A Trivia Contest to Become Spanish

A Trivia Contest to Become Spanish
The judge in charge of the Civil Registry of Barcelona submits foreigners who aspire to Spanish nationality to general cultural questionnaires
El País: Un ‘trivial’ para ser español
Jesús García reporting from Barcelona October 10, 2011

Foreigners who live in Barcelona and want to become Spaniards have faced, for the last two months, a peculiar exam. The judge in charge of the city’s Civil Registry, María del Mar Ortega, has decided to give questionnaires about general culture to those who want to obtain Spanish nationality. As opposed to countries like the United States, Spanish law does not require any aspirant to be quizzed, neither about the recent history of the country – “Who was Carrero Blanco?” – nor its fundamental law – “Cite and explain an article of the Spanish Constitution” – nor to answer a trick question like “Where does the Way of St. James end?”

Crib notes are already circulating with the optimal responses to questions that might appear in the trivia exam among the foreigners registered in Barcelona. Lawyers who specialize in immigration matters believe the initiative is “arbitrary” or at least “discretionary”. But not all their clients have to run the gauntlet, just those who are chosen at random when they arrive for their interviews in the Plaza of the Duke of Medinaceli… a historical personage about whom, for the moment, there are not any questions.

“Proving knowledge is not a legal requirement. The EGB’s exam confuses adaptation to Spanish culture with cultural education,” objects Olga Hernández of the Catalonian Association of Immigration Professionals (ACPE). The lawyers of this association have accompanied their clients to interviews and have witnessed the questionnaires. According to Hernández, the initiative “lacks legal cover”. Another lawyer, who authorized questionnaires, is Antoni Segura, spokesman for the Illustrious College of Barcelona Lawyers, who calls the judge’s actions “overreaching”.

Some questions, according to Segura, are excessive and would even jam citizens with Spanish DNA. “Although the law doesn’t require it, it’s reasonable that an aspirant to nationality would know who the king or president is. But it’s doubtful that they’d have to know whether life imprisonment exists here,” he reasons. Questions of a personal nature – “What can you contribute to this country?” seem unnecessary to him: “What kind of question is that?”

To concede nationality to a foreigner, the Civil Code demands that his residence be “legal and continuing” and that he show “good civic conduct” and “a sufficient grade of integration in Spanish society.” Civil Registry regulations add that the person in charge of the inquiry should “listen to the petitioner in person, especially to check his level of adaptation to Spanish culture and lifestyle.” Another rung below those norms is the directive approved in 2007 by the General Directorship of the Registry and Notary Public, which is under the Minister of Justice and has ultimate authority over the concession of nationality. It insists that the foreigner “demonstrate knowledge of national culture as a sign of social integration,” but it says nothing of questionnaires. Last year, a similar conflict occurred in the civil registry of Getafe, Madrid. “We had seen something similar in small towns, but never in a capital like Barcelona,” Segura pointed out.

ACPE lawyers learned about the questionnaire when they returned from their [summer] vacations. “Our clients left their interviews white and nervous. We’ve since dedicated ourselves to compiling the questions. A Nigerian woman responded that the President of the Generalitat [the Catalonian regional government] was [Joan Laporta. The interesting thing was that we talked later with her husband, who is Spanish, and he also believed Laporta was the president,” Segura said sardonically. Hernández cited a case of another person who responded “Messi and Ronaldo” when asked for the names of two Spanish sportsmen.

As the tests are recent and the nationalization process takes a very long time – appointments are being made now for dates two years in the future – it’s unknown if the quizzes have consequences, that is to say, if the judge gives a positive or negative report based on the applicant’s answers. This newspaper tried unsuccessfully to contact the Civil Registry. A spokesman for the Superior Judicial Tribunal of Catalonia stated that they had not received complaints about the test. Segura added that for the last week, functionaries have not been giving the test. “We don’t know why. They’re also changing the questions, because they were always the same, and our clients eventually knew the answers already.”

Test Questions for Foreigners
-Motive for becoming Spanish
-What do you believe you would contribute to the country?
-What do you like about Spain?
-Names of Spanish sportsmen
-Give the names of two Spanish writers
-What is Cervantes’s most famous work?
-Where does the Way of St. James end?
-Is Spain part of the European Union?
-How many Autonomous Communities are there in Spain?
-Give an article of the Spanish Constitution and explain it
-Does the death penalty exist in Spain? Does life imprisonment?
-Who is the president of the Generalitat?
-Who was the president of the national government during the Transition?
-Who was Carrero Blanco?
-Date of [Franco’s] coup d’etat
-The names of five kings of Spain
-What mountain range separates Spain and France?
-Can you give the names of some of the Canary Islands?
-Which two countries make up the Iberian Peninsula?

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