As I followed this story late into the night, with both the Senate in Madrid and the Catalan parlament still going strong when I went to bed at 23.30, and my experience of late night discussion in bars turning into exchanges of silly Puigdemont/Rajoy jokes, it is clear that the political crisis has now become a soap opera. Spaniards sense that the confused and increasingly dizzy independentists may be about to slowly raise the white flag. When the secessionist panic is over, the whole show can be replayed on the TV screens as entertainment.
Nothing was decided yesterday in either house. The parlament will continue its debate in the Catalan Generalitat this morning, and the Senate will continue its debate in Madrid on the implementation of Article 155, which will inevitably lead to the dismissal of the whole Catalan cabinet. What has changed is Puigdemont will not declare independence: he says that is up to the parlament. This is a key change: if he did it as an individual, he knows he faces 15 years in prison for sedition. And that is the focus for the soap opera element in this: we have a star actor with something to lose.
Gent del Barri is the long-running BBC soap opera East Enders as it appears on Catalan TV. In 1991 when I was working in Barcelona, at the school of fashion in Passeig de Gracia, I was on leave from the Franciscans. I had been working in the East End of London based in the Plaistow friary, mainly doing social work with people with AIDS.
My father happened to be the Script Editor of East Enders, a role he continued until he retired from the BBC a few years later. One day he asked me about my work with people with AIDS and he seemed to be taking more interest in my life than he ever had before. I was surprised. We weren’t close and quite frankly my father bored me: all he talked about was television. He asked me to go into great detail about my work with people with AIDS in the East End, and I recounted how I had earlier that day been to visit a man in a council tower block where neighbours had scrawled “AIDS plague out!” on the wall by his front door.
It was only a few weeks later that the AIDS story-line appeared on East Enders. I felt used. To some extent betrayed as well. I never told him that – he would not have understood – for there was no such thing as reality. There was only soap opera. Characters, plot, drama.
The Catalans love East Enders because it is packaged – remarkably – as a tale of “proletarian solidarity” (link to an article in Catalan language) and fits their criteria for a vision of a closed community battling to hold up their way of life, as if there was no outside world. And it is no accident that it is broadcast on TV3, the channel which is the mouthpiece of the Catalan nationalist independence movement. The Senate debate happening right now in Madrid, which has become part of a wider soap opera, is discussing taking over TV3.
La tele novela… (thanks Elena, Spanish teacher, for translating!) …soap opera continues today with another rolling live blog.
I will update this page when I have opportunities between lessons, as Friday is a working day for me. (Note for management if you happen to look in: I am only doing this in my break times and lunch hour…)
17.30 27 October 2017
New blog post following shortly. Nobody here expected this.
The students went home and teachers caught up with news in the corridors af the end of the school day. Many in shock.
I talked to one female Spanish teacher whose voice broke as she was speaking to me about her disbelief at the news, and tears welled up. Her expression was not disappointment: it was pure fear.
I will blog later. I don’t know what to say. I look at the empty desks now the students have gone home for half term and I wonder what Spain they will grow up in. The economy will suffer as a result of this but the social rupture will be enormous. New blog post later today.
Viva España. Long live Spain and the democratic Constitution.