The 60th anniversary of Òmnium Cultural, key pro-independence and Catalan cultural NGO, held this morning in the town of Elna and presented by Jordi Cuixart, has for the first time brought together on the same stage some of the released Catalan political prisoners and exiles. In addition to the already announced attendance of Carles Puigdemont, Oriol Junqueras and Carme Forcadell, there was the unexpected appearance of the former CUP deputy, Anna Gabriel, who has been in exile in Geneva since 2018. That was the surprise that Òmnium had reserved for today.
"Let's not be in any doubt, this act of reunion, and all those that will come, is a victory. The Spanish state would not want to see us together, because what the Spanish state wants is to divide us. Let's be clear: in our unity in diversity, is our future victory", asserted Cuixart in the only political speech given on the stage.
Aragonès and Borràs
The front row of seating at the event consisted of Catalan president Pere Aragonès, speaker of parliament Laura Borràs, Catalan vice-president Jordi Puigneró, Junts secretary-general Jordi Sànchez, formers ministers Josep Rull, Quim Forn, Lluís Puig, Clara Ponsatí, Meritxell Serret, Meritxell Borràs and Carles Mundó. They all arrived progressively in the Northern Catalonia town of Elna throughout the morning and gathered together inside the Ancien Collège Paul Langevin, venue for the event, until the event began in the school grounds.
Although the Junts prisoners had met Puigdemont in early July in Waterloo, and five days later Junqueras and the ERC prisoners also visited him at the Casa de la República, today's was the first joint public meeting they had held.
Together, but distant
Half an hour late, and under a blazing sun softened by the tramuntana wind, the protagonists of the day appeared together in the courtyard of the former school where the stage had been set up. Cuixart and Puigdemont were in front and, a little further back, Junqueras. The two pro-independence leaders kept their distance at all times. Even when photographers were looking for a first image of the three together before the start of the event.
From here, the event featured the reading of texts by authors who have won the Prize of Honour for Catalan Literature, the award which Òmnium has presented annually since 1969, along with recorded and live musical performances. Texts by former Omnium presidents Jordi Porta, Muriel Casals and by one of the founders, Joan Baptista Cendrós, were also read.
The start of the reunion
The only political speech made was that of Cuixart, who included a dedication to ERC general secretary, Marta Rovira, who was unable to attend.
Cuixart recalled that it was on the 16th of the month, like today, but in the month of October 2017, that he had entered Soto del Real prison with Jordi Sànchez. He recounted that it seemed to them at that time that everything was lost, but asserted that not only was it not so, "but it was the beginnings of this reunion that is being held today on Catalan soil".
"We can win"
In his ten-minute speech, the leader of the Catalan cultural body insisted that the independence movement is subject to repression because the Spanish state knows the movement can win. "Let's not forget that ourselves either, we can win and it's up to us," he said.
The Òmnium president called for confrontation with fascism, he defended non-violent struggle, and he warned that Òmnium will continue to make strong demands of the pro-independence political parties, but would do so with loyalty and generosity. "In silence when it is beneficial, in a generous way, as a meeting point for all of Catalanism," he promised.
Cuixart finished his discourse by once more intoning his "we'll do it again". "We'll do it again, together and better," he said before closing the event calling one by one to the stage the protagonists of the day: Puigdemont and Junqueras - who shared their moment of greatest proximity as they walked up to the stage, even with an arm on a shoulder; then Gabriel, Forcadell, Sànchez, Serret, Ponsatí, Puig, Forn, Borràs and Mundó.
At the end, there was a toast to those present, and photos and selfies with others attending, until each left on their own. Just as they had arrived.