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Josep Presseguer, the passionate historian

Lawyer and history-lover, Josep Presseguer Gené, was born in Bellpuig (Lerida) in 1966. He met his wife at the Law Faculty and they have two teenagers.

He is a very eloquent man, although at times his children say he rabbits on too much. From a Republican family on both sides, he is a committed Europhile. He worked in Brussels for three years and then became involved in local politics for another few years.

When he moves office, he always takes an old framed print of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with him.

He tells me that he no longer has any hobbies; he had “had” some previously and although there are not enough hours in the day, he has managed to watch the popular series Game of Thrones with his young son.

Our meeting takes place in the Seu Vella in Lerida. Josep acts as a guide in a visit that is seasoned by the high temperatures. Nobody could have done it better because during his political career he was a councillor for this part of the city.

Could you explain to me why you chose this site for our interview?

Because I am a history-lover and this is the most beautiful and emblematic part of the city. In Catalonian, we say “el rovell del ou” which, in this case, means the original centre of everything that is Lerida today.

But you are well-suited to showing me this historic site.

Yes, to a certain extent, I suppose I am. I was a councillor of this part of the city and I know the district in depth, along with the historic site, which, by the way, has started the recognition phase as a World Heritage Site. In my term on the Council I sometimes spent time here and the curator explained the latest finds to me.

Talk to me about yourself. What do you remember from your childhood?

I am an only child and I was a very happy child. I remember the summers on my uncle’s ‘Masía’ or farmstead, with my cousins, running wild with the animals…. and getting up to the usual mischief. Although it only lasted until I was fourteen because that was the age when I started working during the summers.

Do you remember when you became politically aware?

Not exactly. In my house even the walls breathed politics, but my parents never talked about it. They belonged to the silent generation that suffered the consequences of a conflict and, additionally, both sides of the family came from Republican families. My grandfather on my mother’s side was the Republican mayor of Bellpuig and so suffered from reprisals and my other grandfather was brought before a court martial. I managed to recover the documents from his trial in Valladolid.

You managed to carry out your own “private” Historical Memory Act.

Yes. I was deeply interested in discovering the details of my grandfather’s trial and its development.

Do you have any specific political memories?

When I was young I remember when my uncle and I made UGT cards using an Olivetti typewriter in the factory.

Have you concluded your work in public office?

Politics should have a start and a finish and you should never make it into a professional career or stay in it forever.

Where did you catch the bug to become a lawyer?

I had no doubts about it; from an early age Law had always been very attractive to me. And as it turns out, in the strictest meaning of the word, I have never practiced as a lawyer, although I am a member of the official lawyers’ association.

But you specialised in Community Law, didn’t you?

Yes, I studied the Third Grade in Nancy and I always have thought that it was one of the greatest opportunities of my life, which in the long term meant that we went to live in Brussels and, in some way or other, this linked me to the professional sector where I work today. I also made friends all over Europe, some of whom I still keep in touch with today.

What job did you do at that time in Brussels?

My job was of a technical type, as an advisor for the Catalonian Government, at a time when the Common Agricultural Policy was in an embryonic state. I lived through the negotiations first hand.

And was it then that you realised the benefits of having a good relationship with journalists?

Ha, ha… Well, in that case, it was a mutual benefit. I couldn’t attend the briefings as a technician, so I reached an agreement with a couple of journalists who passed the documentation on to me beforehand. In exchange, I translated the legal jargon used in the agreements and decisions that were reached into a language that could be understood by mere mortals.

What do you do in your free time?

I had many hobbies, and I say had, in the past tense. Nowadays, and at this point in my professional life, I have no time for anything. The only thing I have left is trekking. I have always been a very Pyrenean man and I have travelled through the most spectacular landscapes: el Plà deBeret, Baqueira, el Lago Gento… My last short break was to the Tinança de Benifassà, the northernmost beech tree grove in Europe where there is a magnificent tree that is over one thousand years old.

The only hobby that I have not lost is reading, but I always have thousands of books waiting to be read.

And what do you like to read?

As I am passionate about history, I like historical novels. I have read everything by Dan Brown and Ken Follet. The last book I have read was Winter of the World. I also greatly enjoy authors such as Matilde Asensi and Ildefonso Falcones.

It was impossible for me not to think of ‘Cathedral of the Sea’ by Falcones whilst you explained about La Seu.

I have often thought about it; this site could be the setting for a fantastic book over many centuries, obviously, with a proper documentation.

Where will you spend these holidays?

In Mallorca, in a rural hotel, which we have been going to for many years. There we rest, we read and if we want to go to a quiet beach, we also have one. Or we just travel around the island.

I’ve been told that when you retire you will disappear to an island.

Yes, I am a true island-lover and I have had my retirement destination clear for many years.

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