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The adjectives 'catalufo' and 'cholo' as cultural productions, by Roger Martínez


5. Intermediate positions, negotiation and normalities

Despite the dichotomy between the definitions of “catalufos” and “cholos”, we must not imagine a reality where two groups of youngsters are separated by a clear boundary. On the contrary, as with adults, few young people place themselves at either extreme of this supposed continuum; there are quite a few who call these classifications into question and many who, in fact, refuse to be categorised in these terms. The importance and scope of these resistances, together with the absence of phenotype differential traits, are precisely the factors that make this differentiation unlike the "ethnic" differentiation between blacks and whites in the United States or England, to continue with the analogy from the previous section

Firstly, the adjectives “cholo” and “catalufo”, although their references are the two extremes establishing symbolic markers, really tell of a range of positions in relation to one another rather than in clear, well-defined opposition. And, secondly, the existence of a more or less shared "classification" does not mean that young people are not permanently negotiating, resisting and modifying it based on their personal experience, both themselves and with other young people. Let's look first at the importance of the nuances young people introduce when they classify people they know personally - in this case those with makiner taste:

Diego: There is a boy, who, for example, really likes màkina, techno and dance and all that, but who dresses normally. Pep [both laugh]. (...) But generally, for example, you see skinheads and you know they're going to really like màkina. (...) [There are some in] the third year of secondary school, but there aren't any in our year. There aren't any of the ones where you'd say: “Bloody hell ,look at that a skinhead...” (...)

Diego: Well, you do see some who dress in Alpha, with the... all that. But I don't know, in our year they're not very... very extreme. For example, José does also like all that. Well, he's [one of the ones who say]: “I like all that Spanish Army stuff” [they laugh]. (...) He wants to be... he wants to be in the army and...

Roger: And what music does he listen to?

Both: Màkina.

Roger: So, all that's normally linked to màkina?

Diego: Yes, yes.

Roger: But just because you're into màkina it doesn't mean you're like that, from what you say? Or are you?

Diego: No necessarily, but it is normally closely linked.

Besides the diverse nuances, we also have to bear in mind that each young person perceived these geographies of positions and meanings in a different way. Depending on the networks of personal relationships each one moved within, at school and outside school, the classifications could vary considerably. So, for example, while a girl from the PeripheralSchool categorically declared that at her school “everyone, everyone” was “fatxa” (understood as “cholo”), a classmate had a very different view: “Well, [the Catalans and skinheads] are all mixed up, aren't they? Because I think that... language has nothing to do with being on one side or another, I mean, it doesn't...”.

Finally, each young person reacted differently when faced with the existence of these classifications, sometimes reinforcing them, sometimes resisting them and sometimes ignoring them. The interviewee who said that at her School “everyone was fatxa” and her classmate, for example, spoke as follows:

Elena: I'm not "fatxa", I'm Catalan and Spanish. A fatxa is...one of those people [who says] “I'm a fatxa, I'm a fatxa” [it doesn't make much sense]. You… think… [I'd say to them:] “Do you know what a "fatxa" is?” Look, [they say] “Spain, Spain”, [but I say] “What about Catalonia? Catalonia is feeding you, it's given your father a job, your mother a job and..."

María: I don't care.

Roger: But the other people - the majority - would be more or less like that.

María: Most people, I mean… they repudiate it. They're Catalans and they repudiate the Catalans. The majority here [at school, I'd say to them: "But] you are Catalan, you're Catalan. What are you talking about?” Because I… as I don't understand… Well, it's not that I don't understand… [But] as I've never sat down to read what being "fatxa" or “catalanista” means, well...

Elena: The thing is, they're ideologies, you know? It's very strange.

Another good example of resistance to the classifications is provided by Susana, from the CatalanSchool, who likes màkina music and is the daughter of Spanish-speaking parents, although she answers the interview in Catalan (her friend Gemma, did the interview with her, spoke Catalan at home and did not like màkina music). Their example is interesting because as well as providing evidence for the existence and normality ofhybrid positions – both in linguistic and national terms – between the poles we have identified, she also spells out her unease and resistance to accepting the classification associating màkina music and being a "fatxa" (although she ends up recognising it in merely linguistic terms):

Susana: No, but it's one of those things, this image of being a skinhead, [according to which] just because you're a skinhead you automatically have to be repulsive and cocky and that's not how it is.

Roger: And the image thing, also means... being more of a "fatxa"?

Susana: That too, but all that "fatxa" stuff, pah! I mean, for example... I'm not a "fatxa". I'll just as happily say "Long live Catalonia" as "Long live Spain", because... I'm not from a Catalan family, but that's a personal thing. Just because you like màkina, you don't have to be...

Gemma: "Fatxa".

Susana: Well, that too... Normally, the revolutionaries or the pro-independence people don't like màkina, they likeska. It goes closely with the social circle you move in...

Roger: Yes?

Susana: Yes.

Roger: And the màkina people? Do the people who are more pro-Spain tend to like màkina more, generally?

Gemma: Normally, yes. Yes, the thing is... All the people I know... (...)

Susana: Normally they don't start speaking Catalan, they speak Spanish a lot more.

Gemma: [Susana] speaks Spanish [she says it quietly, teasing Susana]

Roger: So, it does have something to do with it?

Susana: Yes.

We are talking, therefore, about meanings which are "out there", objectivities in shared classifications in the sense that they allow communication between young people from different schools without too many misunderstandings, but which, at the same time, are not only negotiated in each interaction between young people at each school, they also make many young people who do not find them useful uneasy. This negotiation not only takes place in relation to the way young people position themselves in relation to the symbolic markers at the “extremes”, but also, and above all, in terms of the less visible majorities, which are those which ultimately end up defining what is normal, and which, as well as defining the people who do not "stand out", mark what is taken for granted in each context and, therefore, what is expected of individuals.

This is why new terms and acceptances continually emerge and others cease to be used. Based on research and personal experience, I would date the appearance of adjectives like “cholo” and “quillo” to about 20 or 25 years ago, and we might understand them as the result of the social development which was previously labelled “xarnego”. In the same way, the more recent terms “pelao” (more limited to the skinhead youth style) or “del palo” are developments of the last 10 or 15 years and will certainly give rise to new adjectives and variants in the future. The broad use of the term “catalufo” and its variants would also date to about 10 or 15 years ago. The cultural production of these symbolic forms and meanings, given that we are talking about terms not taught in the classroom, is not picked up at schools, nor do they appear in the communications media, they are largely produced from the bottom up, in a decentralised way, in every daily interaction – although with the fundamental mediation of consumer items, the media and the political economy; that is, the commercial network that makes the cultural forms that maintain them possible.

A clear example of this dynamic nature of the cultural production of meanings in youth geographies is the different way the differentiation between “catalufos” and “cholos” is experienced at each of the three schools. At the CatalanSchool, where there was a majority of Catalan speakers, the personal knowledge of these meant their internal variability was very visible. Only a minority of Catalan speakers were therefore considered as “catalufos”. At the other two schools, by contrast, stereotypical (rather than personal) knowledge was normally used. At the PeripheralSchool, Catalan-ness was seen as distant and, in many cases, viewed with disgust, as by one girl who declared that “I don't like any of that Catalan stuff”. At the Immigrant School, by contrast, the interviewees did not verbalise (in the interviews) any significant anti-Catalan attitudes and, for the majority of pupils, "Catalans" were basically drawn from a stock of diffused stereotypical knowledge; an alien, little-known reality appearing only sporadically in the interviews in terms such as the following: “I suppose the Catalan people like... they like Catalan rock...” or “[Catalan people] listen to the sardana, I suppose… and that, and Catalan rock and all that stuff…”.

6. Conclusion: local cultural production amid global flows

Through the daily negotiation of meaning at each school and in each district, an expression of “local” meanings (in this case linguistic and national ones) is produced amid "global" flows of symbolic forms and meanings. The tension or interplay between local and global meanings is very rich in the sense that very localised elements are mixed with others that transcend the more local context in one way or another.

Firstly, youth culture has extended some shared normative coordinates right across the globe, based on the cool ideal, modernity, transgression (although this may be rhetorical) and informality, as well as the differentiation between commercial and underground, or between “arty” authenticity and “street authenticity”, as well as some patterns for representing and expressing masculinity, femininity, ethnicity and the position of class through the different musical and youth styles. So, it is not only that many of the best-selling artists in England and the United States are also popular in other countries, above all Western ones, but also that their meaning in the local geographies is largely similar. For example, commercial pop, whose paradigm is the Spice Girls or Westlife, means an adolescent, very effeminate and majority taste everywhere. It does not generally have strong class connotations (although it is more popular among the working classes) and, in countries with ethnic diversity, it is generally identified with "white normality". Another example is indie music, which, when crossing borders, tends to acquire connotations associated with the white middle class and a high cultural level; or "harder" electronic music, which is linked everywhere to a taste with airs of working class street masculinity.

That does not mean, by a long way, that youth geographies are homogenous all over the planet, not even when musical forms are shared. There are meanings associated with music which do not travel with these forms when they cross borders. Clear examples are reggae,ska or drum ’n’ bass – musical styles which in Jamaica or England, for example, have, or have had, heavy ethnic connotations and which in Barcelona take on a completely different meaning, recontextualised within local youth geographies (ska music, for example, with “catalufo” connotations). This reappropriation or recontextualisation is strongest when the styles are least commercial; that is, when they reach the majority communication and distribution spaces through alternative channels. Musical forms that circulate across borders are also always combined with local musical traditions and local creations based on global styles, which are often explicitly connected with the context of local meanings (Catalan rock, rumba or màkina would be examples of this).

The analysis of the expression of musical taste, national identity and linguistic practice in Barcelona has allowed us to get a taste of the complexity and wealth of cultural production among young people. In their daily negotiations, in dialogue with fundamental decisions of the political economy – that is, the cultural industries – this is how the future of youth geographies are established: locally but with the direct effect of global artefacts and logic (5).

In conclusion, the expression of the differentiation between Catalan speakers and Spanish speakers, with meanings linked to musical and youth styles, and also to structural aspects such as social class, gender, sexual identity and national identity, decisively conditions the way in which linguistic practices are experienced and what they mean to young people. From this point of view, we might ask where the young people among the new immigrants position themselves within youth geographies, in order to find out their view of the differentiation between Catalan and Spanish. Incorporating oneself into youth geographies though one's own segregated musical styles (raï, bhangra, merengue music, etc.) is not the same as doing so by mixing with existing styles. If incorporation or hybridisation with existing styles predominates, it is not the same to do this with catalufo styles, in one sense or another, (such as Catalan rock, ska or even punk-hardcore) as to do so, as is already happening, has happened, and seems more probable, through class proximity and contact with predominant cholo styles (such as jaloteo,màkina or rap) or with others which, although apparently neutral, in practice do not incorporate Spanish as the "normal" language of communication, such as, for example, the more commercial styles. Over the next few years we will find out.

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