Coming home

Germà talks about his decision to leave his native Argentina for Catalonia, the land of his grandparents

Germà Capdevila Born in Argentina, Germà was raised among the exiled Catalan community in South America. He is a journalist and has lived in Catalonia for 15 years.
You were born in Argentina, how did Catalonia become your home?
–My family history is a very common one here in Catalonia. My grandparents went into exile from Catalonia after the Civil War. They spent a couple years in French Catalonia and then decided to start over in Buenos Aires in Argentina. My father was born in Argentina a year later in a very Catalan environment, as the expat Catalan community over there was very strong. And, eventually, my father married a Catalan girl, too. Catalonia and the Catalan language were things that were always very present for me at home all the time. Eventually, I decided to give it a try and so we moved here.
When did you move to Catalonia?
–Fourteen or fifteen years ago.
You and your family? Who is still in Argentina?
–My dad is still living there and I have a brother there in Argentina. My mum lives here in Catalonia.
Was Catalan your first language at home?
–Well, especially with my grandparents! They have that Catalan feeling that we have a duty to keep the language alive. Because here the Francoist dictatorship gave a sense that the culture of the language was in danger, we had a sense of duty to keep the language alive, just in case, by speaking it in the home.
What was your decision to move to Catalonia all the way from Argentina?
–Well, I worked in Argentina as a journalist, too, and I used to contribute to different papers and media here in Catalonia. Eventually one of them offered me a job and gave me the opportunity to work here as a journalist. I started with the El Punt Avui newspaper in 2000, and with one or two others. I don't remember much about it now.
How different is Catalonia to Argentina?
–I am sure it is something that you feel, too, when you move from one country to another. Of course there are lots of things that are familiar to me, starting with the food and the language. I had been part of the community beforehand. But I have to say that the Catalonia that my grandparents described to me was completely different to the one I discovered. Theirs was the Catalonia of 1939. And, of course, you find little differences that make things funnier. Things that are important and things that aren't. For example, do you find that people here have a big problem with roundabouts here?
Ha! Yes, this is a problem! And I have spoken to someone about this. Apparently, roundabouts were only introduced some 20 years or so ago, and so no one knew how to use them properly! It would be like throwing a roundabout into America, no one would know what to do!
–That's it! That is a funny example of things that are different. But at the end of the day, things really aren't that different.
And you had the language when you came over, so adapting was quite easy for you. Had you visited before you moved? You must have done?
–Yes, several times before, visiting friends and family.
It is a big change though, bringing your whole family across.
–Yes, but in Argentina it isn't a big deal to start over. Every person or family has a story of immigration, of starting over in a different country.
Where in Catalonia do you live?
–I live in Girona, I think it is the perfect place. It is the place I moved to when I was offered the job. They gave me two options, to move to Girona or to move to Barcelona. But I settled on Girona; it is a small town with the facilities of a big one. A nice place to raise your kids and easy to meet people. In a big city it is always more difficult to make friends. I am very happy. There is also another important element to living in Girona, you are just an hour away from Perpignan, where you can go to rugby matches!
You are big rugby fan. I did not realise rugby was so popular in Catalonia.
–It is regaining popularity. It used to be huge, with a big fan base. The Catalan rugby federation was one of the founders of the International Rugby Association at the beginning of the 20th century. But after the Civil War, Franco thought that rugby was too Catalan and banned it here and dissolved the Catalan rugby association. Slowly they are rebuilding it. They are doing well but don't have the same level as the French or English clubs – yet!
How often do you pop across to Perpignan?
–Every time I can, every fortnight or so. USA Perpignan play rugby union in the second division. And the Catalan Dragons are playing in the English Super League up there. Perpignan is just an hour's drive away, so it is very close.
You have some new and exciting projects going on, tell me about them?
–Two years ago with a group of journalists from Catalonia we started a new venture with a magazine called L'Esguard, which is a weekly information magazine, published only for mobile devises, smart phones and tablets. We are very excited with the response. Even with the crisis people are still buying smart phones. We are growing in readership and in downloads and we have started another monthly magazine about food and wine, which is also doing well. It is also great news for journalists after years of discussions about what is going to happen to our profession, worrying that it is going to die or that newspapers are going to close, seeing technology as a threat. But we now realise that we can deliver good content to readers with these platforms. You can add videos, slideshows, you can see so much more. We have become well-known for our animated front pages. L'Esguard has a different interview every week with a well known person from different fields, for example, sport, politics, social life, theatre and culture. The food and wine magazine is called Sentits.
What a great topic!
–Yes! We all love food and wine; it is the national sport!
Can you give me a top recommendation for a restaurant in Girona? Apart from Celler de Can Roca?!
–Well, the hidden treasure here is Can Roca. The family Roca started a family restaurant which is still open and you can get a 10-euro menu there. The mother and father cook and it is terrific, Catalan food, made with local produce.
Before we finish can you give me a top tip for someone visiting the Girona area?
–I am sure you have experienced everything that I am going to mention. Catalonia is a very inviting place; nothing is expected of you. The people here don't even ask you to learn their language, but my first piece of advice would be to try anyway, so that you can show appreciation and be part of it. It is a country with people of different origins. It is a land that has welcomed new people since the Greeks arrived on the Costa Brava 2000 years ago. They are very used to welcoming new arrivals. So I have no recommendation of what you shouldn't do!
Thank you, Germà, for coming to have a chat with me, it was wonderful to have you here!
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