You are on page 1of 21

Chapter 1

The Cold in Catalunya

Written + illustrated by Jason Li
Edited by Shirley Lo


This is a work of non-fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents have been altered in some instances for protection purposes. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons AttributionNoncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Hong Kong License.
To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

This book has been typeset in Bernhard Modern Std and Calliope MVB Std. You are reading the iPad-optimized PDF edition that has been released on the 20th of May 2010.

For more details about this book, or if you wish to be notified when the next chapter is released, go to: If you wish to write me for whatever reason, you can email me at

Special thanks go to Shirley Lo for spending hours slapping the text into form and proofing the final document; to Cesar Caballud for his illustration advice, assistance and constant encouragement; to Peter Chai for art direction and Matt Lemay for editorial direction. And of course, to all those who appeared in this chapter and in my life in Barcelona.


I lived in Barcelona from 2008-2010. Barcelona is in Spain (the country) Barcelona is in Catalunya (the province) The people of Catalunya are the Catalans. 3 .Things you need to know before reading My name is Jason. This graphic essay is based on real people & events.

. The Catalan people. “Let me tell you something. Look.” They have no blood! 4 .” Look..JASON! “Come here.

5 . no.. look . No. we have blood.. how do you say this… Cold-blooded!” Hey Trastor.I am a Madridleño. it is warm! We are friendly! “They are. That is wrong.

” 6 . This.“What is this? Look.” “There’s blood in our veins.” “This.

. I can’t relate.. Foreigners like me. It is not a term of affection. somehow end up adopting this viewpoint as well. because they are from the north.. I dated a Catalan for three years. his view is shared by most of the people in Spain. * See footnote 1 after the end of this chapter for my explanation for this exception.. 7 . I don’t feel any connection to the Catalans. I don’t have any Catalan friends. oh they’re so dry and rude. Many of us find them unwelcoming and closed.* Well. The Catalan people... Though one exception pops up again and again. It ’s true.Oddly enough. who move here. Spanish people have dubbed the Catalans “polacos”.

merchant race of Spain. Heat map of friendliness in Spain Some people believe this characteristic explains why the Catalans are a cold and calculating people. Catalunya is a province of Spain. their fighting spirit was channeled into an industriousness that has given them the reputation of being the hard-working. Despite their integration into Spain. Never truly successful. Over time. and never gave up the fight for recognition. 8 . They were officially conquered and absorbed into Spain in 1714. they remained a small country struggling for recognition. in 2010. For the better part of the second millennium. But it wasn’t always this way. Catalunya was constantly fighting for its autonomy.Today. the Catalans stayed proud of their own history and traditions.

. the Catalan people. 9 . we are a little bit cold on the outside… But when you get to know us. During one of my first days at work.. it’s very good… We treat you like family.The myth of the Cold Catalans is so widespread that the Catalans themselves buy into it and feel compelled to defend themselves. And you know what they say… We.

Joan Laporta. acknowledge the victims of the fascist dictator. Executed at least 150. health. 2009 . An anger brewed during the reign of Spain’s last fascist dictator. 2007 The Law of Historic Memory will. they [Spain] are killing it and we must react. transportation and security. breaking a tacit agreement among most Spaniards not to dwell on the past. for the first time. a move which paved the way for a smooth transition to democracy on the death of Franco in 1975. who ruled until 1975.History aside. 2004 …after Franco's death in 1975. Some believe it’s not enough. education. Catalunya has its own Statute of Autonomy granting it power over areas such as culture." …until the new socialist government gained power in 2004. agreed to a national "pact of silence. former chairman of FC Barca football club He dominated the country for so long that many he defeated were never allowed to openly celebrate or grieve… From Newsweek Feb 16. From the Telegraph Oct 11.. the right and the left. the victors and the vanquished. 10 Source: BBC News Dec 12. Independence Even though their ongoing quest for independence has been going well… Unresolved history Another factor may rest in the underlying bitterness that isn’t mentioned day-to-day. Catalonia is dying." urging the country to look forward to a demo-cratic future instead of dwelling on a war-riven past. Francisco Franco. perhaps there are better. No Catalan can accept the fiscal pillaging that we are suffering nor the attacks on the rights and freedoms of Catalonia.000 of his opponents during his reign (including many notable Catalans).. present-day explanations for the Catalan attitude.

Catalan man? She looks bitter alright… But is she even Catalan? 11 .Have these events made the Catalans a cold and bitter people? Catalan with post-Franco face? Is this the face of a bitter.

an artist.” So yeah. please. I like creative people. come in. Hi.From what I’ve seen. let ’s have our first Catalan class now. the struggle for independence and the nationalistic fervor has only made people proud. 12 . I emailed about renting this apartment… “Yes yes. Bueno... Okay. Very good. I have been in Barcelona for three days now… You a designer. I’m Jason.

..” “Spain: No. we do not support the Spanish football team... . he.” 13 No... 15 minutes in now.Though sometimes Catalan pride takes on some odd forms. GOOOAL! BARCA! BARC ! BARCA! BARCA! BAAAAAAAAAARRR A! BAAAAAAARRRCA RCA! So you guys looking forward to the Eurocup [UEFA]? “Catalunya: Yes. Hello Jason! How are you! FC Barcelona football club jersey Hello Jason! You good? And Barca kicks off the match today... Messi shoots.

we spoke Catalan in the playground. Even the injustices from the Franco era have given some a purpose and drive. Now people have classes all in Catalan and Spanish is a second language. On their way to a town hall sponsored reburial of victims from the 1930s Civil War. everything was in Spanish and we would learn Catalan on the side. and many people speak it at home. 14 . it is that the politicians are sometimes too Catalan.If nothing else. What? But Spanish is used all over the world! This fucking shit with the language is just too much. When I was in school. Of course.

the myth of the cold Catalans lives on.Regardless of whether or not the reasons are valid.. SPANISH CATALAN 15 . they’re Catalan. right? Yes… But Jaume is Catalan too.. They’re a little bit eeeeh… he thinks they’re a closed group. If they’re unfriendly and closed. But Jaume.. isn’t he? The myth is strong enough that most foreigners classify the locals they meet in Barcelona like this: If they’re friendly and open.. This group.. This group. we calls ourselves the Drink Team.. He doesn’t really like them. and we’re super fun and go out and go crazy… always super laughing.

I’ve got Catalan friends. What a load of bullshit. Everyone does that.Jason! How have you been? Good good. 16 . what do you think of Barcelona? Tell me all of your complaints! Well. it ’s been a while huh? Almost a year maybe! So tell me. All my foreigner friends say the Catalans are cold and whatever They’re fine with me. I’m not going to complain about the Catalan people.

it’s actually hard to identify who is or isn’t a Catalan in the first place. 17 .. what ’s the term for a half or first-generation Catalan. Are you a. Yes I am. But perhaps it is not a matter of blood or ancestry. Mutual friend Shingo Oe’s art So you speak fluent Catalan? I feel more Catalan than anything else..Taking a closer look at the case of the cold Catalans. Some might say my friendship with him is because he has that warm. friendly Spanish blood. a cha-neg-go? Yes.. my Catalan is better than my Spanish or Japanese. there’s no such thing as a pureblood Catalan. So my parents are originally from Japan. Yes.. So do you think of yourself as Japanese? Spanish? Or Catalan? . The whole world is full of charnegos. but I came here when I was five.

. So my parents are both from Cuenca. I passed them all. you’re not Catalan? I’ve been telling all my friends I live with a super Catalan who works for the Generalitat!”* “Yes. you become Catalan. Catala? No no. sorry. but I’m a charnego. Even all the super high-level ones. Resumes talking to his girlfriend in Catalan. Hey hey! Hey! How you are? Long time ah.” “Actually.” * Generalitat = Catalunya’s autonomous government Once you understand this. Oh come on Jason. 18 . you realize that the Catalans are always trying to get you to become of them. which is a village near Madrid. “I don’t know how but when I took the Catalan language exams.” “Wait. oh Pedro. I’m Catalan. you have such a strong Spanish accent when you speak Catalan.It seems that once you master the Catalan language. Catala! Catala! Though it’s not all a warm and welcoming embrace. all my super Catalan friends say..

and sometimes we can’t even tell who’s Catalan or not… …why do we say that the Catalan people are cold? Because sometimes they are. us Catalans ARE a little quieter than the people from the south of Spain. but that’s just like the first time meeting someone at a bar. Because sometimes. Okay. we are distracted by what’s on the surface. It’s just as hard to become good friends or family with other Spanish people. Well. thank you for showing me the flat. I will let you know. Once your CATALAN is better. entry point for outsider Yeah. we should go to the theater as you said. Bueno. fake friendliness layer (Catalan or Spanish) “treat you like family” zone 19 . And yeah. Once my Spanish gets better. even if I don’t live here.So if the Catalans are friendly about their struggle for independence. Yes.

I think we call tbe Catalans cold because… …it’s fun to laugh at others… …and because it brings us outsiders together. 20 .But ultimately.

go to: http://www.To be notified when the next chapter is Thank you. 21 .