This is the first article in ‘Des De Lluny’ aimed at explaining the Catalan political situation to foreign people. ‘Des De Lluny’ is a citizen blog that engages with the peaceful, democratic and people-based Catalan independence process.
For years I’ve been traveling across Europe for work. When someone asked or referred to me as the ‘Spanish’ guy or ‘Our Spanish manager’ I had a little awkward feeling. An uncomfortable moment. In my mind I’ve never been Spanish. However it has always been very hard to explain or justify. My phone used to beep as my European colleagues pinged me when the Spanish football team won competitions. At every single moment that little shake on my heart appeared. I suppose the best comparison is as if an Englishman was referred as French or vice-versa. No kidding.
The reason why many people in Catalonia do not feel Spanish is not based on words. It’s not that we don’t like the word ‘Spain’ or that we want to be referred differently. It’s not that we don’t like Spaniards. It’s not even that we have a completely different language, literature, culture, way of approaching stuff or mind.
Manuel Azaña, one of the democratically elected prime minister of the Spanish Republic, said, in 1937, that ‘A person I know says it is a law in the history of Spain the need to bomb Barcelona every fifty years. Felipe V system was unfair and harsh, but solid and comfortable. It was valid for two centuries.’. From 1939, our culture was completely banned under Franco’s dictatorship, for almost 40 years. In 1984 Felipe González, socialist Spanish prime minister, said that ‘the Basque terrorism is a public order question, but the very true danger is the Catalan distinguishing fact’. Former Spanish conservative prime minister José María Aznar, reacting to the massive demonstration in Barcelona that took place on September 11th, 2012, said that ‘Nobody is going to break Spain’ and ‘those who try will commit an act of disloyalty and a big mistake’. Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, current Minister of Justice, warned a few days ago that Catalan President Artur Mas would commit an act of felony if he called an independence referendum. Those are just a few examples from politicians, but we could find many others pronounced by writers, army heads, actors, film directors or businessmen. No matter how conservative or socialist they are, Spanish establishment people (with very few exceptions such as former communist leader Santiago Carrillo, current Spanish Football team manager Santiago del Bosque, musician Miguel Bosé and a few others) do not like nor respect Catalans. Believe it or not, it is that simple.
In the last few decades, some Spanish media have made up and even believed a completely false story about Catalonia. Only in one day, on September 16th, 2012, ABC newspaper, number 3 in Spain with around 300.000 copies, mentioned, in different articles how totalitarian, imperialist, problematic and unfair Catalonia is. I built a compilation and had no other category to place it than the ‘Parody’ one. There is a strong habit of lying on Catalonia. For instance, as Catalan is the main (but of course not the only) language in the school system, some Spaniards influencers state that Catalan children do not speak Spanish properly. In reality and according to statistics Catalan children’s Spanish knowledge is, guess what, higher than the one from the rest of Spain. With regards to adults, 95% know how to write Spanish, whereas only 60% Catalan.
For 30 years, starting after the democratic restoration after dictatorship, Catalan bigger parties, conservative Convergència i Unió and socialist Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya have tried to make Catalan people comfortable within Spain, seeking various formulas. Conservatives tried new financial agreements with Madrid. Socialist president Pasqual Maragall seeked a more federalist approach from Spaniards politicians and institutions. None of them worked. Catalonia is the 3rd richest region in Spain, taxes overload, lack of financial control, and ‘solidarity’ with other regions makes its position decrease to number 8th. Counting children and elderly, every Catalan pays 3.000 € more in average per annum than the Spanish average. While this is happening, Catalan government is failing to pay its commitments with charity organisations and NGOs that carry social work, doctors & teachers salaries have been cut significantly. On the political side, Catalan laws and competences are constantly jeopardised from Madrid.
Today, 51% of Catalans would vote in favour of independence, while only 21% would vote no. The rest have not decided yet. While the ‘yes’ proportion is increasing constantly and most Catalans just want to leave, Madrid’s politicians (including government and main opposition) do not try to understand the reasons. Their arguments are just based on fear, and negative ramifications of the independence decision. Since 1.5 million took the streets in Barcelona on September 11th, 2012, not even a single solid argument has been raised from Spain.
We still do not know why we shouldn’t go. Seeding anti-Catalan votes for future elections in the rest of Spain is prioritised on Catalonia.
Money will help, but the true reason why we want to be independent is not financial. It’s not cultural. The reason why we want to be independent is because we’ve never been respected.