Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Catalan Problem

I live in a small nation, a triangle snuggled between the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees. It's a nation of opportunities and hard-working people, a nation of traditions and old, deep roots. Its name is Catalonia.



Catalonia might be a nation, but it is not an independent state. Millions of Catalan people want to change that, and independence is a collective dream which is spreading like wildfire throughout the land. I'm not Catalan-born, but I've been a resident in Barcelona since 1996, and I can fully understand the sentiment. The relationship between Catalonia and Spain is under pressure, and has been for many, many years. So many factors come into play that they're virtually impossible to explain without turning this post into a socio-historic academic paper. I'll just comment on two of the things that are always in my mind:


Economy

Josep Desquens explains the situation quite succinctly in his article Europe's Stateless Nations in the Era of Globalization. The Case for Catalonia's Secession from Spain:

Containing about 16 percent of Spain's population, it provides about 20 percent of its GDP and one-third of the total industrial production and exports. The region contributes about 25 percent of Spain's total taxes, but public investment in Catalonia is scarce when related to either population or GDP contribution. The regionalized investment of the Spanish state in Catalonia from 1982 to 1998 represented only about 8.5 percent of the total.

So, Catalonia gives about 25% in taxes yet only receives about 9% in investments. How is the autonomous community supposed to thrive when it's being bled year after year? The quote above might make reference to the year 1998, but don't think those numbers have changed much. Worse is that some journalists and politicians have the gall to go on mass media outlets and preach "you need to show more solidarity" when Catalans demand their tax euros. It makes my already-sucked-out blood boil.


Identity

Catalan people's cultural identity has endured several crises throughout the centuries, the most recent being Franco's dictatorship. As Josep Desquens explains:

Gen. Franco's dictatorial regime is key to understanding Catalonia today. While all Spaniards were victims of Franco's ruthless and institutionalized violation of human rights, Catalonia suffered a cruel and systematic attempt at cultural annihilation. It endured repression of individual and collective cultural rights, such as the prohibition of the use of the Catalan language, the public denial of the Catalan identity and the punishment for cultural expression.

We will suffer again,
we will fight again,
we will overcome again.
Desquens is not exaggerating, trust me. Here's just one example: the president of Catalonia during the Spanish civil war, Lluís Companys, was executed in 1940 by Spanish fascists after being caught in exile by the Gestapo. Companys is the only democratically elected president in European history to be executed. His execution is a wound in Catalonia's memory, and the fact that Spain still refuses to reverse Companys's judgment only rubs in more salt.


I promised I would be brief, so I'll close my exposition here even though the topic is understandably much more complicated.


The situation now

In recent years, Catalan people have taken to the streets on the Diada or National Day (September 11) to express their desire for independence from Spain. I was there. This year, we created a giant "V", symbolizing "vote", which crossed the entire city of Barcelona in the colors of the senyera, the Catalan national flag. Almost two million people participated. Let me say that again: out of a total population of about eight million, almost two million people got together in a peaceful demonstration at the same place, same day, same time--and we lined up in order to make the senyera. It's a logistics feat and an example of what Catalans are capable of doing.

This is just one section of the demonstration.
All those red and yellow dots? People.
So where is this all leading? In a nutshell: the Catalan government announced it would hold a referendum on November 9, 2014 to decide the future of the nation. Spain banned the referendum. The Catalan government decided to keep the date and hold what it called an "unofficial poll." Spain banned the poll. What is Spain so afraid of? Mariano Rajoy, Spain's Prime Minister, claims that the Catalan government's referendum (later, "unofficial poll") goes against the Constitution. He claims he is, therefore, defending the people's constitutional rights by banning all referendums and polls.

So... Denying the people the right to vote is now called defending our constitutional rights?
Give me an effing break.

November 9 is upon us, and I can tell you what will happen: civil disobedience. I've had enough of this farce, and so have millions of Catalans. We're not talking about an isolated radical group here: we're talking about millions of people--an ample part of the nation. It's not a matter of voting yes to independence, even. It's a matter of VOTING. Vote no if you want to, but vote! Catalans have the right to freedom of speech, even if the Spanish government is doing everything in its power to deny the people that right. Luckily, the Catalan government is holding its ground.

On Sunday November 9 2014, I'm going to vote. Salva, my fiancé, is going to vote. My mother is going to vote. My coworker and close friend Marta is going to vote. Her mother is going to vote. Her brother. Her brother's friend. And so on, and so forth.

I don't know what we'll achieve, or if anyone will listen, but I do know Catalan people will fight for as long as it takes. They've already fought for three hundred years.

2 comments:

  1. This article explains it better in my opinion: http://elpais.com/elpais/2014/08/01/inenglish/1406904465_987338.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the link. With this post, I merely wanted to give my short opinion as a person who lives in Catalonia.

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