Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Speech by Daniela Grau at Elna, Northern Catalonia

Speech made by Daniela Grau, member of Catalunya Acció, on Sunday May 16th 2010, during the acts organized with the Institut de Projecció Exterior de la Cultura Catalana (IPECC) and the Elna Town Council, remembering the massacre of 1285 at the Cathedral of the city, one of the most cruel episodes of the French Crusade against Catalonia.

Cathedral of Elna

Dear Compatriots,

how lucky we are! -despite our secular disgraces as conquered nations, and still colonized -, being able to tell so many stories about our ancestors, with the Chronicle by Bernat Desclot in the 13th Century. Moreover, we may follow the formation of the first Counties, I mean, the very Catalonia itself. As for two historians specialists in the topic, J Bolós and V. Hurtado, we have in the Rosselló, Conflent, Vallespir and Fenollet more than 600 documents earlier that 991, more than any other region within the Caroligian Empire, which extended from the Elba to the Danube. We are the memory of Europe, so too in the Middle Ages.

Nowadays, the intellectual compromised proclaim the need of the Historical Memory. This is that the Maternity of Elna has become in the last few years the most coinciding place of memory in Northern Catalonia, where some 80 girls bear the name of Elna.

To encourage our people to remember the traumas of 1939, silenced for more than 70 years, is easier, more permissible, more successful than making more ancient traumas know, voluntarily manipulated or hidden for centuries, as it is generally our History. Because by not owning a Catalan State, not having own Government, we cannot have our own elaborated school teachings. We are ignorant of our own History and cannot extract any lessons.

In the case of the massacre of Elna -May 25th 1285- by French troops commanded by the King Philip le Hardi -stratagem-, there is, without a doubt, a supplementary reason to hide; the admittance of the responsibility and guilt of a traitor Catalan leader, and, the analysis of his reasons and not distorting the context, as it was done half a century later by another Chronicler, Ramon Muntaner.

Ignoring the mistakes is condemning oneself to repeat them.

Elna had not been besieged nor massacred should James II King of Majorca, Count of the Rosselló  and the Cerdanya, Lord of Montpeller, unduly mystified as 'the good King James', had not betrayed his own word, if he had respected the agreement signed six years before with his brother, Peter, King of Catalonia-Aragon. James had compromised to help Peter against the enemies and to maintain the within Rosselló the Uses of Barcelona and the Constitutions of Catalonia. Elna had not been demolished, its women raped, children thrown against the walls, the churches burnt, had not been so ingenuous as to fall in the sarcastic traps of the French King, who had the consent and the help from the Pope, to take possession of Catalonia. James knew two years before about the massacre, July 1283, when the invasion of Catalonia was the target of the Papal Crusade. During the spring of 1285, the French King concentrated an army of such power as "from an earlier century, the French Crown had not joined". The day after Easter, King Peter came to Perpinyà to speak to his brother and to stop the invasion, but James, fatigued, confined for two days in his quarters and preferred to escape through the sewers of the Royal Palace of Perpinyà, abandoning his wife and sons, and seek refuge at la Roca.

The population opposed a heroic resistance. First, Salses, the border between Catalonia and France, then el Voló and finally Elna. The Crusade finished with the victory of the King Peter, called the Great, defeating the French at the Coll de Panissars -Albera, and the death of Philip le Hardi.

James II gave the Country to the enemy, because he trusted the supposed foreign ally instead of his own brother. He trusted a foreign power more than his own, the Catalan people. Ai las! Unfortunately for us, the cradle of Catalonia, its North, History repeated again, when the Rosselló was given as ransom. It was sacrificed in exchange of a supposed help from the French, who took profit by invading the territory. However, we continued heroically resisting the invaders during the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, until the annexation to France in 1659.

And today, if we remain still here, 350 years after, is because we have remained loyal to Catalonia.

We wish, then, that this commemoration allow us to find again our memory and to reinforce the national conscience. Animating us to unmask the leaders who keep Catalonia under foreign rule, and may turn the owners of our destiny. We thank IPECC, the Institute for the Projection of the Catalan Culture for its participation, and Mr Garriga Trullols for his active collaboration. IPECC commemorates every year transcendental events for our History like the victory at Coll de Panissars and the memory of Francesc Macià at Prats de Molló, and contributes now to unveil the illustrious city of Elna, the ancient Iberian Illiberis, martyr city in the 13th century. As the historian Josep Termes said "the Nation is the result of the past and the History, but is also future will-power: Catalonia, independent State".

Daniela Grau
Elna May 16th, 2010

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