Much as The Courtier loves Catalonia, it must be said that over the past century it has become unique among the formerly independent principalities which now constitute the Kingdom of Spain in having the most schizophrenic attitude toward modernity. Puig i Caldafach, one of Catalonia’s most important architects, was a conservative politician and a practicing Catholic, while his contemporary and another important architect of Barcelona’s revival, Domènech i Montaner, was a leader of one of the Leftist parties. Not long after the great Catalan sculptor Llimona founded the Artistic Circle of St. Luke as a place for conservative Catalan artists to gather, Picasso began to make his reputation at the Barcelona School of Fine Arts. Catalonia is filled with glorious churches stretching from the early centuries of Christianity up to the present, and yet during the Civil War of 1936-1939, Leftist Catalan fury against the Church knew no bounds, as documented in the recent “The Martyrology of the Temples”.
So it came as something of a surprise today to learn that the beach town of Salou, south of Barcelona, is starting to crack down on perceived immodesty in dress, among other things. The town council has imposed strict penalties on those who are found wearing swimsuits away from the beaches and seafront bars/restaurants, in an effort to discourage libertine behavior on the streets of the town proper. Barcelona, while not going as far as its neighbor in assessing fines against those who break such laws, is also attempting to dissuade users of the municipal beaches from wearing bikinis and the like when wandering around the city. It is believed that other Catalan beach resorts will quickly follow suit (so to speak.)
At the same time as they are moving against the display of too much skin, the Catalans are also taking steps against those going in the opposite direction; interestingly enough, they are the first region in Spain to do so. Barcelona, which currently has a Socialist Mayor, and the provincial capital city of Lleida recently banned the wearing of full Moslem veils in public places such as museums, schools and hospitals, while the burka has been banned for some time now in all government buildings throughout Catalonia. A recent attempt to ban the burka generally, throughout Catalonia, failed on technical grounds, but may be presented again in the Catalan Parliament.
Despite its well-deserved reputation for anarchy and unrest over the past century, there is still a broad element of Catalan society which does not appreciate extremism in public behavior. Such attitudes are more strongly concentrated in the countryside, but even in the supposedly more cosmopolitan city centers there is a definite distaste for what has happened to Catalan society over the last several decades in particular. Anyone who has been to Barcelona within the last ten years knows that the historic center of the city is overrun with a kind of extremism vacillating between the trashy to the frightening, and which is becoming truly off-putting. Perhaps the people of Catalonia are finally starting to wake up and realize what happens when they sit back and do nothing while their urban centers collapse.