Nurse faces backlash after posting critique of Catalan language

Healthcare professional says she is seeking sick leave after receiving threats

A nurse in Catalonia has requested sick leave and said she fears going out into the street due to a backlash over a video she posted criticising the region’s language policy.

The nurse, who has been named as Begoña Suárez by Spanish media, posted a video on social media network TikTok in which she spoke disdainfully of the requirement for those applying for long-term civil service jobs to speak Catalan.

“In order to get a f***ing civil service job we need f***ing level C1 in Catalan,” said the nurse, who was speaking inside Vall d’Ebron hospital in Barcelona, flanked by two colleagues. The nurse said she was from the southern city of Cadiz, in Andalucía. C1 corresponds to proficient use of the language.

“So who is going to get level C1 in Catalan? My mother. Because I’m not going to get C1 in Catalan,” she said.


Catalonia is one of six regions in Spain where at least some knowledge of the regional tongue, as well as Spanish, is required in order to secure a civil service contract.

The video drew an angry response from Catalan nationalists, including from within the pro-independence regional government.

“Statements like this are intolerable from a public servant,” tweeted Manel Balcells, minister of the region’s health department, who said an investigation would be opened into the video. “Examples of good practices of our professionals are those who, wherever they are from originally, have an interest in and are trained to learn, know and speak Catalan.”

Others used stronger language. “Do we have to pay the salary of a Catalan-phobe?” asked one user on social media. “She should be out on her ear and take the exams in the place where she came from.”

Language use has become a highly contentious issue in Catalonia in recent years. The region’s nationalists accuse the Spanish state of repressing efforts to use Catalan in schools and other public spaces, while unionists say the language is used as a tool to promote separatist and anti-Spanish ideas.

The former president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, described this as an example of “linguicide” by Spain. “Hatred of the Catalan language is a constant among many Spaniards,” he said. “They offend us, they insult us and we pay their salary.”

The hospital is also investigating the episode. Ms Suárez (25) is one of 300 health workers from Andalucía who were deployed to Catalonia last summer to cover vacancies. She has apologised for making the video and also said that the opprobrium heaped on her has caused her to request sick leave to deal with the stress. One comment cited by the media expressed the wish of the person posting it for the nurse to be shot and left in an open grave.

“Right now I am scared to go outside, because of the consequences beyond the hospital,” Ms Suárez told the right-leaning newspaper El Mundo. “There are some very crazy people out there and they could beat me up. I’ve received loads of threats.”

Carlos Carrizosa, of the unionist Ciudadanos party, described the backlash as “the nationalist mob going after a young nurse”.

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Spain