Vive le Quebec Libre!
28 Jul 1997 19:38:12 -0700
Petit Cafe; Quebec City, Quebec :: 27 JUL 97
30 years ago this week, Charles de Gaulle spoke here in Quebec
City and said, "Vive le Quebec...Vive le Quebec Libre!" This week, the
Quebec government erected a statue of de Gaulle commemorating that event.
Needless to say, Federalists inside and out of the province are rather
upset by the events, both past and present.
I think Quebec separatism is a condition we Canadians will just
have to learn to live with, and accept. Something like those southern
rebels in the US who continue to scratch the sting of losing the American
civil war. But if I go any further with this, I'll get sucked into a lengthy
ramble that will produce little, if any, useful or creative insight. The
problem has existed since well before Canadian confederation and my two
cents will illuminate nothing.
Instead, I'll sit at this corner sidewalk cafe and observe that
the old quarter of Quebec City appears to be populated almost exclusively
by tourists or locals working in the businesses which are taking the tourist
dollar. Of course, the tourists are easy to spot with their camera bags,
comfortable shoes, cotton shorts...their sweaters, jackets and "Quebec,
Canada" sweat-shirts draped knotted by the sleeves over their hips. With
the exception of the Banque Nationale (one of those 1970's architectural
monstrosities) just across the street, all the immaculately maintained
buildings date back to the 18th and 19th century. There's a self-consciousness
here that's almost Disneyland. Thronging tourists often walk into the
middle of the street to take their photographs. The quaint little shops
and restaurants designed just so with their quaint exuberant prices. And
there are the ever-present horse-drawn carriages trailing their horsey
smells through the city to the accompaniment of clippity-clopping hooves.
Don't let this seemingly negative appraisal fool you; I like
it here. Even if from some perspectives Quebec City seems the result of
city planners and marketers in collaboration, underlying the scrubbed
veneer is one of North America's oldest cities, and it is thoroughly French.
And while I would prefer less gloss, something a bit more lived in, this
still has to rate as one of the prettiest places in North America. So,
scrub the tourists from your eye; replace the over-abundant presence of
international brand-names with cobblers, tailors, seam-stresses, bakers,
tin-smiths along with the pubs, brasseries and cafes that still are here;
rather than steel and rubber, imagine the wood and leather carriages with
their four-legged engines clippity-clopping over cobbles and dirt paths.
Transport yourself, if you can.
And then remember that before the French, or the English, or
the Spanish ever sailed into the Saint Lawrence, other folk with a completely
different aesthetic lived here.
~~~ Responses Sought ~~~
Vive le Quebec... Vive le Quebec libre!
|| Charles De Gaulle