dimarts, 9 d’abril de 2013

What the hell is Catalonia?


From the media:
Again and again. You're a little tired of reading news about Catalans and Catalonia, but you don't know anything about them. Really, what the hell is Catalonia? An artificial country in Africa massacred by economic/tribal wars? Another former Yugoslav Republic becoming suddenly independent?  A remote island in the middle of Pacific Ocean breaking ties from a old-fashioned european metropolis? The answers are no, no and no. Catalonia is... another thing.

Catalonia is an old people of Europe

Catalonia is in western Europe, specifically in the Mediterranean coast of Spain. It ocupes 32.000 km2 or 12.400 sq mi (about the size of Belgium) in a triangle shape at the northeast corner of the Iberian Peninsula, bordering the south of France. Now, officially, Catalonia is an autonomous community of the Kingdom of Spain, like a German Land with an own Government, Parliament and a limited power on important subjects like education or health, but the most part of the 7.5 milion Catalans consider Catalonia is more than this. A lot of them, really the majority of them, think Catalonia is a nation (whatever this word means), with a history of almost one thousand years.

Catalonia has also its own language, the Catalan, a Romance language closed to Spanish and French, spoken by the most of people. Catalans have also their own traditions and feasts, like the castellers -human towers- or the spectacular Saint George's day when all the country is flooded with flowers and books. And Catalans are very proud of all of them.

And last but no least, Catalonia is the country of Barcelona, its capital, one of the most modern and high populated cities of Europe, hosting the Barça, probably the most famous football club in the world at the present time. 

In summary, a territory with an own history, language and traditions, where people consider itself as a nation: choose yourself if it's a region, a nation or a country.

Catalans want the independence

Ok. It's true. Surely, due to a mixture of political and economic reasons, now the Catalans supports the independence of Catalonia. Obviously, there are also a lot of Catalans against the indepence of the country, but the most of Catalans want the independence. It can be seen in the political surveys of all these years, where the "independentistes" are growing every month and they are up to the 57% of respondents (about the 74% of voters, discounting the abstention), and in the results of the last elections to Catalan Parliament, where 64% of representatives belong to an electoral party supporting the referendum of independence.

But there's is a problem. Spanish Government doesn't agree with Catalans, and it won't authorize an independence referendum. Why? Because Spain considers itself one only nation, and it's inconceivable for them than a part of it, Catalonia in this case, can decide its future by its own. Obviously, it doesn't matter what people think. The  Spanish Government excuses its attitude because of the law saying "a referendum of independence is not legal". But the fact is the legality of the referendum depends on the Spanish Government decision. It seems ridiculous but it's totally true. On the other hand, the Catalan Government is decided to celebrate the referendum the year 2014. 


Are Catalans different from Spaniards?

No.There's no ethnic basis for the claiming of independence. In addition, nowadays, about the half of Catalan population have parents or grandparents born in Spain, mainly due to a large scale inmigration during the 60s of last century. And curiously, a great part of this population with spanish ancestors wants the independence too. There're not two communities faced each other, and people is fully mixed.

Catalans just feel differents. Don't blame them for it.


Why Catalans want the independence?

This is a difficult question. Some years ago, only about a 20% of population wants independence, but now this percent has grown up to 57%. This growing can be explained by two main problems have happened last years. First, Catalan Parliament approved a new Estatut -like a constitution- for Catalonia, but this law was partially abolished by the spanish Constitutional Court, and this was felt as an humiliation for Catalans. Second, the present economical crisis is very serious in Catalonia, but taxes paid by Catalan people are used by the Spanish Government to invest in other parts of Spain. Then Catalans have thought economic situation in Catalonia will improve if taxes paid by Catalans can be used in Catalonia itself.

In any case, often Catalans feel they are despised,or even hated, by Spaniards, and it's usual spanish politics criticize Catalans in political meetings in a "anticatalanisme" movement widely spread through all Spain. Sometimes it's  said Catalans are the jews of Spain, or Catalans are called Polish as an insult (?). In response, Catalans say  "If they don't love us, why don't let us go?"

Has Catalonia ever been an independent country?

Yes. And not. Catalonia never has become a separate kingdom, and from 12th century it has been linked with other parts of Spain, but always keeping its Parliament, rights and laws, and its own Government, the Generalitat. The Generalitat -or Catalan Government- was founded on the 14th century, and until the 18th century it collected taxes, administers law and holds an own army. All this situation ended on 1714, when at the end of War of the Spanish Succession, the king Philip V of Spain defeated the Catalan army and abolished all the Catalan laws and institutions, between other shameful punishments. Since then, Catalonia has been asking for more or less freedom depending of each time. Thus, the Generalitat was restored in 1932, but it was abolished again in 1939 by General Franco at the end of the Spanish Civil War. After Franco dictatorship, Generalitat was again restored in 1977.

As a curiosity, they are some historical landmarks where Catalonia has been "de iure" independent for a short time:
  • 1464. The Generalitat nominate Peter, constable of Portugal, as Count of Barcelona and King of Aragon, during the civil war against the king, John II of Aragon.
  • 1641. Pau Claris, president of the Generalitat, proclaims the Catalan Republic. Some days later, due to French help, proclaims Louis XIV of France as the Count of Barcelona
  • 1705: During the War of Spanish Succession, the Catalan Parliament, proclaimed Archduke Charles (later Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor) as Count of Barcelona and King of Aragon
  • 1810-1814: Napoleon separes Catalonia from Spain, and annexs it to French Empire 
  • 1873: Ildefons Cerdà, the urban planner responsible for the famous "Eixample" of Barcelona, proclaims the Catalan State within the Spanish Republic
  • 1931. Francesc Macià, president of the Generalitat, proclaimed the Catalan Republic
  • 1938. Lluís Companys, president of the Generalitat (executed by Franco in 1941), proclaimed the Catalan State within the Spanish Federal Republic
Can survive an independent Catalonia?

Yes. Catalonia is larger than Belgium, most populous than Denmark and has more GPD than Portugal.

Are Catalans violent?

No. There's no relation with old basque terrorism of ETA, or any another kind of terrorism across the world. Always, the willing of a referendum of independence has been under the principles of freedom, democracy, and respect for all points of view.

Will be a referendum of independence of Catalonia?

Catalans say yes: we only want to have the right of decide our own future. And we want to celebrate it in 2014.

Spanish Goverment says no. 

What about you?

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