Here’s a not so uncommon scenario: I’m going for a walk in Madrid with a local and discussing Spanish politics, and handful of topics which essentially has not changed in the past 30 to 40 years. These include scandals, fraud, embezzlement, money-laundering, inside trading, tax evasion, contract bidding favoritism and other forms of abuse of power, mostly related to increasing one’s personal wealth, or the general state of the economy, which hasn’t seen the best of times lately, to the role of the monarchy in modern Spain and, invariably, nationalism…a thorn so big in Spain’s back, it’s practically a spike.
And the conversation could run along the lines of “Those bastard Catalans, who do they think they are? They’ve never been their own nation, they have no legitimate claim to be independent. At the very best, they could be considered to be a part of Aragon, and the Aragonese don’t won’t to leave Spain.” And least most of them don’t. “Catalonia is a part of Spain and that’s all there is to say about it, and there are millions who live there who want it to stay that way.
Then we stop at a supermarket and I get told not to go in because the store is owned by a Catalan company. Given the time and the distance to the next grocery store, I talk him into giving just this once, and then we enter. Once inside, many of the familiar products that have produced so many moment of joy and happiness to my mind, soul and stomach, are quickly banned from immediate consumption because they are either owned or produced within the territory of Catalonia. Oh, it goes beyond cava, sparkling wine which mostly comes from that region, or fuet, the local salami. Catalan products and international products produced in Catalonia have essentially infested your average Spanish market. It’s been like that for years. And here are just a few worth naming to prove my point:
- Water: Font D’or, Font del Regas, Fuente Liviana, Malabella, Mondariz, Veri, Acquapanna, Aquarel, Badoit, Evian, Font Vella, Fontvella, Lanjarón, Perrier, S. Pellegrino, Salus, San Narciso, Viladrau, Vitell, Volvic
- Olive Oil: Borges
- Snack foods: Cheetos, Doritos, Fritos, Lays, Matutano, Pringles, Ruffles, Santa Ana, Tuc
- Rice: Nomen
- Coffee: Bonka, Nobel, Bonka, Cafitesse, Dolce Gusto, Marcilla, Nescafe, Nestle Gold, Piazza d’Oro, Pilao, Ricoré, Soley
- Sweets: Golia, Pez(2), Smint, Solano, Chupachups, Mentos
- Cereal: Cheerios, Chocapic, Crunch, Estrellitas, Fibre, Fitness, Golden Grahams, La lechera, Nesquik
- Chocolate: Colacao, Ferrero rocher, Gnutella, Kinder, Lindt, Nocilla, Paladin, After eight, Bounty, Caja Roja, Choclait chips, Crunch, Dolca, Kitkat, M&M’s, Maltesers, Mars, Milkybar, Nesquik, Netsle, Quality Street, Snickers, Twix
- Meats and sausages: Argal, Casa Tarradellas, Casademont, Embutidos Mercadona, Espetec, Fuet Espuña, La selva, Noel, Vic
- Cookies: Artiach, Artisabores, Chiquilín, Cuetara, Dinosaurus, Filipinos, Marbú Dorada, Rio, Fontaneda, Marie Lu, Principe, Yayitas
- Ice Cream: Camy, Carte D’Or, Cornetto, Extreme, Frigo, La lechera, Magnum, Mars, Maxibon, Miko, Nesquik, Nestle, Pirulo
- Dairy Products: Ato, El castillo, Okey, Quesos Hotchland, Actimel, Activia, Dan’up, Danone, Flora, Ideal, La lechera, Ligeresa, Royal, Sveltesse, Vitalinea
- Butter: Artúa, Flora, Ligeresa, Tulipan
- Bread: Brooks American Sandwich, Panrico, Bimbo
- Pizza and Pasta: Buitoni, Casa Tarradellas(3), Hacendado Pizzas, La cocinera
- Soft drinks: Nestea, Kas, Ice tea, Tang
- Cakes: Bollycao, Dip Dip, Donetes, Donuts, Eidetesa, Horno de Oro, Mañanitos, Qé!, Bimbo cao, Martinez, Tigretón
- Soup: Knorr, Maggi
- Sauces: Solis, Calvé, Hellmans, Ligeresa, Maggi
- Tomato paste: Solis, Calvé, Hellmans
- Frozen products: La Sirena, Maheso
- Wine: Alella, Ampurdán, Bach, Conde Caralt, Costers del Segre, Ederra, Heredad Torresano, La vicalanda, Legaris, Leiras, Marraso, Nauta, Nuviana, Oroya, Penedés, René Barbier, Scala dei, Septima, Solar viejo, Terra Nova, Valdubon, Viento sur, Vionta, Viña Pomal
And that’s just a reduced list. We haven’t even gotten to the rest of the home. Most of those brands are household names and half of them have found their way on to my shelves at one time or another. To leave them out would mean to exclude a substantial portion of everyday foodstuff in Spain. And yet, radical pro-Spain supporters, sometimes known as españolistas in quarters where many people aren’t in favor of staying within the union, are willing to boycott anything that has been manufactured in that region. Whole websites exist devoted to making the consumer aware of just what brands not to patronize and provide a Spain-friendly alternative. They even provide insight into how to detect on the label if the product is of Catalan origin.
The irony of this is that the majority are furious at Catalonia for wanting to become independent. “Don’t you blame them?” I ask. “You treat them like shit. You don’t want to support their economy, but you insist they stay in Spain.”
Somehow, like so many things in life, they have a ready answer. “We don’t wsnt to give them our money, because then they turn around and use it to backstab us.”
Oh, brother. That’s a tough knot to undo. It’s no wonder things have reached the point they have. Many companies are threatening with abandoning the region, while others have joined the cause. As for the profits being used to boost the Independence movement, that most certainly is an exaggeration, and doesn’t help improve relations between the two.