Phylloxera as a metaphor for the current crisis in Valencia

Una parábola – una palabra – valenciana, por Antoni Puigverd






It’s been fascinating to see how a study of an apparently highly specialized

El Punt Avui "Conjugar-se"subject – the initial resistance, eventual arrival and subsequent response in Valencia to the phylloxera epidemic which destroyed virtually all of Europe’s vines in the fifty years following the pest’s arrival in 1863 – can strike a highly relevant chord.

Joan Martín’s “Valencians contra la fil·loxera: pràctiques vitícoles tradicionals i innovacions agronòmiques” is certainly an important regional study of this catastrophic event in European agriculture. However, recent readings and discussions of the book have seen one aspect of the author’s analysis be picked up by commentators and given a contemporary context.

After a talk at the very fine Ateneu de Bétera civic and cultural  centre early in the New Year, an article appeared in El Punt Avui highlighting that the book’s argument that the solidarity of the agricultural communities in resisting the threat of phylloxera, and then sharing the struggle of dealing with the crisis and its economic and social consequences when it came, was a model of solidarity and collaborative effort. Joan remembers clearly the word that his community used for this joint effort, “conjugar-se”.

Vicent Partal, founder and guiding spirit of the Catalan  the author of the article, highlights the need for this attitude in today’s devastated economy, and the absence hitherto of serious-mindedness from Valencia’s political leadership. Catalonia’s leading daily “La Vanguardia” published a very similar article (“a kind of retweet” as Vicent Partal referred to it tongue-in-cheek), “Una parábola – una palabra – valenciana” by Antoni Puigverd. Again, the rampant corruption and vainglory of today’s political and social elite are held up in stark contrast to the humility and self-scarifice of yesteryear.

It would be nice if this drove sales of the book, but apart from that it is good to see a book on phylloxera in Valencia enter mainstream debate.