Time. It is the one thing that many of us feel like we don’t have enough of. Generally, we move through our lives at a rapid pace with mobile phones permanently on and our attention fixed on work and earning a living.
But in Catalonia, just as in other parts of the planet, there is an increasing number of people who are trying to reject a hectic ultra-modern lifestyle. They want to experience things in an unhurried way and the international Slow Movement is now helping that to happen.
Inspired by Italian Carlo Petrini’s Slow Food Foundation, which quickly spread world-wide, a number of other Slow movements have begun to emerge, especially across Europe. These now include Slow Science, Slow Design, Slow Money, Slow Travel, Slow Cinema (in this country with, Eduard Punset Casals, the Barcelona-born economist, lawyer and science writer/commentator) and even a Slow Parenting book by Helle Heckman, to add to Carl Honoré’s greatly influential title, “In Praise of Slow.”
On top of all this, we have Slow Towns (CittaSlow, in Italian) which in Catalonia is the two Empordà Baix villages of Begur and Pals on the Costa Brava. (The Spanish Slow Towns are Bigastro, Lekeittio, Mungia and Rubielos de Mora.)
But what exactly is a Slow Town?
According to the official website “There are currently 147 Cittaslow towns in 24 countries across the world making Cittaslow an internationally recognised standard [of] accreditation that acknowledges the dedication and commitment of community members who work hard to make their part of the world a healthier, greener, happier, slower place to inhabit.”
The mayors of each town are representatives on the international organization of CittaSlow and they are charged with the responsibility of co-ordinating the preservation of their regions’ “distinct identities in the face of global homogenisation.”
Only a town with less than 50,000 residents can apply for formal recognition and CittaSlow states that those who are accepted “are not state capitals or the seat of regional governments, but are strong communities that have made the choice to improve the quality of life for their inhabitants.”
To achieve the status of “Slow Town,” the town council must agree to accept the guidelines of Slow Food and work to “improve conviviality and conserve the local environment.” It first has to pay 600.00 euros to the Cittaslow central office.
Apart from the continuing promotion of Slow Food restaurants and suppliers, some programs already implemented in Slow Towns include recycling projects, after-school programs, and the provision of information for tourists that helps them have a genuine “local’s” experience. For general public use in festivals for example, town councils can also buy Cittaslow biodegradable pulp plates and cutlery made from cellulose, while in their offices using approved recycled paper notepads.
In Catalonia the Slow Food branch in Lleida is particularly active and the Facebook group of the “Slow Movement Catalunya” has in excess of 150 members. They say that they are a social movement that: “defends a slower life, without pressure and eating calmly with friends [in addition to] advocating working at a reasonable pace and not more hours than is necessary, gazing at the sea, playing with children, conscientious thinking and going out for a tranquil walk.”
Last year Carlo Petrini, the founder and President of Slow Food International spoke at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. As the first ever outside speaker to be invited to address the floor in the this forum's ten-year history he gave Slow Food's perspective during a session on the right to food and food sovereignty.
How long might it be before a Catalan from one of the many Slow movements does the same?
An edited version of the text above was first published in Catalonia Today magazine in February, 2013.