Xarnego (Catalan pronunciation: [ʃərˈnɛɣu] in Catalan or charnego in Spanish is a pejorative or descriptive term used primarily in the 1950s–70s in Catalonia (Spain) to refer to economic migrants from other typically poorer regions of Spain such as Andalusia or Extremadura. in their place of origin) from other parts of Spain. In its modern usage, it refers to Catalans with recent heritage from other Castilian-speaking parts of Spain. The word is never used to refer to the latest wave of immigrants from outside of Spain.
In the early 1930s, fear extended throughout Catalan society of a Murcian "invasion" of migrant workers from South East Spain. The historian Ferran Soldevila, in an article written in 1933, denounced that Andalusian and Murcians are not adapting to life in Catalonia, unlike immigrants from the adjacent region of Aragon in northern Spain. As southerners, immigrants from Murcia and Albacete would belong to a low socio-economic status, illiterate and largely sick, particularly with trachoma, taking up space in hospitals. For Soldevila, it was scandalous that Murcians were allowed to freely reside in Catalonia which would make repatriating unemployed immigrants a pointless exercise.
Soon later, others would join Soldevila in openly criticizing immigration, such as the journalist Carles Sentís, who accused "invading hordes" of Murcians of not paying rent, not respecting contracts, having uncouth manners and of practicing "free love", the latter representing a particular threat due to the demographic growth of the non-ethnic Catalan element. Sentís' articles had a significant impact and the Catalanist newspaper El Be negre launched the mantra "Spain for the Spaniards, Catalonia for the Murcians."
The concern over the arrival of southern immigrants was particularly acute due to its implications in terms of mixing with a decadence, something which would only be solved by political autonomy and the ability to select who was allowed to immigrate into the country. In 1935, the demographer Josep Antoni Vandellòs in his book Cataluña, poble decadent (1935) warned of the dangers of the arrival of a population impossible to assimilate into Catalan society.
Between 1950 and 1975 a second wave of a million and half immigrants arrived from other less developed parts of Spain, particularly Andalusia and Extremadura, where hunger and economic hardship was prevalent. These new immigrants represented 44% of the total growth of the Catalan population during this period. This immigration resulted from the high demand for cheap labour resulting from the new economic policy of "desarrollismo" of the Francoist dictatorship, which involved huge investments in sectors such as transport and infrastructure primarily aiming to stimulate the tourism, heavy industry and new industries such as the car industry with the creation of the SEAT car company and the building of its factory in the free-zone of Barcelona in 1953. Such industries, the availability of jobs and higher salaries in the Barcelona region would stimulate two decades of immigration from rural areas throughout Spain - a phenomenon comparable to other large scale international migrations throughout history due to the volume of people and geographic distances involved.
Usage of term and discrimination during the 20th century
This wave of immigration led to a new rise in xenophobia in Catalonia, with the generalization of the derogatory term "xarnego" (Charnego, in Spanish), to refer to these new Catalans. The term, originally meaning "mongrel", was historically used in southern France to refer to French people mixed with Spanish/Catalan heritage. Upon its introduction in Catalonia, it referred to immigrants from non-Catalan speaking regions of Spain - in other words, a foreigner to Catalonia. Eventually it also took on a linguistic sense referring to those Catalanas who do not speak Spanish, without losing its ethnic, and classist connotations. The Catalan language thus became an important criterion to distinguish between "them" (the immigrants) and "us" (the Catalans). Franciscos Candel describes the situation in "Los otros catalanes (1964) and later defines himself as a Charnego in the senate (1979).
Xenophobia against Xarnegos can also be found in the youth writings of Jordi Pujol, historical leader of Catalan nationalism during Spain's democracy and President of the Catalan government between 1980 and 2003.
The Andalusian is not a coherent man, he is an anarchical man. A destroyed man (...), he is generally a poorly made man, a man which has suffered famine for centuries and lives in a state of ignorance and spiritual, mental and cultural misery. He is an uprooted man, incapable of having a wider sense of community. Often, he demonstrates excellent human character, but generally he represents the least social and spiritual value of Spain. I have said it before: he is a destroyed and anarchical man. If, by virtue of numbers, he dominated, without having overcome his own perplexity, he would destroy Catalonia. He would introduce in it his extremely poor and anarchical mentality. In other words, his lack of mentality— Jordi Pujol, published in 1958 and re-published in 1976.
Although the use of the term became less generalized with the stabilization of immigration in the 1980s, the return of democracy and efforts to socially and economically integrate immigrants and their descendants, it has remained a socio-cultural cleavage within Catalan society. This cleavage also affects the public sphere. Whereas the 20 most common surnames names in Catalonia proper are typical of the Spanish language, the majority of political seats and posts are held by people with typically Catalan language surnames, and some of those who do not have them 'Catalanise' them upon embarking on a political career. In particular it has been noted that a pool of Catalan language surnames held by 13% of the total Catalan population holds 40% of the politically designated jobs, which has been called an 'overrepresentation' or even 'hyperrepresentation' in the political elite of these Catalan families vs. the Catalan society as a whole. Another example of the persistence of the Charnego issue in Catalonia was the 2008 scandal regarding the then president of the Catalan Government, José Montilla, when a member of the Catalan Parliament stated on Catalan Public Television that Montilla "destroyed the Catalan language", considering it unacceptable that a president of Catalonia could not speak correctly. In this way the "charnego" or "foreign" origin of Montilla was highlighted. Similarly, the wife of Jordi Pujol, President of Catalonia between 1980 and 2003, expressed disdain in a TV interview in 2008 that the President of Catalonia was an Andalusian with a Castilian name. The Catalan academic Montserrat Clua i Fainé from the Autonomous University of Barcelona considers that such mechanisms of exclusion have returned to Catalonia leading to a new wave of internal immigration which occurred during the 1990s.
In 2017, pro-independence Catalan political party Junts per Catalunya was accused of Catalan supremacism and anti-Charnego discrimination as a result of the absence of non-Catalan surnames among its candidates to the December regional election, where Catalonia's 25 most common surnames are typically Spanish and non-Catalan both due to historical presence and Charnego immigration. In 2016, Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia highlighted that only 32 of the Catalan Parliament's Members of Parliament had one of these 25 surnames, either on the paternal or maternal side. This particularly affected the pro-independence coalition Junts pel Sí, where only 5 of its 62 parliament members had common surnames.
In November 2017, the Xarnego issue was subject of a controversy as a result of an opinion piece published in Catalan newspaper El Nacional, in which the inhabitants of the Catalan city of Cornellà de Llobregat were accused of being "settlers" by virtue of their immigrant (Xarnego) origin and alleged refusal to integrate or learn the Catalan language. The article claimed that the working-class "red-circle" of Barcelona, of which Cornellà de Llobregat is an example, is a bastion of Spanish nationalism where "Catalans" are stygmatized. In the context of the Catalan independence drive and the 2017 regional elections, where the bulk of charnegos voted for anti-separatist parties, tension between Charnego and non Charnego Catalans has risen.
- The Bilingual Lover is a 1993 film in which the protagonist is a Catalan low-class man who reinvents himself as a charnego to recover his fetishist wife.
- Maketo, a Basque pejorative for immigrants from the rest of Spain
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