An Outsider from Within

José Carralero is one of the signees of the Manifesto of the 2,300, a document that asks for the equality of language rights in Catalonia. But signing that manifesto cost him more than he thought. 

José Sánchez Carralero is famous Spanish painter and professor. He was one of the signees of the Manifesto of the 2,300, a document that asked for the equality of language rights in Catalonia.

José Sánchez Carralero is a famous Spanish painter and professor. He was one of the signees of the Manifesto of the 2,300, a document that asked for the equality of language rights in Catalonia. (Courtesy of José Carralero)

It was a warm afternoon in 1981 in Barcelona and the then 41-year-old José Sánchez Carralero was getting home from his job as a landscape professor in the arts faculty at the University of Barcelona. His wife’s car wasn’t parked outside, so he knew the children were home alone. Carralero stuck the key in the door, expecting the kids to rush to greet him as they always did. But when he opened the door, he heard silence. Carralero stepped in, closed the door, and turned around to find his son of merely 10 years old crying on the couch.

“What’s wrong? Why are you crying?” he asked.

“Someone called,” the child sobbed.

“Okay, yes. But why are you crying? What did they say?” Carralero pressed.

“They said they were from Terra Lliure,” the boy added. “They said they were going to kill you.”

Carralero understood then. He was, after all, living in Catalonia, an autonomous Spanish community whose people pride themselves on being different from the Spanish. Terra Lliure, which means “Free Land” in Catalan, was an armed Catalan nationalist and left-wing separatist organization known for its violence towards those against the Catalan independence movement. Formed in 1978, the group carried out dozens of attacks that left many people injured and one person dead. At the time, Carralero thought the phone call was just a bad joke. He told his son not to worry and got on with his night.

“But two days later, a friend of mine was kidnapped. He was found tied to a tree, shot in the leg, and left to bleed. They left him in the countryside, and a farmer found him just in time to take him to the hospital. He ended up needing a blood transfusion,” Carralero says. “So it wasn’t a joke.”

This was the life of the 2,300 signees of the Manifesto for the Equality of Linguistic Rights in Catalonia, also known as the Manifesto of the 2,300. Created in 1981, the document asked for equal language rights for Spanish and Catalan in the Spanish region of Catalonia. “The signees, intellectuals and professionals below…want to inform the public of our profound worry about the cultural and linguistic situation in Catalonia,” the document read. “Our concerns don’t come from anti-Catalan prejudices, but rather from…recent events…where rights regarding the public and official use of Spanish are being depreciated…”

The manifesto was received with a lot of negativity, and some of the signees, like Carralero and his friend, received threats or were attacked. In fact, shortly after the publication of the manifesto, an anti-manifesto emerged. This is something that Carralero, now 62, says shouldn’t have had to happen.

“The manifesto wasn’t against Catalan at all,” Carralero says. “It was pro-bilingualism. We didn’t think Catalan shouldn’t be used. We just thought that Catalan shouldn’t be used as a selective weapon, which was what had been happening at the time. It also stated that Castilians shouldn’t be marginalized because [Castilian] is also an official language in Spain.”

Having three school-aged children at the time, Carralero says he had experienced this neglect of the Spanish language first hand. His kids were all in primary school and they would come home saying they had received whole lessons in Catalans by a select number of teachers. Carralero says he wasn’t worried about the kids because they learn fast. But he says this made it clear that some in Catalonia were already against Spain and the use of Spanish.

Of course, had he been in Catalonia 10 years later, he wouldn’t have had a choice. In 1992, the Catalonian government introduced the Law of Linguistic Policy, decreeing that all primary school lessons would be in Catalan. Six years later, it would be extended to include secondary schools. Today, children living in Catalonia do not have the option of studying in Spanish in the public school system.

The Catalan (left) and Spanish (right) flag.

The Catalan (left) and Spanish (right) flags. (Illustration by Susana Gómez Báez)

There wasn’t anywhere Carralero could go where he wasn’t looked at as one of the signees of that manifesto. A few days after the document was published, he walked into work at the university only to find printed versions of the manifesto with his signature circled in red pasted throughout the hallways of the building. His own faculty held a meeting to discuss the manifesto where they bashed the document and its signees — a meeting Carralero attended.

“Sometimes I would say ‘but I’m one of them’ and they’d just blow me off,” he says. “It wasn’t a direct attack, but they spent the whole meeting, which was all in Catalan by the way, attacking the manifesto and its signees.”

There were, however, some people who supported him. One history professor, whom Carralero remembers as “proudly Catalan but also proudly Spanish”, stood up and defended him in the middle of the meeting.

“We’re creating hostility towards those who are valuable and whom Catalonia needs,” Carralero says he remembers the man saying. “Lots of you believe or want to believe that Picasso was from Catalonia just because he lived there for many years. We know he was born in Malaga. And this way, we realize that a lot of valuable people are going to leave us, like José Carralero.”

But this was the exception, and not the rule. Even when he was supposed to take his position as professor two years earlier (in 1979), after having fought hard to earn it, Carralero says there were obstacles put in his way.

When someone is hired as a professor at the University of Barcelona, it’s announced in an official government bulletin. The candidate then has only a few days to take position before losing his spot. “I lived in Madrid, and I’d call the university to talk to the president about a time and date to accept my position. But whenever I’d call, they’d say the president wasn’t there or to call back. It was an excuse so I’d miss it.”

Eventually, after getting tired of waiting, Carralero just showed up. “I remember the person I spoke to was upset, asking me who I thought I was to do something like that.” He left the university the fall after the manifesto was signed and moved back to Madrid.

But we don’t have to look that far back. Today, it has been 33 years since the manifesto was signed and Carralero is still seeing resentment because of it. In 2011, Impulso Ciudadano, a group from Barcelona that promotes citizens’ rights, celebrated the 30th anniversary of the signing of the manifesto. They invited all the signees as well as local and national media to a large ceremony, which was to be held at the Barcelona casino.

Carralero says he was “skeptical” when he heard what the venue would be and wondered whether the casino was going to be open to such a political event. The organizers assured him that they had checked in advance. A week before the ceremony, however, the casino called Impulso Ciudadano and cancelled. “They waited until the last day so it wasn’t enough time to reorganize with only one day,” Carralero says.

The group did manage to pull together the ceremony though. They moved the event to the Fort Pienc Civic Centre. According to the organizers, about 200 people attended. But, amongst all the cameras and microphones, Carralero says there were no Catalan journalists. Nothing showed up on Catalan media. It was covered in only national news instead.

Today, Carralero still lives and works in Madrid, where he found success in the world of academia. In 1984, he went on to become the vice-dean of the arts faculty at the University of Madrid for seven years, as well as becoming a member of the acquisitions committee in renowned museums in the Spanish capital, including El Prado and Reina Sofia. He hasn’t worked in Barcelona since.




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