Cultures United to Honor Separatism





AT a glance it looked like any small-town fair, with smoke wafting from the barbecue, families gathering around picnic tables, music percolating over loudspeakers and doting parents trailing after happy toddlers in front of white tents hawking brightly colored T-shirts and knickknacks.

But the Ghjurnate Internaziunale di Corti (the International Days of Corte) were hardly fun and games. It turns out that militant separatists, like baseball owners, car salesmen and trade unionists, also convene regularly to hash out strategies, exchange war stories and rally the troops. The Days, a late-summer annual affair, bring together militants from around the world. Those T-shirts and knickknacks were printed with hooded gunmen pointing rifles, and the barbecue raised money for jailed comrades. Even a few toddlers, like their parents, were decked out in military fatigues....

It was here that Pasquale Paoli, the George Washington of Corsica, rebelled against Genoese rule in the 18th century and established an independent government for Corsica, establishing the first constitutional democracy in Europe, Corsicans like to boast. Paoli also founded a university here, in 1765. All that was short lived because Genoese authorities, deciding to rid themselves of the whole Corsican headache, sold the island to France, and the French wasted little time before sending in troops, shutting down the university and driving Paoli into exile....

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