Felipe V's Alternative Pregó by Toni Albà

Thursday 22nd September - Mercè 2016

There was some controversy surrounding the official pregó or opening speech in this year's Festes de la Mercè because the chosen pregoner or speaker was writer Javier Pérez Andújar.

Pérez Andújar was born in the neighbouring municipality of Sant Adrià de Besòs and, like many other popular Catalan writers, writes mainly in Spanish. This is fine but in recent articles in El Pais, he has been critical, or perhaps a better word is disdainful, of the Catalan Independence Process.

In many people's view, given the current state of tension in Catalan Politics, this made him a bad choice to give the pregó of the Mercè because, although he obviously has a right to hold his opinions, the pregoner in Barcelona's Festa Major really needs to be a person of consenus. A neutral person associated with the arts, culture, business or science would have been fine but the choice of Pérez Andújar by the fence-sitting mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, was just a bad idea.

As a result, particularly on Twitter, pro-independence supporters began to look around for a more popular alternative and the name of comic actor, Toni Albà, who is known for impersonating the former King Juan Carlos, was put forward. He accepted and announced that he would do his pregó as Felipe V, the first of the Borbón's, who effectively annexed Catalonia following The Siege of Barcelona in 1714.

This caused an uproar in the Spanish press and many of my unionist friends on Facebook were appalled that such a divisive event should be held. My view was that it was just an alternative to the official event that many of us were unhappy with. Nobody was stopping the official pregó from going ahead so I couldn't see what the problem was.

Anyway, I went along to Toni Albà's Alternative Pregó for La Mercè 2016 last night and as expected it was an example of civility and good humour just like all of the events that have been held during Catalonia's push for independence over the past few years.

Dressed as Felipe V, Albà spoke in verse and made all of us laugh. He poked fun at current political figures but nothing remotely offensive was said. He closed his speech speaking as himself and made a specific call to inclusivity, making it clear how intertwined Spanish and Catalan cultures and families really are.

It was a testament to the positive attitudes that underpin the Catalan independence movement and went away feeling a good deal happier because of it.

A big thanks to my friends, Bel Galera for the first two photos and Joaquim Canals Meytadier for the second two.

Did you visit La Mercè this year? Or any year for that matter. Please feel free to write about your experience and upload a few photos.

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