Since I recently spent three months in Spain in the summer, I learned a bit about the Catalonia independence movement. However, in between the time I left and came back (about five months), the situation has escalated greatly and a lot of events have taken place.
Last summer, my host mom had told me a bit about the movement and what the opinions of supporters of separating from Spain thought, that the capital was taxing the region too heavily and that they weren’t seeing enough in return from the government. She told me more about it, but this idea never really crossed my mind again until I found out about the elections and the aftermath of them when I was back in the states.
In October, Catalonia held regional elections for an independence referendum, despite the country determining this as illegal. The Spanish government sent forces to Barcelona. Many violent acts ensued, probably reminding a lot of older citizens what it was like when Franco was still alive. Although Spanish forces tried to stop these elections to unify the regions, their acts seemed to have backfired and create even more separation.
This increasingly hostile situation is actually something that I looked forward to when coming to Barcelona, since I had a very Spanish experience in Madrid and I wanted to learn what locals here thought about the situation and witness it myself first-hand.
When I first arrived, I noticed a lot more Catalonia flags than Spanish flags being displayed all around the city. There also rallies, marches, and people wearing yellow ribbons (a symbol of the independence movement) almost everywhere you go, so it appears that everyone in Barcelona wants to be separate from Spain. However, what I’ve learned from talking to some of my local friends as well as from my own observations is that actually the majority of people in Barcelona itself are pro-union. It’s the smaller towns outside of Barcelona that reside in Catalonia that are the true supporters. Also, the majority of these supporters seem to be older citizens; all of the young classmates I have spoken with don’t understand why people want to separate from Spain.
Although the situation is quite complicated, in order to try and understand where the Catalonians are coming from, it’s important to know a little bit about the history of this region.
Catalonia has felt separate from Spain for many years, and were very isolated especially during the Franco regime. He tried to suppress and eradicate the Catalan language altogether, and forced a lot of Spanish culture and belief on the people of this region. After the death of Franco, relations between the rest of Spain and the region of Catalonia became better, but during the 2008 financial crisis, the region once again felt as though they wanted to be their own for financial reasons. Since then the independence leaders have only grown in popularity and the situation becomes increasingly tense. The Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, is still in exile from the latest elections, and it’s kind of a joke here that there is no government.
A lot has occured between Spain and Catalonia recently, but in my opinion, I think we are only at the brink of what will come in this battle, and the differences between the two sometimes seem too strong to overcome. Only time will tell.