Attacks against the Catalan language, especially in education, are the backdrop for over 40,000 people (according to organizers) having mobilized this weekend in Palma (Mallorca), Valencia and Orxeta (Valencian Country). Those demonstrations have taken place two weeks before another march will likely convene thousands in Barcelona on June 14th for the continued role of Catalan in schools.
Weekend marches started in Mallorca's Palma on Saturday (more than 10,000 participants, according to one of the organizing associations, Obra Cultural Balear, OCB), where more than 20 associations and unions called for an end to attacks against Catalan, the own language of the Balearic Islands. Those attacks are stemming from the Spanish government and courts (Supreme Court rulings against Catalan language immersion in schools, a new Law on education aimed at strengthening the role of Spanish, and burdens against Catalan language TV channels). But attacks are also happening, in the words of OCB President Jaume Mateu, because of decisions made by Balearic institutions, who according to him should "stop legislating against the knowledge [of Catalan], its use and its reputation."
Less than one year ago, the largest demonstration ever in the Balearic Islands protested against a new linguistic model in Balearic schools that had been decided by the Balearic Parliament, in the hands of Spanish nationalist Popular Party (PP). The islands' education community believes the new model, introduced by the government as a trilingual one, is in fact aimed at favouring the role of Spanish in schools, at the expense of Catalan.
Also on Saturday, umbrella association Escola Valenciana said 5,000 people had gathered in Orxeta, in a meeting in favour of Valencian language ("Valencian" is the local name for the Catalan language) schools. And on Sunday, and still according to the organization, some 25,000 people took part in Escola Valenciana's meeting and demonstration in the city of Valencia (picture). Escola Valenciana President Vicent Moreno argued the march was needed in view of the "determination" by the Valencian government (as in the case of the Balearic Islands, in the hands of PP) "to close public schools in our language, to remove Valencian language educational units, and to attack the public, quality and Valencian language schools."
According to Escola Valenciana, 14,000 children are currently prevented from studying in Valencian in the Valencian Country because of lack of enough provision of Valencian language schools in the public system. The organization fears this will worsen because of the planned suppression of more Catalan language educational units in Catalan by the Valencian government. Escola Valenciana brings together some 30 pro-Valencian language civil society organizations in the Valencian Country.
Som Escola gearing for June 14th demonstration in Barcelona
Demonstrations in Palma, Valencia and Orxeta have taken place two weeks before umbrella group Som Escola (which gathers more than 40 civil society organizations) will likely gather thousands in the streets of Barcelona on June 14th. Protesters are called to defend the continued role of Catalan as the only vehicular language in Catalonia's schools, against plans by Spain's central government and courts to introduce Spanish as the vehicular language of at least 25% of non-linguistic subjects.
Som Escola argues that only the current system in Catalonia, with Catalan as the sole vehicular language (with Spanish being taught as a separate subject), can guarantee an adequate knowledge of both Catalan and Spanish to all pupils, since Catalan is severely under-represented in other areas of social life such as the media, courts and leisure. The organization furthermore says that the current linguistic model is a key asset for social cohesion in Catalonia, where more than 50% of the people have Spanish as their initial language at home.