I do not know the times when, walking along the beaches of Barceloneta, I will have told whoever was accompanying me – my children are already bored with the anecdote – that Don Quixote was defeated in that place in the great novel by Cervantes. Often my companions ask me, perhaps doubting my words, why there is not a monument, a plaque or something that commemorates that fact, that honors it and institutionalizes it. I always say the same thing: that our public officials are too uneducated for such niceties. That most must not even have read Don Quixote.
What has happened in recent weeks confirms my idea. You know: Ciudadanos proposed to erect a monument to Don Quixote in Barceloneta. Not Cervantes, eye, but Don Quixote, who is different. The proposal was supported by PP and BCN pel Canvi and rejected by PSC, ERC and BComú; JXCat abstained. The reasons argued are quite crude: that Barcelona already has enough squares and busts and even schools dedicated to Cervantes and that the city is not about to erect more statues. I do not know if the rejection was to a specific proposal: maybe the projected statue was hideous, but in any case it would be no more than many of those elements that now fill the streets of the city. Maybe they opposed the party that had the idea more than the idea itself. Days later, Miquel Iceta described as “catetada & rdquor; the rejection, which his own group supported, which says a lot about him but little about the party.
What worries me most about all this is that the opposition to Don Quixote comes from the left and the support comes from the right. I think it denotes a monumental ignorance, and also a misunderstood Spanishism (Besides being very old-fashioned and out of date). I am convinced that if the character had not been created by Cervantes, born in Alcalá de Henares, but by William Shakespeare, born in Stratford-upon-Avon, everyone would be very proud that I would have paid so many compliments to Barcelona, that it would have placed it on the world map of the seventeenth century long before the Olympic Games or Barça did, and that it would have chosen it before other possible cities as an important setting in the closing of one of the greatest milestones in literature of all times.
For many, what a pity, Don Quixote is Spanish rather than universal and Cervantes’s declared love for Barcelona does not concern them. They don’t know very well what to do with Spanish, because it symbolizes everything they detest, and they do not even stop to think of what Don Quixote really is a symbol of, nor if that stale and archaic vision can be skewed or manipulated, nor if they would not prefer to substitute it for a conscious vision, the fruit of reading and knowledge. Perhaps I am a romantic, but I don’t think that any reader (Catalan or not) of Don Quixote could not wish to erect a statue of his character after finishing reading the novel.
“Here my misery, and not my cowardice, took away my achieved glories; here he used the fortune with me of his twists and turns; here my exploits are darkened; here, finally, my luck fell never to rise & rdquor ;. That’s what Don Quixote says at the end of his adventure. What a shame of a coincidence.