Coco Fusco's performance, Els Segadors (The Reapers), reflects on demographic changes in Barcelona and questions whether a formerly embattled identity can or should be extended to all the inhabitants of the region regardless of their birthplace.
In 2001, in the midst of mounting anxieties about the impact of immigration on Catalan social integrity, a debate began in the Spanish press about whether the national hymn of Catalunya, Els Segadors, should be taught in the region’s public schools. During the same period, the wife of Jordi Pujol, the president of Catalunya’s regional government, made xenophobic public statements about how immigrant children’s speaking languages other than Catalan was imperiling national culture.
In the spring of 2001, Fusco placed advertisements in several newspapers in Barcelona asking for actors and actresses who could sing traditional Catalan and who would be interested in performing in an American film. Fusco was looking for people who considered themselves Catalan and who would be willing to display that sense of identity before a camera. Over seventy people responded to the advertisements, from which Fusco selected about twenty-five for the performance. On the set, those who needed help were assisted by a Cuban immigrant actress who played the role of a diction corrector, a language coach that is regularly on hand for rehearsals of Catalan theatre and television productions to insure the “purity” of the Catalan presented with governmental support. Fusco informed the actors that if they wanted help during the recording session, they would be taught to sing Els Segadors, a traditional hymn that became the national anthem of Catalunya. Some of those showed up were prepared to sing a variety of traditional songs, while others only chose to sing the anthem.