A fight in the house! Introducing Catalonia as the teenage kid and Spain as the control freak parent.
Summary of the last episode: the 27S elections!
Spain is a multicultural and multilingual country. Because of its History, Catalonia, one of the three Autonomous Communities recognized by the Constitution of 1978 (the other two are Galicia and the Basque Country), expresses its own ways of politics, ideas, and culture. The recognition of the existence of a so-called Catalan culture has always been sought; but it is during the past thirty years that the claim for the independence of Catalonia and for the appreciation of its particular identity has gone crescendo.
Last September 27, Catalonia chose its representatives for the new Parliament. The independence bloc won.
It is still surprising for me to run into someone that has no idea of what Catalonia is. I remember being in Australia and telling someone the languages I was fluent in. When I mentioned Catalan the guy was like: “Cata…what?”. “Catalan”, I said. “You know, one of the languages we speak in Catalonia?”. Seeing his eye-balls popping out and the furtive smile on his face, I easily guessed that… nope…he had no f***ing idea of what I was talking about. I quickly replied “Barcelona?”. OoooOoooooH Bar-ce-lo-na! I love Barcelona! Olé, chica, olé!”. Just to be clear, Barcelona is not Sevilla, we don’t have corridas and flamenco every second day and Olé is not our most common word. Catalonia is an Autonomous Community in Spain which has had self-governance in a few different sectors, especially since 1978. Catalonia has its own folklore traditions and a different language, Catalan, which isn’t a dialect. There is more differences between Catalan and Spanish than between Norwegian and Danish. I guess we could argue that Catalan is like Svensk for Norsk. Quick and lame example:
Tomorrow I’ll be speaking on the radio (English- yeah seriously?)
Mañana hablaré por la radio (Spanish)
Demà parlaré per la radio (Catalan).
HellooOOoo! It is NOT the same! I am not a separatist but I guess you could say I support Catalan’s cultural specifics recognition. After all, it is a wealth to cherish.
This difficulty of defining Catalonia also made me realize that I didn’t know how to “place” myself or at least didn’t know how to answer correctly the famous and unavoidable question, “Where are you from?”. Born in Barcelona to French parents, I grew up between two cultures, or better three: the French, the Spanish and the Catalan. My friends call me a hybrid as I cannot say I belong entirely to one of these identities. So as Taiye Salasi said it so well in her Ted Ralk (Click here to watch it) I am a local in Barcelona and I followed carefully what was going on in Catalonia during the past weeks, as the issues were not only political but also culturalI’d like to share a bit of that with you if you are still there ;).
A massive participation
By 1 pm more than 35% of participation was already registered. The final results showed a participation of more than 77%. For Artur Mas, re-elected President de la Generalitat (President of Catalonia kinda), this historic participation is a big victory for democracy. The separatist coalitions have been the winners of this election but, nonetheless, it is interesting to point out that this massive participation might have actually benefit the non-separatist parties. According to Oriol Güell, journalist for El País, there was a significant rise of voters in the areas that traditionally haven’t supported the independence, such as Tarragona or the district of Nou Barris in Barcelona.
Polarized elections, an uncertain future
In the past years the world has witnessed the progressive rise of the independence claim, mostly though broadcast and social media. A few weeks ago you’ve probably all seen the images of “La Via Catalana” or the human chain covering all Catalonia two years ago.
(Check out images of the protest here)
On the 9th of November 2014 the Catalan self-determination referendum took place. It was a non-biding vote as it hadn’t been recognized by the Spanish Constitutional Court, but represented a feat of strength for Catalan separatist supporters.
The Catalan political landscape has been evolving in the past years and months. The readjustment of ideological positions and the corruption scandals have resumed the… taratatataaaaa… game of thrones.
The rise of the Catalan claim and the inflexibility of the central government have created a worrying polarized situation. Mariano Rajoy, Spanish Prime Minister, a few days ago has declared that there was never a big ‘risk’ of Catalonia becoming independent, downplaying the situation AGAIN .
- Hey Mariano! Knock, knock!
- Who’s there?
While Catalonia has always been a land of dialogue and interchange of ideas and points of views, the tensions rising during the last years, noticeable as much in the public sphere as in the family one, have led the Autonomous Community to a breaking point. It is time for Catalonia to recover its characteristic “seny” (a form of Catalan wisdom and sensibleness, a scale of values considered as a true Catalan symbol) and resume the discussions in order to find the solutions that will satisfy the different opinions.
If you are interested in this subject here is a summary of the principal parties and coalitions.
Separatist coalitions and parties
Junts pel sí is the coalition formed by Convergència de Catalunya (CDC), Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), la Assemblea Nacional Catalana (ANC) and other parties in favor of the independence. Artur Mas, current President, is number four in this list. Junts pel sí won the elections of the past 27 of September 2015 but they need to be joined by CUP to reach the absolute majority.
La CUP (Candidatura d’Unitat Popular), considered extreme left wing and led by the journalist Antonio Baños, is the other alternative separatist voters had.
Coalitions and parties opened to negotiation and to an evolution of the current situation of Catalonia
Catalunya Sí que es Pot is comprised of the parties Podemos, Equo, Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds (ICV) and Esquerra Unida i Alternativa. This is a relatively new coalition which incorporates the new political Spanish force (Podemos, led by Pablo Iglesias), heiress of the Indignados movement.
Unió Democràtica de Catalunya, following its spin-off from CDC due to disagreements concerning the political orientation conducted by Artur Mas, present its candidacy on its own.
El Partit Socialista Català (PSC) calls on federalism and dialogue with Madrid. Some of its members have left the party after claiming their separatist ideology. This has projected a negative image, revealing a lack of cohesion. Part of its traditional electorate, distrustful, has voted for other entities.
Parties against the independence
Ciutadans is a center-right party, born in Catalonia in reaction to the separatist approach which main goal is the absolute supremacy of the Catalan language. Its voters want to continue being part of Spain without having to give up on their Catalan culture. This party has become the second political force in Catalonia, tripling its seats in the Parlament.
El Partit Popular Català, right-wing party, follows the ideals of the current Spanish government and resists change. They stand up for the united and homogeneous Spain and turn a blind eye to the current circumstances.
You read it all through? Waow! I don’t know if I would have. Now if you ever go to Barcelona, you can sit at table of a Tapas bar, ask for a beer (+), and make the locals surrounding you happy with your great knowledge about the Catalan situation. Good on you!
(+) Una cervesa sisplau!