Friday, December 16, 2011

The American who talks the most about Catalonia!

LizAnyone following my Twitter stream today wouldn't be able to avoid noticing that I'm pretty riled up about Google's bizarre and rather random translating of Catalan street names into Spanish. I talk about Catalan a lot on my blog and on Twitter.

Last winter and spring, while I was living in Barcelona, I started a new enterprise dedicated to translating interesting books about Catalonia into English, so that I could share the place I love with the non-Catalan speaking world. First, I published a collection of essays by long-time Barcelona resident but English son, Matthew Tree, called “Barcelona, Catalonia: A View from the Inside”. And in July, we presented Toni Strubell and Lluís Brunet's, “What Catalans Want”, their brilliant collection of essays of leading Catalan politicians, academics, economists, and media experts on whether Catalonia could be the next new state in Europe.

The other morning I got a call from Muriel Casals, the president of Òmnium Cultural, a Barcelona-based organization dedicated to promoting Catalan language and culture. It turns out that each year, Òmnium holds a grand gala event—La Nit de Santa Llúcia—in which they present the most prestigious book awards in the country.

Imagine my surprise when she told me that one of the prizes was for me, and if I could go to Barcelona to receive it! They are awarding me the "Premi Joan Cendrós" for works about Catalan and Catalonia published outside of Catalonia. I am totally honored and excited.

So, those of you who sometimes get overwhelmed by my Catalan-related tweets, I thank you for your patience. And I hope you have a better understanding of what's going on there. Every country, like every person, deserves to be recognized for who they are. Catalonia is a vibrant, unique place, and it's not Spain.

There's a lot more work to do. I'm not done yet.


Here's a translation of the article on Òmnium Cultural's website: (links added by me :)

The American publisher Catalonia Press has won the 25th Joan B. Cendrós Prize for its books and writings about Catalonia published outside of Catalonia. The prize will be awarded during the 61st Night of Santa Llúcia.

The jury of the 25th Joan B. Cendrós Prize has awarded the prize for her work about Catalonia published outside of Catalonia to the American publisher Liz Castro. Castro, a writer living in Massachusetts, has become known in the last few years for her work promoting Catalonia and talking about its linguistic, cultural, and political situation through her publishing house, Catalonia Press, as well as the internet, where she reports on Catalan news in English.

The jury, consisting of Antoni Bassas, Joan Becat, Laura Cendrós, Josep Gifreu and Vicent Partal, paid particular importance to the various digital books that Catalonia Press has published in order to spread information around the world about the reality of life in Catalonia. In that vein, the jury wanted to highlight the publication this year of “What Catalans Want”, a collection of interviews about the situation in this country, written by Antoni Strubell with photographs by Lluís Brunet, as well as “Barcelona, Catalonia”, by Matthew Tree.

The prize award ceremony will take place on December 20th during the 61st Night of Santa Llúcia in the Auditori de Barcelona [National Theater]. The Festa de les Lletres Catalanes [Catalan Literary Festival], where the winners of the Sant Jordi, Carles Riba, Mercè Rodoreda, Folch i Torres i Joaquim Ruyra prizes will be announced and awarded returns again this year to the Catalan capital with a unique show created and directed by Paco Mir, of the group Tricicle.


  1. Wow, Liz, congratulations!!! Woo hoo!

  2. Congratulations, Liz! We're holding down the fort here in Girona (no it is NOT Gerona as some social websites insist).

  3. WOW Liz. Did'nt know I had such a famous cousin. Congratulations on the award. I was interested to read what is going on in Catalonia. PS: your Dad must be very proud of you. Marge Castro Kuzmicky

  4. Congratulations, Liz! What a great honor. Your passion for Catalonia and Catalan is obvious, so it is no surprise that Òmnium Cultural took notice. I hope those in charge of awards for people doing great work in digital publishing take the same notice.

  5. Congratulations for this award. It really looks like it's well-deserved.
    However, a few questions, raised by your statement "It's not Spain". I'm at least partially aware of the issues and feelings of Catalan speakers. When I travelled to Barcelona once, I prepared myself with a little language guide book and tried to address people in Catalan, even though at a very early stage I would have to switch to English. However, I wanted to show people my respect for their culture and language. I also remember the impressive exhibition of Catalan history in the Frankfurt book fair, where they were hosted as a special guest country some years ago.

    But now comes my problem: Isn't Catalan a language only because people very loudly assert so? Isn't it a political wish rather than a fact per se?
    Two little stories I experienced: I once went to an Italian restaurant in Germany together with a friend from Columbia, who could not speak anything but Spanish. He however was very well able to communicate with the Italian family running the restaurant, he speaking slow Spanish, they speaking slow Italian. There seems to be no doubt in this world that Italian and Spanish are different language, but they can communicate with each other. (Similar examples could be made with Danish / Norwegian, Czech / Slovak and maybe also German / Dutch)
    Then again I once was in a Pizza Hut in Hong Kong together with a friend from mainland China, who could only speak Mandarin Chinese. We were served by a waitress who could only speak Cantonese. They were unable to communicate with each other, I had to interpret between them. There seems not much doubt in this world, that Cantonese is not a language, but a Chinese dialect.

    So, from these observations I somehow feel very doubtful when somebody tells me, that it is an offense to call this or that language a dialect or a variant. I think when trying to fairly deal with this matter, we should keep political intentions and linguistic descriptions apart and always make clear from what point of view we are speaking at a given moment.

    1. Hi spring day. Here's some comparisons
      Catalan English Spanish
      maluc thigh cadera
      genoll knee rodilla
      got glass vaso
      relliscar slip resbalar
      llibertat freedom libertad
      fins demà until tomorrow hasta mañana

  6. No, catalan is a language, not only because people assert so. People speaking catalan, 7.000.000, milions more or less (Liz can be more specifical about it), do it for the same reason you speak english: because it is their own language. The difference respect, for exemple, to the Italians "dialect-speakers" (a country where you have an official language and a big lot of local languages, often very different from italian) is that in Catalonia people have a strong self-concept of the their linguistic-cultural reality. You can say it's not enough, obviously - as you could assert about italian, in spite of its monster litterature, at least, it is what many italians say today-, to explain that Catalonia is different. And I say "May be" there is no need even of the language (and the catalan language is different from Spanish, as Italian is different from French: Italy and France are may be the same?) to explain that Catalonia is different, in any case. May be USA is not different from UK or Germany from Austria? They have their own state, Catalonia does not. Is this the difference?
    Well, in any case, it is a part of the rich, complex, polychromatic mosaic of the european culture, where all the singular cultures have their own space and right to exist.
    And Liz is the living a demonstration of the vitality and the projection of the culture of this small, friendly but surprising country.
    Congratulations Liz!

  7. Stefano, in my long comment I did not mean to be disrespectful or even offensive towards the Catalan language or culture. Maybe I haven't made that clear enough and so I'd like to apologize to anyone who might have been offended by it.
    What I wanted to express is my total confusion when it comes to thinking about the distinctions between languages and dialects. I myself grew up in West Germany with Hunsrück dialect being my mother language. This dialect has never been standardized and definitely not a langugae - nevertheless we have literature (mainly short forms like poetry of short stories) written in it. My mother noted down in her diary that at the age of 3 I learned to consciously distinguish between my dialect and standard German and became aware in what social context I could use dialect, in what context I should use standard German.
    So much about my own background concerning this matter. I'm sorry to say, Stefano, that your reply here doesn't help me at all to understand the status and role of Catalan. It doesn't help me to hear that Catalans have a stronger "self-concept" than Italian dialect speakers. Does that mean, that my mother dialect would be a language, if only the self-concept of the Hunsrück people would be big enough? (By the way - it also doesn't help me to hear, that there are 7 million Catalan speakers... In my earlier comment I mentioned Cantonese, which had 56 million native speakers in 1984 according to Wikipedia...)
    I'm still confused and I fear I have to get accustomed to that feeling as it will remain with me to the end of my days.


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