And another year the Catalans celebrate ‘the day of the book and the rose’, the Diada de Sant Jordi. In Catalonia this has been happening since the year 1200 on 23 April. More than two and a half centuries later, in 1456, the Catalan Parliament officially elected Saint George as patron saint of the country. Henceforth, April 23 was an official holiday, a day on which nobody had to work. Only, the rich and powerful ‘forgot’ to report that to ‘the mob’, the common people. The Catalans still go to work on April 23 and buy the book or the rose in between their lunch break or just after the working day.
Jordi or Jorge
When Dutch soccer star Johan Cruijff had no idea who Sant Jordi was when he started to play for FC Barcelona in 1974. However, he chose Jordi as his name for his son. Dictator Franco was against it – the Catalan Jorid had to be the Spanish ‘Jorge’. Not the dictator, however, got his way, but the soccer player. It marked the beginning of Cruijff’s status as a saint in Catalonia.
In 2006, Cruijff’s halo became completely round. From the hands of Catalan president Pasqual Maragall, Cruijff received La Creu de Sant Jordi, the most important Catalan award after the Gold Medal of the Generalitat de Catalunya. The cross is awarded annually shortly before or on 23 April to persons and institutions that have made themselves worthy for Catalonia. And indeed Cruijff did that as a player and later as a trainer of FC Barcelona: he not only put the club on the international map, but by doing that also Catalonia. After all, Barcelona is ‘més que un club¡ (more than a club), a symbol of Catalonia.
Viceroy of Spain
It was Maragalls predecessor Jordi Pujol who in 1981 founded the La Creu de Sant Jordi . Pujol ruled Catalonia for no less than 23 years, between 1980 and 2003. At that time, many of the president’s friends received the award. You can also ask yourself who Saint Jordi was: the ‘real’ or the viceroy of Spain – as Pujol considered himself
In the meantime, El Molt Honorable President (The Most Honorable President, Pujols official title) has fallen from his pedestal. In 2014 he confessed that he had ‘parked’ millions of euros – a legacy of his father, he still claims – at a bank in Andorra, hidden from the Spanish tax authorities. Several lawsuits are currently pending against the former president and his family. The Pujol clan is accused, among other things, of fraud and corruption.
Diada de Dios
Cruijff is now more sacred than ever in Catalonia. Nothing but good about the dead, after all. Maybe we will ever get the Diada de Sant Johan here. Or, shorter and better: the Diada de Dios. That alliterates nicely, and the (Spanish) nickname Dios (God), Cruijff already had: his fellow players at FC Barcelona called him so. The reason why is very earthy. El Flaco (The Skinny One, his other nickname) always knew everything better. A stubborn kind of fellow.