Barcelona August 13th, 2013 12:42am


Went to the History of Catalunya Museum. I love museums. They not only give you an overview of history or art, but they give you a very good view of how a people or country want to be seen - which is much more instructive. For instance a museum gives you a long explanation of the motivations behind a past event, but the subjectivity of the explanation - and it can only be subjective - tells you at least as much about the current mythos. Why did this war or that marriage or that famine really happen? Normally it's very hard to say: but the reasons that country's historians come up with is the PR of the present.

A nation frequently magnifies its historical impact, or art pundits point almost hysterically at something, screaming "This is relevant!" But normally that judgement is justification for some current need or prejudice. For centuries we were told there were no significant classical women painters, or that the Mayan had no written language, museums full of evidence that Europeans were superior to all other groups: each a lie served up to a populous as a justification for some simultaneous oppression, or a past "victimization" of the homeland to rally support for the current victimization of others. I say all this because I was a bit surprised at the slight way the Catalan Museum treated the Spanish Inquisition. Now, I know that the Inquisition on Catalunya was not nearly as bloodthirsty as it was elsewhere, but here it focused on "converses," Jews and Moslems who were accused of having falsely agreed to their forced conversions to Christianity.

And so, since these people were believed to have secretly kept to their faiths, despite being whipped and tortured into kissing the cross of the god of love, they were driven out of the country by the thousands. A terrible tragedy and injustice - which is dealt with in a few lines on one placard in a museum that has an entire room dedicated to explaining how a well pump works. I actually liked the museum, with all its fiery nationalist pride, but I wish - even in this time of xenophobia and immigrant fear here in Catalunya - that they had given more than a slight glance in the direction of those they treated unfairly.


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