays.
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