How Catalan Culture and Identity Survived the Franco Regime.

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Franco gained power over Spain in 1939 and controlled Spain until his death in 1975. He believed that Castilian culture and language should be central to economic, political, and social institutions in all regions. He promised "to enforce a brand of traditionalist and authoritarian Spanish nationalism that harbored no expression of the distinct 'minority cultures',? such as Catalan. Franco prohibited the use of Catalan names. Castilian equivalents had to be used, during his regime, religious services were held in Castilian, and Castilian was the only language permitted to be used in public. Schools were banned from teaching Catalan. Few books were published in Catalan and any that were published were not popularly read because most Catalans could not read Catalan. Images of popular Catalan culture like the sardanes, a traditional Catalan dance, were also banned. Popular symbols of Catalan nationalism, such as statues, portraits, the flag, were all removed from public view.Even the names of streets that were in Catalan were changed to a Castilian name. Franco's effort to suppress this culture was pervasive. He prohibited expressions of language, traditional dance and culture, and religious practice, yet he only limited the culture. As I believe my research will show, Franco's repression was not as effective as he would have liked. Although he repressed major Catalan institutions, Catalonians were able to resist this repression, and their culture flourished after his death. Faced with a violent despondent regime, I hypothesize that the Catalan relied on daily acts of resistance and oral traditions to maintain their culture. After Franco's death the culture and language were encouraged to thrive as the Generalitat, the local democratic government emphasized the importance of maintaining the culture. The increase in the literacy rate and spoken Catalan owe a lot to the effort of the Catalan government to encourage the re-establishment of Catalan culture in social, political, and economic institutions, but also to the daily acts of resistance by the Catalan. This research is important because it seeks to understand the perseverance of a people to maintain their traditions, customs, and language through a history of oppressive monarchies. Moreover, it shows with stark clarity the limits of political tyranny to oppress a culture in an attempt to homogenize a country. The Catalan culture survived 36 years of oppression due to everyday resistance and a strong sense of identity that the Catalans have historically harbored in order to maintain their culture in the face of cultural oppression.


Nina Gelbart




Support provided by:Paul K. & Evalyn E. Cook Richter Trusts - International Fellowship

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