A Student’s Perspective: Catalonia Independence?
Arthur Mas, the Catalan leader, argues that parliamentary elections in September will decide whether Catalonia will declare independence from Spain. He has made a promise to the Catalan people: since the Spanish central government has refused to allow a vote on independence, a victory by the nationalists parties, such as his own, Convergencia Democratica, and Esquerra Republicana, will be understood as popular support for a declaration of independence within 18 months of the election. At this moment the coalition of Convergencia and Esquerra already have 56 representatives in the Catalan Government and they need 68 votes to win, but Mas is confident that as the time of the election approaches, members of other parties will support their views.
The bold measure is a response to the prohibition by Spain’s Constitutional Court of the Independence Referendum on November 9th, 2014, which was passed by the Catalans. Unlike the United Kingdom, which just allowed a referendum in Scotland regarding independence, Spain has steadfastly refused to admit the right of self-determination for the Catalan people.
Spain was born out of the union of the Crown of Castile, in Central Spain, and the Crown of Aragon, which included Catalonia, at the end of the 15th century. The Crown of Aragon preserved its own constitution and laws until 1714 when Philip V imposed centralized Castilian rule. Separatism bouts sprouted in the 19th and 20th centuries. During the Spanish Republic, 1932, Catalonia obtained a statute of autonomy which it soon lost under Franco’s Dictatorship, which lasted from 1939 to 1975. The region restored its autonomy in 1977.
Historical identity, the recent oppression by Franco and a very harsh campaign of recentralization of power in Madrid, according to Mas, the Catalan leader, have led Catalan citizens to consider the vote for an independent state in the near future. The tradition of rich commerce and industry in Catalonia provide power for the idea.
What do the people directly involved in the independence movement think about all this? I interviewed a college student, Oriol Cerda, 20,born and raised in Catalonia, pursuing a degree in Chemical Engineering.
Why Catalonia independence?
It is hard to think of a single reason why, but basically it is due to the breach of communication between the central and the regional governments. I would compare the relationship with your roommates, there are some conflict areas, you propose some solutions and you get back indifference or No for an answer. After a while, you start looking around for a different apartment. The same happens with the independence of Catalonia. The Central Government is incapable of communicating or has no will to communicate.
But why now?
The discontent comes since the previous government. The former president, Zapatero, said that he would approve the statute of Catalonia passed by the Catalan parliament, but then the Constitutional Court amended it resulting in a travesty of the original document. The timing could not be worse. It all happened simultaneously with the financial crisis. Catalans have the perception that they could govern themselves better and administer their finances much better than the Spanish government. The resistance of the central government to negotiate and propose viable solutions to the impasse of the Catalan statute have provoked the renaissance of the independence movement.
What is your major concern?
If the centralism and Castilian rule prevail, our language, traditional dances and music, the castellers… everything that is synonymous with Catalan identity will disappear.
On the economic aspect, Catalonia is a rich region. It gives a lot of money to Madrid, and then it doesn’t receive a fair share. I don’t understand why Madrid refuses to let Catalonia keep some of their taxes and administer them as they do with some taxes in the Basque Country.
Would life be different for Catalans if the state of independence is declared?
In the beginning, for ten maybe twenty years, life would be harder while new financial administrations and channels are established. Also, there is a danger of internal divisions, within the same region. But in the end, in the long run, Catalonia would keep its identity and it would be even more prosperous.
Would your life change?
Yes! I would be able to demonstrate for something constructive, not to just struggle against Madrid’s rule. I would be able to demonstrate in Barcelona and put real pressure on our own government to follow the statute and be straightforward with the people of Catalonia. No more games.
After we concluded, it was clear to me that Catalans want to be heard, are proud of their land and culture and would rather take care of it without any partners. I am, however, saddened. As the daughter of a separatist Catalan, Basque mother and Spanish upbringing, I would rather keep the family together.