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An untimely tune

The attempts to make political capital out of singer Marta Sánchez’s new lyrics for the Spanish national anthem are deplorable

Spanish and Catalan independence flags at a protest in Barcelona.
Spanish and Catalan independence flags at a protest in Barcelona.ALBERT GARCÍA

The pro-independence drive in Catalonia is causing a knock-on effect that, a lot of the time, is being translated into pure political opportunism. The return this week of an age-old controversy regarding Spain’s lyric-free national anthem is one such example. The argument is not new, and if it is an issue without a solution until now that is because there is no easy fix.

The usual style of national anthem lyrics – which can often be over the top and filled with heroic references – do not sit easily with today’s tastes

The history of the symbols that represent Spain has not been an easy one. The anthem was originally a royal march, and it took time for people to accept it precisely because it has no words. The idea of writing lyrics for it has been taken into consideration on a number of occasions, including during Spain’s post-dictatorship period, but the proposals have never found consensus, perhaps because the usual style of national anthem lyrics – which can often be over the top and filled with heroic references – do not sit easily with today’s tastes.

The symbols of a nation serve to reinforce the unity of a collective that is usually plural, and work to forge a feeling of belonging. The Spain that emerged from the Transition to democracy had a difficult relationship with its national emblems, given that they had been exploited to the full by the Francoist dictatorship. What is more, it favoured the reinforcement of the symbols of peripheral nationalisms.

In the face of the pro-independence drive in Catalonia, there was a widespread response of flying the Spanish flag from many balconies and apartment buildings. As such, the desire to take advantage of Spanish singer Marta Sánchez’s recent initiative to put lyrics to the Spanish national anthem, in a bid to gain political capital, is a gesture of deplorable opportunism. Not because the issue shouldn’t be discussed. But rather because it is not the moment to stir up emotional issues when what is really needed right now are policies that will help to rebuild the broken bridges with part of the population of the region of Catalonia.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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