Language Wars in Spain (International New York Times)
MADRID — A tart pun appeared on a protester’s sign along a Barcelona street last week: “Franco ha Werto.” The idea was that the former dictator General Francisco Franco, who died (“ha muerto”) in 1975, is being recast as Spain’s current education minister, José Ignacio Wert.
Earlier this month, Wert proposed a draft law to reform Spain’s education system; its overall thrust is to give the central government greater control over education at the regional level. One provision would allow families that are disgruntled with Spanish-language instruction in public schools in regions that have their own official language to send their children to private institutions and claim a stipend to pay for that from the regional government.
The measure sparked protests nationwide, especially in Catalonia. People there were still smarting from a recent snub: In October Wert said that the government should españolizar, or “Hispanize,” Catalan schoolchildren. The remark had an ominous historical ring because of a long line of authoritarian crackdowns on Catalonia, from Philip V in the 18th century to Franco in the 20th.
Now locals, citizens and politicians alike, are describing Wart’s new education proposal as another act of persecution. One former parliamentarian tweeted: “Wert wants to do what Franco tried but failed to: destroy the Catalan identity.”