Politics always leave room for unexpected twists of events and incongruous stories. It was to the surprise of many that former French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, announced in 2018 he would leave every office he has in France and attempt to be elected mayor of the city of Barcelona. Such surprising news began to take a more concrete shape when on October 2nd, Manuel Valls publicly resigned at the French National Assembly in order to focus solely on his political campaign abroad. This election occurs in a turbulent context due to the actions of the Catalan independentists last year, and the designation of the mayor of Barcelona is yet another fight between those who wish to remain within the Spanish nation, and those who crave for independence.
A Former French Prime Minister in Spain?
Why would a French politician aim for an office in Barcelona? Good question, right?! Manuel Valls is not alien to the Catalan city, as he was actually born there and only became a regular French citizen at the age of 20. He was approached by the centre-right party Ciudadanos (Citizens), as this pro-European, liberal and mostly loyalist party could see in Manuel Valls a potential candidate for their programme. This new party, created in 2006, yet never “won” any major city nor any major leading figures.(1) On the other hand, Manuel Valls always advocated for a united Spain when commenting the 2017 turmoil in Barcelona, stating on French television that “Catalonia without Spain is not Catalonia”. Continue reading “Manuel Valls Hopes for Reconversion in Barcelona”→
How odd coincidences are, sometimes! On Friday [26.10.18], the French President, Emmanuel Macron, declared that “there is no division between East and West in Europe”. I had just written the draft of this article dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the First Czechoslovak Republic – stating the complete opposite and calling for more efforts from the Western part of our continent.
Therefore, allow me to seize this opportunity to turn this article into an answer to a declaration I know is wrong.
“Czechoslovakia” might not exist anymore, but the ideals of this state, as well as its struggles, are still very much alive. The Prime Minister of the Czech Republic was born in the Slovak part, when it was still called “Czechoslovakia”. Born in Bratislava; Prime Minister in Prague. Usually at this point, for the amusement of the readers, the writer tends to add a comparison that turns out to be a joke. However, there is no comparison to make here, even less as a joke: the Czech and Slovak common history was not made only of laughter and joy – it was also made of betrayal, loneliness, and struggle for the right to exist together, or separately. There happens to be only very few similar cases – please name a case of two different nations uniting under one flag, one state, one President, just to have the right to exist and try their luck at this. And when it fails the first time, they try again a second, a third, and a fourth time. Only after the fourth attempt, they agree on a peaceful separation, though not tearless.
If you’re from Western Europe, I might have lost you already at “Czechoslovakia”, at the very beginning of this paragraph: “where is it by the way?”. If you’re Czech or Slovak, I might have lost you with the “four times” – and you’re probably arguing about this number. See the division now, Mr Macron? Here it is.
To clear this point quickly with Czechs and Slovaks (and especially those born as Czechoslovaks): I include in the “attempts” not only the usual 1918, 1945 and 1990, but also the additional attempt with a more federal system during the Communist period. You may disagree, I’m not even sure I agree with myself here. Let’s not lose the focus of this article, though – the division, between East and West. Continue reading “1918-2018: Czechoslovakia, Between East & West”→
As jars of Marmite auctioned online for £10,000, following a price dispute between Tesco and Unilever, and parliament locked horns over the right to a debate of Brexit negotiation terms; the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon announced she would instigate another Scottish Independence referendum if the UK was forced to leave the single market, at the Scottish National Party conference.
This would be the second referendum in two years. Scotland voted to remain part of the UK by a 10 per cent margin in September 2014, after a prolonged and intense referendum campaign that ended with the removal of long-time leader of the SNP Alec Salmond. Many UK politicians, Theresa May included, are describing Sturgeon’s announcement of a second referendum draft as a temper tantrum over Brexit.
Every 15 September, Mexico celebrates its independence from Spain. The Mexican War of Independence broke out on 15 September 1810, after 300 years of colonial rule by Spain, and ended in 1821. Mexico’s Independence Day commemorates the blending of two cultures: Mexican and Hispanic.
The call to revolution that spurred Mexicans to fight the Spanish Empire in 1810 is known as El Grito, the Spanish word for scream, and is commemorated with jubilation by all Mexicans every 15 September. On this day, they honour the heroes that gave them back their homeland after 300 years of colonisation by the Spanish Empire. Mexico celebrates its independence, and Mexicans “scream” that they are proud of their roots and the cultural mix that characterises their society. The only exception for this celebration was in 1847, when Mexico was occupied by American troops. After the Mexican–American War, Mexico lost about one-third of its territory, including nearly all of present-day California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico.
“On 15 September, Mexicans honour the heroes of independence…”
The annual holiday is a non-religious celebration that brings Mexican society together. There is a festive atmosphere on the streets, with mariachis singing on every square, with people dancing and partying. The air is filled with the lovely smell of tortillas. On 15 September at 11:00 p.m., everyone screams together the call for independence made by Miguel Hidalgo, the priest that started the War of Independence by mobilising the Creole society. This shout is repeated by the Mexican President, who is currently Enrique Peña Nieto, representative of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The following call is screamed on the zocalo – the main square of Mexico City – at the same time by every governor in the 31 departments that form the country:
“Hurrah, hurrah, and hurrah…”
“Hurrah for the Independence; Hurrah for the heroes that gave us our homeland; Hurrah for Hidalgo; Hurrah for Morelos; Hurrah for Allende; Hurrah for the Independence; Hurrah for Mexico, Hurrah for Mexico, Hurrah for Mexico”.
The day Mexicans were born on the world political map
Ambassador Arturo Gonzalez, the director of the third country mobility programme of Erasmus Mundus Euroculture at the National University Autonoma of Mexico (UNAM), explained: “On this day we celebrate the achievement of independence for our country. 15 September 1810 represents the day Mexicans were born on the world political map. I am proud of Mexicans’ ability to maintain the unity of our country in search of our own philosophy, a complex issue due to the enormous diversity of Mexican society. There is no doubt our society has influences from other nations. Parts of this heritage are positive, other aspects are more negative”. The ambassador also highlighted the fact that Mexico has not had a military government since 1940.
“The annual holiday is no longer a celebration of independence, but of Mexican identity…”
Jose, a taxi driver in Mexico City, suggested that the annual holiday is no longer a celebration of independence, but of Mexican identity: “We Mexicans pay too much attention to gringos’ way of life. Yes! We like to follow gringos’ trends and how they speak (gringo is a word which refers to Americans), but on 15 September there is an exception. On that day, all Mexicans are proud of their roots, and we celebrate Mexican identity all together through our food, music, leg-pulls, and a shared feeling of happiness and hospitality.” In fact, the greatest experience that the MA Euroculture programme has given me is to get to know how incredibly kind and caring Mexicans are in general, always trying to help the foreigner.
Spain, the stepmother
“So the Spaniards are gone…but who are the Mexicans today?”
Independence from Spain gave birth to a new society, and a new identity. The Creole identity is a mixture of European blood and that of the indigenous Indians. The Mexican War of Independence was inspired by the French Revolution. Nevertheless, it was a holy revolution with the aim of breaking apart from the foreigners after centuries of occupation. ‘But who are the Mexicans today?’ is the question posed by Hernan Taboada, professor of history in the Euroculture programme at UNAM. “Before the independence, they themselves were called Spaniards. But after that, the Motherland – Spain – became the ‘stepmother’, a monster that had oppressed Latin America for three centuries of tyranny. From now on, they will call themselves Americans. In my opinion, they are still waiting to find their own name”.
Time for the Mexican Moment: The Enrichment of the Country
The future of Mexico is debated. “What path should be followed by the country to achieve more social equality?” asks Tabohada. Should it be the North American model, or should Mexico focus instead on the experience of the European Union? In order to give an answer, Tabohada quotes the Latin American author and educator Simon Rodriguez: “We have to invent or we err. Has the Spirit of the Revolution died?” Tabohada asserts that “it certainly has, due to the petroleum industry and the education system that are both moving away from the nationalism that has ruled the state for years.”
“We have to invent or we err. Has the Spirit of the Revolution died?”
We are living the so-called “Mexican Moment”, as it has been dubbed in the New York Times. Experts foresee great development for the country in the short term. Nevertheless, Mexican youth question whether they are going to live to see improvement, as progress fails to influence the economic standards of the lower classes, where the minimum wage is 64.76 MXN per day (3.7 EUR), according to the International Business Times. The country feels proud of its ability to become competitive as an exporter of services and producer of technology. It is a key issue for the economy of the country not to be too dependent on its oil and raw materials. Sadly, this growth doesn’t accompany the enrichment of the country as a whole due to the lack of equal redistribution of the money, with 50 million Mexicans living in poverty, according to the latest report by the official National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy.
“Mexicans have reasons to be proud but the persistent poverty is a sad reality…”
For more picture, click the first picture and click ‘next’
Maria de las Cuevas, journalist, studied at the University of Deusto and the University of Strasbourg and is currently doing a research track at the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM). She is grateful for the amazing program at the UNAM, which focuses on Mexican revolutions that closely accompanies the history of Spain, her homeland, and how European Liberal movements influenced on the fight for the independence of Latin America. She enjoys traveling around the country with her husband and friends. She’s also doing an internship at Studio Phi Creative Agency in the department of Social Media. She is impressed with the friendliness and warmth of the Mexican society which she wouldn’t be able to forget for a long time.