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by Gabriel Pernau

On Febrary 3rd, 1999, the Mayor of Barcelona, Joan Clos, presented Barcelona's "Medals of Honour" to 24 citizens and organizations that, although not necessarily known about by the general public, have been recognized as standing out for their personal qualities, their community spirit or their steadfast dedication to work for the benefit of the city.

These medals of symbolic significance have been awarded to Francesc Borrell i Mas; Maria Mercè Marçal; Miquel Nuñez i González; Jorge Salvat Gras; Alfons Cánovas i Lapuente; Carolines de la Rambla; Maria Martinell i Taxonera; Antoni Trullà i Forcada; Josep Bigordà i Montmany; Sister Inocencia Castaño Reolid; Josep Moran i Ocerinjàuregui; Father Francesc Tena; Josep Calderó i Calopa; Elvira Farreras i Valentí; the Gràcia's Association of Craftmen; the Vila de Gràcia Group of "Castellers"; Josep Casas i Bosch; Antoni Roca i Villarroya; the Roquetes Circle of Sardana Dancers "Ideal d'en Clavé"; the Santa Eulalia Sport Association; Josep Bota i Prat; the Maquinista Terrestre i Marítima Company Committee; Andreu Garcia i Cartanyà and Anna Puig i Giménez. The names on this list of honoured citizens have been selected by the City Council of Barcelona in plenary meeting, two per each of the city's ten districts.

During the presentation of these Medals of Honour, Josep Bigordà, one of the prizewinners, paid special tribute to the deceased poetess Maria Mercè Marçal, another noted name on the list, of whom he said that she was "the most qualified voice through which our feelings have ever been expressed and now distinguished".

In his address, Bigordà stressed that:

"(...) Happen what may, nobody should ever lose human dignity and nobody can ever take it away from anybody. Following that same train of thought, allow me to conclude with an apologue admirably narrated by Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano: "He was - Galeano says - a musician, a true wizard who created magic with his harp. On the plains of Colombia, no worthwhile celebration was held without the presence of Mese Figueredo. He had to be there with his harp and his swirling fingers that filled the air with joy and made you move your feet and legs to some catchy rhythm. But one night, in a forlorn area, while he was making his way to a wedding banquet, riding on a mule with his harp tied onto the back of another mule, he was held up by highwaymen who gave him a severe beating. The following day, a traveller found him stretched out flat on the ground, more dead than alive. Regaining consciousness a while later, Mese Figuerdo mumbled in a thin voice: "They've taken the mules away !". Then he added: "They've taken away the harp too !". However, getting his breath back, he smiled and said: "Well, let me tell you, they haven't taken the music away !". (...)