24th June 2024
Susana Preston at the Sitges Terramar Festival.
Sitges Lifestyle

Crossing cultural portals and language barriers

Imagine there were cultural portals we could cross. Just where would you visualise them? I see it happening at these summer concerts we have here in Sitges, where the music combined with the food trucks are perfect places for people to mix and learn about the culinary and musical art flowing in this small corner of the world – and a place that many of us want to call home.

There are many different communities in Sitges. We have the very locals, known as the STVs – the ‘Sitgetans de Tota la Vida’, the inner core – and then we have the locals, the others (me) and ex-pats.

Ex-pats are, in many cases, foreign families wanting their children to have an English education in a safe, sunny country. In other cases, they might be part of the LGTB+ community, perhaps, just enjoying the open and relaxed atmosphere and wanting to live in peace. Of course, there are also many other people with different situations, but in a rough grouping, that would be it. Many of these foreign people speak English, whether they come from England or not. English, as proven here, is a prevalent language.

A natural sub-grouping for many people is by language – same again, English – and all other European languages. All in Sitges, remember. The natural language in Sitges is Catalan, then Spanish, and English comes in third. Then hobbies might bring people together, like theatre at the IAB – a great place – or the sea, or they might meet in bars or small private meetings here and there.

It is difficult for foreign people to learn Catalan because really, really, it’s not vital. It would be if you were alone here 50 years ago, but not now, as the locals sort of speak English and there are enough foreign people to shed this need.

There are all sorts of businesses to get through life without any issues. Like a parallel world and identically, resident locals here also try their best to communicate in English. They want to learn it, but I never see Sitgetans at the IAB or at the Christmas panto.

Susana Preston at the Sitges Terramar Festival.
Susana Preston at the Sitges Terramar Festival. (Albert Roca)

There are, however, some people that have wanted to cross the English barrier and learn Catalan first and Spanish second, wanting to get under the skin of Sitges, to genuinely understand the people, the culture, their politics, the traditions, and that’s when they cross this portal.

Suddenly, when the ideas that these folk brew up merges with Sitges residents, that’s when things happen, whatever this may be. It comes to mind what Cheryl Corns has done with Rescue me (she can’t hear me right now). She’s clearly an example of what crossing a cultural portal means. Helping stray animals has brought together a crowd that already existed, and the forces have come together in a very quirky and sweet way.

Or also like Claire Davies, designing the bar with the utter Sitgetà name, Rusiñol, with an impressive result. This is when the Yin and the Yang become one. All the strengths come together. Overcoming fears and taking the leap is a great thing, in order to cross the barrier and really mix up with Sitgetans.

Sitges looks at foreign people with some sense of curiosity, appreciating that you like their town a little bit like they love it themselves. And yes, you will get help to do whatever you dream of. Fear is not needed, just stubbornness and a lust for life. Summer festivals are like these portals. They offer a chance to cross over a barrier and discover the music, art, food and culture from a mix of local, national and international artists … Covid permitting.

Susana Preston has dual nationality, having been born in Barcelona as the third child of a Catalan father and English mother from Lancashire. She has been working at Sitges museums ‘forever’, has ‘two decent boys and a clever husband’, and is also a volunteer at the Fundacio Sant Antoni Abad.

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