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Why Catalonia wants independence


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.


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24 Respostes »

  1. SEnse ànim de ser exhaustiu ni competitiu amb ningú, faig un blog on hi insereixo articles referits a litertaura catalana i política. Si voleu llegir-lo es diu: batxillerat.blogspot.com. Espero que us agradi.

  2. Gràcies pel comentari. M’agrada que altres persones inquietes facin ús de l’espai per promocionar els seus blocs. Et seguirem!

  3. M´ha agradat molt la conclusió. Feia dies que pensava en com resumir que no era tan sols un problema económic o cultural, sinó una qüestió més “política” que ho resumís bé. I sí, és que hi ha una falta de respecte.

  4. Bona la idea de començar a explicar el problema en anglès, en això guanyem per golejada! I sort en tenim de que en Mas sap idiomes, no sabem l’important que és el màrketing i les formes avui dia. Una bona presentació equival a deixar un pòsit positiu, això per a alguns sonarà superficial, pero creieume, dóna resultats. No només sha de ser intel.ligent, també cal semblar-ho. i Sóc d’esquerres, però he dadmetre que en Mas ho està bordant, per sort de tots, i pel bé del procés.

    • Hola Jordi, totalment d’acord amb el teu comentari. Pel que fa a les presentacions les bones audiències saben distingir d’aquelles que són buides i les que reflecteixen plans sòlids i ben desenvolupats.

  5. Decir que el personaje histórico que comentó lo de “hay que bombardear Barcelona cada 50 años” no fue Azaña, fue Espartero 100 años antes. Azaña por el contrario fue un firme partidario de las autonomías en la II República mientras que Espartero fue un militar hace casi 200 años que luchó contra los “tradicionales” carlistas (muchos de ellos en Catalunya).

    Mi opinión es que no soy partidario del independentismo. Claro está que no soy catalán, pero vivi una temporada allí y aprendí el idioma y la cultura, y soy firme partidario. Estoy a favor de un cambio de estatus politico, una reorganización de autonomían en las que solo se incluyan las históricas en un estado federal.

    Los motivos por los que el autor defiende su tesis de independencia son verídicos, pero también debería de hablar del trato negativo o despectivo de muchos politicos catalanes respeto “la España profunda” si se quiere ser objetivo en el tema. Porque tradicionalmente el nacionalismo catalán ha tenido como leiv motive la queja del estado central, cuando el crecimiento en los siglos XIX y XX fue aprovecharse de los recursos humanos de regiones mas pobres del estado.

    En resumen, según mi opinión deberían reestructurarse las leyes y que hubiese un gran cambio, y libertad de elegir un proceso de autodeterminación en la que yo como ciudadano español votaría que no, aunque como no catalán no podría votar. Me daría mucha pena que para pasar de Fraga a Lleida tuviese que entregar un pasaporte con lo que se ha avanzado en la UE en las ultimas décadas.

    Un saludo y menos crispación

    • Potser hauras d’ensenyar el passaport per la frontera que els teus governants espanyols voldran posar, no pas per la que no posarem nosaltres. No serem nosaltres qui muntarem un check point Ç, mes aviat la guardia civil en muntara un de check point Ñ.

  6. You are mistaken when quoting Azaña. Please correct your text if you want to truly inform foreign or other people
    I agree with you that some (not all) of the spanish media and politicians do not facilitate the relationship between Catalonia and the rest of Spain. Your forget to mention that exactly the same happens in Catalan media. I admit I have no sympathy for the names you mention

    I would say there is a very very strong habit of lying when talking about nationalism, secessionism, etc.

    Your economic argument for independence is flawed. What would you think if people earning 1M€ or more ask for independence arguing that they do not want to contribute more than others to general welfare? What would you say if, in an independent Catalonia, citizens from Barcelona asked for independence with your argument?

    Independence because you want to be respected? sorry but that sound a little childish at the least. Catalan and Spanish nationalists have created an artificial conflict out of nowhere

    • You are pretty right in the fact that nationalism is a childish feeling. No argument about that. Now, respect is not. Respect is something you owe to your equals, so imagine how necessary is to respect when you have the key for investments and taxes… This is what the Spainish government (not all Spaniards, individually, fortunately) has been doing for centuries, treating not just Catalonia but the complete list of regions in Spain as simple provinces, in the most colonialist flavour of such word. Now it occurs that particularly Catalonia and its people are sick of that, and suddenly they have realized that alone better than with such leech. So yes, respect is the main issue here, and you would feel such problem in a daily basis if you would be living in Catalonia and carefully listening all the noise from all possible sources (as we are, fortunately enough, a very open minded and plural society).

      • What I mean is that leaving because you don’t feel respected is a pretty childish reaction (or a very simple argument)The key issue is that Spain is a democracy.

        There is only one valid argument for independence: achieving a higher quality democracy. If that is your point I disagree in the case of Catalonia and Spain, but I am very glad to discuss your arguments and maybe you can convince me.

        All else is simply nonsense or worse, lies, Leaving a democracy because you don’t like the way things are organized (instead of staying and making your point) means breaking the rules of the game (again I state my argument of people earning more than 1M€ leaving etc etc)

        • well, if you want to restrict it to your point to higher quality democracy it may be even easier for you to get convinced.

          Although the party system is not a measure of quality democracy, at least the Catalan parliament incorporates higher plurality than many other regions in Spain, to start with.

          Quality democracy includes having better chances to make a difference with your opinion when the rulers do not do their job properly. In this sense, having a government located in Madrid has not proved best than having it locally. And, after all, as we will have to deal, anyhow, with Brussels, why do we need an intermediate step in which we cannot influence? So, we have reached the point in which who needs to convince us to stay is Madrid.

          Catalonia has contributed to the gorvenance of Spain for centuries but, interestingly, the last Catalan ruling the Spanish state was a general and got it riding his horse while entering in MAdrid followed by his troops… almost 150 years ago!!

          So, yes, Catalans are exhausted of dealing with such low quality democracy and yes, many think that its about time to increase such level of quality by taking the chance to create it ourselves. I am positive we will manage to do so.

          • It is not that I want to restrict the argument. It is that I I am firmly convinced that a better democracy is the only valid argument for independence. All the rest (be it economical or spiritual, like freeing the soul of the people, that I often hear, are simply nonsense because in a democracy you already have the potential means to negotiate your ideas, but obviously not to get away with them without clearly stating and confronting them with your opponents)

            That stated I don’t agree with you that Catalonia alone would be a better democracy. Two arguments here:

            First, I never hear this idea from catalan parties. In fact it was not included in your initial text. So I understand it is not important for you or for them. Thus I dont believe you will do it.
            Second and most important, your political class and society suffers from exactly the same problems than the rest of Spain: corruption, demagogy, oligarchy, policy as and end in itself, short termism, etc. etc. (no wonder since we have been together for the last … (you name it) … centuries).

            So no, I dont think Catalonia democracy would improve with independence.

            Your other arguments are simply too weak:

            “Central has not proved better than local” That may be, but it is hardly an argument to change anything
            “We will have to deal with Brussels anyhow” if pragmatism is the issue then, as someone said in this blog, better deal with Brussels being 40M …

            Again, when you are part of a democracy you don’t leave, you stay, clarify your proposals and negotiate (I agree, you have arguments to complain about the quality of the conversations between Catalonia and the rest of Spain, but I am sure you will also agree with me that all the blame is not on one side)

            Sorry for the long post

          • not a bad argument, and yes, talking and negotiating is critical always. The only problem is that we have been trying to talk and negotiate for ages with nobody to listen and, consequently, no answer. Worst than this, the answer, when existed, has been typically short or opposite direction. Some of us are simply tired of this endless game and convinced that we can do it better alone.

  7. Senyor Anònim, gracies per les aclaracions sobre qui va dir el què fos… Sincerament crec que si aiò es pot verificar s’hauria de corregir el text. (es possible fer això Desde Lluny ?).
    D’altra banda, m’agradaria també deixar-li clar que le úniques notes de crispació, ja que hi parla, només les he detectat (personalment) en la banda espanyola, ja fora en els mitjans de dreta o bé en els politics.

  8. Thanks to those of you that have pointed out that the Azaña quote might be a mistake. In fact, there was a mistake in the original post text, as 1) the quote is not from 1934 but from 1937 2) the quoted text was not fully correct. I must apologise for this mistake which is now corrected.

    Let me quote Josep Benet memories (‘Josep Benet: Memòries I. De l’esperança a la desfeta. 1920-1939’. Edicions 62. 2008):

    ” Abans ja de la instal·lació del govern central a la capital catalana, el president Azaña arribava a escriure en l’anotació del 29 de juliol de 1937 del seu Cuaderno de la Pobleta aquest text terrible:

    Una persona de mi conocimiento asegura que es una ley de la historia de España la necesidad de bombardear Barcelona cada cincuenta años. El sistema de Felipe V era injusto y duro, pero sólido y cómodo. Ha valido para dos siglos.


    Aguirre no puede resistir que se hable de España. En Barcelona afectan no pronunciar ni siquiera su nombre. Yo no he sido nunca – agrega – lo que llaman españolista ni patriotero. Pero ante estas cosas, me indigno. Y si esas gentes van a descuartizar a España, prefiero a Franco. Con Franco ya nos las entenderíamos nosotros, o nuestros hijos, o quien quiera. ”

  9. “des de luny” …looks like you’re a well traveled and from what I see even multilingual , so since you’re so fond of using quote here’s one that I would recommend your beloved Mr. Mas not to forget: “countries do not have friends, only interests” … if you expect any mercy (in economical terms) in Europe, you’re bound to a rude awakening …it’s hard enough to negotiate with the European powers like Germany or France being a 40 million people country, try to make it being 7 million…

    • Thanks for worrying for us that much. I sad cu pricati na srpskom zato sto ne mogu da citam vise spanacima koji misle da sve znaju. Samo da kazem jednina jedan stvar. U kataloniji svi koj pricaju na katalanom, znaju da pricaju na spanskom, i verovatno na drugim jezikama takodje. Onda, oni su ljudi, kak ti si rekao, multilingual. I ne brini, sve ce biti dobro. Hvala.

  10. cap problema, si vols podem enraonar en catala … vaig viure a Barcelona desde el 75 al 2000, a on vaig neixer es irrelevant pero estic orgullos de,parlar um catala “raonable” i de que els meus fills nascuts a Catalunya parlin catala como llengua materna. L’acudit de respondre el meu comentari en Serb crec que es patetic (les connotacions del confilcte etnic als Balcans es sempre una referencia trist) -en qualsevol cas, pots escriure en Mandarin si vols, Google se’n encarrega-.

    Al que anava, com pots imaginar pel temps viscut a Catalunya, no sols crec que se de que estem parlant, sino que tambe tinc part del meu modest patrimoni (i el meu fons de pensions) la.

    Que els senyors de la Esquerra i IC, despres del desastre del Tripartit,, o de CiU (quan en Pujol pare va governar durante 20 anys, i en Mas 2 anys) parlim que la indendencia es la sol.lucio quan no van saber gestionar una automonia es como minim un acudit dolent…

    • Parles catala molt be. I hi ha catalans molt prepotents, certament patetic contestar en serbi. Sorry. (de hecho, para eso he vuelto, pq me ruboriza y me da verguenza lo que he hecho, disculpame).

      Potser els politics s’han apropiat del moviment popular, pero la mani d’un milio i mig va existir.

      A mi em van fer l’enquesta un cop preguntant-me que em sentia mes “mes catala que espanyol, mes espanyol, nomes catala o nomes espanyol o cap dels dos”. Vaig contestar mes catala que espanyol.
      Ara he llegit un article d’opinio d’un que diu que aquesta pregunta es “estupida” pero que si ara mes gent que contesta que la gent se sent mes catalan que espanyola es basicament que no ens sentim com a casa.
      No se.
      Sempre he pensat que si dic que em sento espanyol abans hauria de tenir permis dels espanyols perque m’acceptessin com a espanyol, parlant un espanyol amb accent catala.

      Jo no crec que ens espanya ens robi, vull dir, estaria be que invertis mes en catalunya i deixes de fer tonteria amb el corredor mediterrani, pero a tots els paisos hi ha una mica “solidaritat” pero potser no tant exagerada.

      Pero tot i aixi, m’emociona i m’ilusiona el nou projecte. Per vosaltres, deixareu de tenir 7 milions de persones tocant els pebrots! Almenys el focus de les queixes ja no sera “el govern espanyol eso el govern espanyol lo otro” (majoria absoluta pp da para quejarse mucho). I la prepotencia s’anira per un altre canto. Jo crec que tamb estareu millor! I mes si en qeudem amb el deute o lo que sigui que s’hagi de pagar i tot.

      El que realment veig es marxa enrere en el projecte. Massa tard per frenar.

      Igualment, jo si pogues votar, votaria partit pirata. (unos frikis de internet).

      Ho sento, lo siento, estaba totalmente fuera de lugar el comentario en serbio.

  11. @Des de Lluny

    Hola, ví tu comentario en el “debate” del WSJ. Y me tentó ver tu blog.
    Paso por alto los temas históricos. Sobrepasan mi conocimiento a ese nivel, aunque ya he visto que hay quien los cuestiona. Espero que con argumentos, también históricos.

    You said: “Since 1.5 million took the streets in Barcelona on September 11th, 2012, not even a single solid argument has been raised from Spain.”. 1.5 millones can be true or not (we all know how it’s evaluated). Anyway, a lot of people. My question is Who and Why promoted that? You know it’s not that simple. Are you really sure that the economical crisis and the way our politicians are using it has nothing to do with that?

    One more of yuours comments. “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.”. Really, I’m absolutely lost. What respect don’t we have? That’s an argument very undefined, at least for me.

    Por cierto, creo que el Sr. Mas ha hecho una movida políticamente muy inteligente. Y que nuestro gobierno español ha tomado la ruta que yo creo es la peor de todas, que es no tender una mano en busca de un acuerdo y lanzar fantasmas y las mil plagas de Egipto.

    What isn’t clear for me is that if both of them are doing something for the citiciens, that’s us, or for themselves.

    I support the right to decide. I think it’s a rigth. But, also knowing where are we going and how. Nobody explains that. All the arguments I can read are historial (and I think are a bit biased) or sentimental (nothing to argue about that!).

    By the way, I’m 100% catalan (my DNI says that). But my roots are from outside and, what it’s most important for me, my interest to learn, to try to undersand other point of view, make my 50%

    I want the best for us, for all of us.

  12. @francesc

    Yo hablo catalán, pero no lo escribo. Soy de la generación de los 60 y no había más opciones. También es cierto que no he hecho ningún esfuerzo para aprender a escribirlo. Para mí, poder comunicarme con los que están a mi alrededor es más que suficiente.

    Que te sientas más catalán que español me parece del todo respetable. La pregunta no me parece estúpida. Lo que, con todos mis respetos, me gustaría saber, es los motivos por los que tú, y ,muchos como tú dan esa respuesta. Razones, supongo que las hay, pero en las encuestas no aparecen…

    Yo me fui a trabajar, hace bastantes años (1985 aprx), a Madrid. No necesité permiso para que me aceptaran como nada, sólo me aceptaron, con mi acento o no y no tuve ningún problema de comunicación. Por eso no lo entiendo.

  13. ¿De verdad hemos llegado tan lejos como para pensar que el tema catalán es el centro del mundo? Me parece patético.

    «Dimanche, le monde nous observera. Nous avons l’opportunité de lui dire que les Catalans veulent devenir maîtres de leur avenir.»
    Por si hace falta, ayuda del traductor automático: “El domingo, el mundo nos observará. Tenemos la oportunidad de decirle que los Catalanes quieren convertirse en amos de su futuro.”
    Ya he aprendido lo malo que es poner sólo una parte. Adjunto el enlace para verlo completo.
    Leido en Libération, escrito por algún “patriota”. Quizás por eso no nos toman en serio ni a España ni a Cataluña ni a ninguno de nosotros juntos.
    ¡me sonroja!

  14. NO twice.In all this debate, we’re aimussng that the independence support for Cat. shown in the official surveys that now are published (last one said that 57% would vote YES) won’t diminish over the next months/years. I’m not an expert on electoral behaviour, but I’m afraid that Scotland and Catalonia may follow the example of Quebec If that were the case, let’s face it: the EU would not need to approach the issue of the internal enlargement. I’m sure they prefer this last scenario, than the other one.


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