Read in Catalan

Catalan president Quim Torra arrived at Madrid's Moncloa government palace this morning to meet with the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, with three presents under his arm: a bottle of ratafia liqueur and two books. The books in question are Aran, un país ("Aran, a country", unpublished in English), by Francesc Tur and Jèp de Montoya, and Imago Cataloniae ("An image of Catalonia", untranslated), a collection of maps of Catalonia from the 17th century on. The intention there is obvious. But the alcohol also has clear significance. In fact more than one.

Ratafia, in Catalonia, is a liqueur commonly based on brandy or similar to which is added a variety of flavourings. This can include lemon peel, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, mint among others.

President Torra took part in a workshop to make ratafia last week in Santa Coloma de Farners, in the north of Catalonia. "[Ratafia] makes us all a little stronger as a country", he said afterwards: "[it] unites us, it gives us a good time and it's part of us".

The president said his grandfather's grandfather made ratafia and that the drink is still made to "remember where we come from". He said that its production is a way of looking after the country, looking after its landscapes and traditions.

Against high-voltage power cables

The ratafia Torra has chosen isn't just any old brand. It's a limited edition in collaboration with the campaign No a la MAT (No to high-voltage power lines). The campaign supports renewable energy and opposes running power lines through the Pyrenees. The edition was presented at the 36th Ratafia festival in Santa Coloma de Farners and has been made from herbs from the area they want to protect from the construction of a power line branch by pharmacist and ratafia specialist Anna Selga.

According to its website (in Catalan), their aim is to "show the richness of nature and collect funds to continue [our] actions".

Long meeting

Torra arrived in Madrid at 10am by AVE high-speed train to Atocha station, where the Catalan government's delegate to Madrid, Ferran Mascarell, was waiting for him. He then headed straight for the Moncloa palace for the 11:30 meeting.