Pujol, cacique

It’s not exactly a secret that Catalonia is currently run by spiteful, greedy, semi-literate buffoons, but our leaders’ protest re the Economist’s description of ex-regional president Jordi Pujol as a cacique should help to convince anyone still in doubt. The Oxford English Dictionary defines cacique thus:

2. In Spain or Latin America, a man who owes his ascendancy to his power or influence; a political ‘boss’; also used attrib. of a political system in which the power is in the hands of such a man or men.

… and cites the following examples of usage:

1872 SCHELE DE VERE Americanisms 71 The West India term Cacique..is often most absurdly applied..to mayors of New Mexican towns, and any somewhat pompous and self-sufficient man is apt to be nicknamed the Cacique of his town. 1903 Times 3 June 3/5 Caciquism, the Spanish equivalent for the methods of Tammany. 1923 Glasgow Herald 23 Oct. 7 This decree,..of great importance for the destruction of ‘caciquism’, will be applied to about 500 towns. 1923 Contemp. Rev. Nov. 613 The cacique whether an employer of labour or a moneylender has the majority of the constituency under his thumb. 1923 Glasgow Herald 13 Dec. 12 The whole cacique system is..an immense satire on local authority in Spain. 1964 Economist 4 July 37/2 The provincial caciques and city bosses.

The use of an ethnic banking-industrial-political nexus to stay in power over 25 years is a clear example of caciquism. The belief that it is illegitimate to use words with their normal meaning in reference to past caciques is evidence that the system is still functioning.

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  1. Yet yours is a cacique very much in a league of his own, whetever his politics which I personally do not subscribe. Pujol’s one of very few people in Spain who dared make a public stand against general Franco, when the world at large wasn’t paying any attention at all to Spanish internal affairs. Although a member of the ‘Catalan ethnocracy’ -as some self-appointed ‘professional guiris’ would put it- he was subsequently arrested, tortured and jailed for a number of years..by the Spanish state.

  2. Just because one strongman succeeds another doesn’t mean he’s not a cacique. Jordi Pujol did two and a half years of light, and afaik no evidence has ever been produced of torture. Since Florenci Pujol, his father, made the family fortune smuggling currency with a nod and a wink from the regime (source: Manuel Ortínez, Una vida entre burgesos), it would surprise me greatly. There was expectation in some circles that Maragall would succeed to the crown, but unfortunately he was already batty.

    Re professional guiridom: you surely didn’t believe that Vanguardia thing about me taking money from the CIA? I’m pretty sure Google ads are cleanly funded.

    Rab: Being a successful cacique consists precisely in elections not being a problem.

  3. Apparently cacique in French can also mean “premier d’une section à l’École Normale”. I suppose in Spanish you’d first have to copy the system and then add a regional modifier.

  4. What crown? Cacique crown? Maragall was pres del gencat, no?

    Actually, I think this whole thing about Pujol being a Cacique betrays something of a misunderstanding of what the word means. Don’t get me wrong: I know how much fun it is to wind people up… but to me, it’s as foolish as calling Juan Carlos ‘Caudillo’ simply because he’s head of state and armed forces. I mean surely there can be a little relativism.

  5. Maragall failed the basic cacique test–staying around.

    I’m just quoting what the dictionary says. If I were to want to insult Juan Carlos then the dictionary would support me if I described him as a philanderer or a fratricide, but would call me out if I used the word caudillo.

    I have a vague suspicion that the Barcelona establishment thinks that caciques are something only other Spanish tribes possess, and that the London establishment regards caciquism as being a feature that distinguishes Southern from Northern European democracy.

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