One of the things I recently learned was the national anthem of Catalonia, “Els Segadors,” thanks to a friend, Fr. Joe Mock, who lived in Barcelona for quite some time. He first heard it, he recounts, in 1976, just after it became legal to speak of a separate Catalan identity. The Red Army Chorus was on tour, and he watched their concert. They sang it, and as he claims, the crowd went wild.
Fr. Joe told me and Frere Andre, a visiting Taize monk, that September 11 was not just a tragic day for Americans, but also for the Catalan people. In 1714, a Franco-Spanish army conquered Barcelona and on that day destroyed what was left of an independent Catalan government. And he began singing, “Catalunya, triumfant, tornara ser rica i plena…” (Fr. Joe’s grasp of languages is astonishing—of the foreign Anglican clergy I know, he can get away with speaking Filipino competently, then switching to modern Greek.)
I’ve heard “Els Segadors” and of course it sounds very haunting. It reflects the tragedy and the glory of a people who have been fighting for their identity. Now that Catalonia, an autonomous community within the Spanish State, is there for good, such a song ought to remind Catalans that this freedom required a struggle.