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Promotion of Catalonia internationally remains a priority for its pro-independence government, and Washington DC will be the first international destination for its president, Joaquim Torra i Pla. Barely a month after taking office, the president will travel to the capital of the United States at the head of a large Catalan delegation to give a major presentation of Catalonia and its culture.

Catalonia is one of the three invitees for this year's Smithsonian Folklife Festival, a huge event held over the last week of June and the first week of July in the heart of the capital, on the National Mall, the garden-lined avenue running from the Lincoln Memorial, past the Washington Monument to the Capitol. Various Catalan artists are also scheduled to perform during the festival at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the US's national cultural centre.

Despite the Spanish government having fired the previous government and taken direct control of Catalonia, staff from the culture and presidency departments, following orders from the exiled and imprisoned ministers, have discretely but systematically prepared Catalonia's participation in the festival. This participation is designed to combine tradition and modernity as two omnipresent components in Catalan history. Now, folklife is literally in the festival's name, so the festival will see demonstrations of castells (human towers)diables and correfocs1 in a city where fireworks are banned, Patum dances and hubbub evoking Gràcia's festa major. All of this to be seen whilst enjoying Mediterranean specialities from the culinary offerings.

The idea is to present Catalonia as a terra d'acollida, a "welcoming land", enriched by various waves of immigration. Indeed, alongside Catalan music, there will also be flamenco, rumba and habaneras.

Around a million people take part in at least part of the festival every year. The only precedent for a presentation of Catalonia on this scale was a vaguely similar event in Raúl Alfonsín's Argentina in summer 1986, when Jordi Pujol was president. On that occasion, the journalist sent specially to cover events by Punt Diari was a certain Carles Puigdemont.

Catalonia will not be alone on the National Mall. The Smithsonian has this year also invited the Republic of Armenia, which gained its independence in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union and which has maintained friendly relations back-and-forth with Catalonia.

By coincidence, a week after president Torra visits Washington, he will followed by Spanish king Felipe VI.

 

Translator's note: In Correfocs (fire-runs), participants dress up as devils (diables), then run and dance to drum groups as they let off fireworks they hold on pitchforks. The other traditions are explained at the links given.

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