This year’s congress of the World Anational Association (Sennacieca Asocio Tutmonda, SAT) took place in Barcelona from August 4-11. As is often the case, participants had to contend with a lot of summer heat while busy with the affairs of the congress. Fortunately, the organizers had had the foresight to include little hand fans in the congress materials that were distributed. People made good use of them throughout the week, especially during meetings. One thing that set this gathering apart was the number of participants: around 220, in contrast to little more than 100 at many congresses in recent years. Many were not members of SAT. For those yet unfamiliar with SAT congresses, an introductory meeting was held right at the outset – and for those that needed them, language courses.
The attractivity of the venue was matched by the programme, which was especially rich. The general assemblies of SAT, meetings of the committee of regional groups associated with SAT, the Pro-Esperanto Section, the Cooperative Publishing Department, the platforms of various political tendencies (libertarian, communist, anationalist, vegetarian), made few spectacular decisions, aside perhaps from the moderate reduction of membership dues. This had become possible following a period of financial stabilisation that had been preceded by difficult years not too long ago. What stood out this time were the lectures, debates and the cultural programme. “Social forums” dealt with topics of current interest: Catalonia, the two Koreas, the concepts of anarchism, socialism and communism, Esperanto’s role in alternative publishing projects, cryptocurrencies, feelings people have as they face a possible collapse of our way of life, liberation from Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft. One novelty this year was PechaKucha: picture presentations on diverse topics accompanied by talk limited in length to 6 minutes and 40 seconds. They dealt with refugees on Samos and in France, the history of the congress venue, natural medicine, world maps, digital archives, Klara Zamenhof (the wife of the Esperanto’s initiator L. L. Zamenhof), a DIY book scanner etc. New books were presented, among them the most recent edition of SAT’s bestseller, the Plena Ilustrita Vortaro (the largest Esperanto dictionary) and bilingual books from the publisher La Calúmnia. Movies with Esperanto subtitles were shown, including Ken Loach’s famous Tierra y Libertad, Ed Antoja’s Empathy and Antoni Ribas’ The Burned City (in Catalan: La ciutat cremada). A photo contest and the now traditional auction brought the congress to its conclusion.
Evenings were given over to the cultural programme. Miguel Fernández’ concert Mia liriko kaj muziko was out of the ordinary. Franjo Martin conducted a song workshop, Ni kantu la Revolucion, with the guitar accompaniment of Xavier Rodon. The performance ended with revolutionary songs. Miguel Fernández presented his translation of Ay, Carmela and his collection of poems Rev-ene, and Franciska Toubale the poem Ankaŭ mi estas homo. The public showed great enthusiasm at JoMo’s concert, dancing to his rendition of revolutionary songs, which he played with such fervour that two strings of his guitar broke during the last one. Sasha Pilipovich presented Vivo de Galileo, a monodrama, and a Universal Cabaret with gypsy songs. Porrumentzio sang Basque songs. For the final evening the well-known Catalan group Kaj Tiel Plu gave a concert in the garden. A welcome novelty was a puppet show, La sorĉistino kaj s-ro Kristoforo, presented by the professional company Títeres Desde Abajo (“Puppets from Below”). This piece included some Esperanto, and it was the work that got the puppeteers in trouble with the authorities three years ago. They were imprisoned for five days – in violation of the right of free speech, which is precisely the topic that the piece dealt with.
The oldest member of SAT, Eduardo Vivancos, lives in Canada, but originates from Barcelona, from which he had to flee when the Civil War ended in defeat for the revolutionary forces. He was unable to attend due to age. His sister delivered his greetings, and some of those present linked up with him from the congress by means of a surprise telephone call.
The presence of many local Esperanto-speakers, mostly not members of SAT, provided occasions for informal discussion of the political situation in Catalonia. A forum on this topic was also part of the regular programme. Outside of the congress, the numerous placards, graffiti and Catalan flags could hardly be overlooked. As was to be expected, there was no common viewpoint on the matter of Catalonian independence. Nevertheless, what consensus existed was expressed in the statement included in the Congress Declaration: “considering the situation in Catalonia in recent years, [the congress] expresses its apprehension in face of the fact that conflict between two nationalisms may lead to violation of basic human rights that should be respected by all sides, and calls upon peoples and governments to try to solve the political and social problems in peaceful and democratic ways that allow for freedom of expression, and accordingly demands that the political prisoners be freed.”
SAT, an organisation with political aims, need not downplay the fact that “touristy” activities were an important feature of this congress. For many, this was a unique occasion to visit the city and the region for a moderate price – in a season, in which visitors from abroad besiege the city. The site of the congress itself was the unusually beautiful Martí-Codolar hostel belonging to the Catholic Salesian Order, located in a tranquil neighborhood near the edge of the city. In free moments, participants could walk about in the well-maintained garden with its fountains, statues and palm trees. Here, outdoors, much of the programme took place.
One half-day excursion to Can Masdeu familiarised its participants with a small community of 30 people who live in a self-administered social centre that was set up in 2001 when an abandoned hospital for lepers at the edge of the city was occupied. Participants had a choice between two whole-day excursions. One of them led to the Subirats area, Barcelona’s last line of defence during the Civil War and later the site of an Esperanto museum founded by Luis Hernández Yzal in 1968. The other excursion was to the Montserrat monastery and after that to the Ramon Molera Esperanto Library in Moià, which his daughter Anna Maria Molera now operates.
Przemek Wierzbowski from Białystok (Poland) presented his city to the Congress, and it was decided that this would be the venue of next year’s SAT congress. Białystok is familiar to Esperanto-speakers as the place where Zamenhof lived his first ten years. This once multicultural and multilingual city is where he began to ponder the possibility of a common language that would bring all humanity together.
Music performed at the Congress may be viewed at the Youtube channel of SATeH: https://www.youtube.com/user/SATeHejo
Group commissioned by the Pro-Esperanto Section
Sennacieca Asocio Tutmonda (SAT)
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