Wait what’s Catalonia?
I stared at my friend’s text in disbelief. What does she mean what is Catalonia? I had just proposed plans for traveling to Barcelona the weekend before Halloween and told her we should wait to finalize them until we had more news about the referendum in Catalonia. For those of you reading this and are just as lost as my friend was, let me provide some background information:
Okay so here’s the quick and dirty. Once upon a time the Iberian Peninsula was controlled by the Roman Empire. The Romans brought with them vulgar Latin, which evolved into various regional languages, one of which was Catalan. During the Middle Ages, Spain was divided into several kingdoms. Fast forward to early 18th century and now the country is trying to deal with the death of their heirless king. You may be wondering, who’s going to rule Spain now? Well a bunch of European countries thought the same thing and thus, The War of Spanish Succession commenced. Basically, just know that Catalonia was on the losing team. After the fall of Barcelona, they underwent a period of time in which Catalan was banned from official documentation. Their loss of certain rights and privileges heightened their sense of oppression. During the Spanish Second Republic, Catalonia became an autonomous region of Spain. They were kind of like Spain’s step child. Catalonia was still considered a part of the Spanish family, however it had more freedom since it wasn’t under direct supervision by the mother country. Now during the Spanish Civil War, I bet you can guess which side Catalonia was on. If you said the losing team ding-ding-ding you are correct! The nationalist forces eventually took down the republican power in Catalonia and once again during Franco’s dictatorship, they were oppressed. Following the death of Franco in 1975 and Spain’s return to democracy, Catalonia was once again granted the status of an autonomous region.
So what could possibly be the problem now? From what I have gathered from watching the news every meal with my host mom, the current referendum revolves around money. Of course, there are other factors fueling the pro-independence movement but the economic issues seem to be at the forefront of current discussions. Feelings of independence have been slowly boiling over the years however, Spain’s recent economic crisis served as the additional heat to a now overflowing pot of water. Catalonia has the upper hand when it comes to wealth, constituting almost one-fifth of the country’s economic output. It is currently paying a disproportionately high amount of taxes for what is being received back in services. They believe that they would be better off separated from the country since they would no longer have to support the poorer regions.
The Catalan government declared that on October 1st they would hold an independence referendum. According to President Puigdemont and the Catalan Parliament, if the majority votes yes then the country will proceed and declare independence. However according to the Spanish Constitution, the vote in itself is illegal. Despite the (violent) attempts of the Spanish police to prevent people from participating, they voted anyways (and some people more than once).
I’ll save the suspense and tell you that the yes vote won the majority. Now Catalonia is faced with the issue that hundreds of businesses want to say ¡Adéu!, fearing the instability and uncertainty of the political situation. Regarding independence, President Puigdemont basically declared yes but no, disappointing those in support of the referendum. As of now it is one big waiting game as to what will happen next…
It has been a really interesting experience being in Spain during this time. To be honest I am paying more attention to the current events here that I ever have back home. At first, I would just listen to the news in order to pick up on a few key facts which I could bring up during a lull in conversation with my host mom. However now, I am actively following the events. It is so eye opening to realize that this HUGE ordeal that is happening in Spain right now is going completely undetected by a lot of people back home. I am not trying to criticize them since I would have definitely been a part of that group. It just amazes me how much the people I have encountered here know about what is going on in the States while our level of global awareness (at least from my personal experiences at school) is nearly nowhere as advanced.
Well there you have it. I never thought I would voluntarily crank out about 800 words about politics yet here I am. Two months in and Spain continues to surprise me.
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<p style="margin-bottom:12.0pt"><span style="color:#404040">My name is Isabel but unless you’re either my mom, dad or nurse calling me in from the waiting room, I go by Izzie. I am a rising junior at Gettysburg College pursuing a major in the Health Sciences with a minor in Spanish. I have traveled outside of the US before (namely the Philippines where a lot of extended family reside) however, visiting a country for vacation and being totally immersed in it are two completely different experiences and I can’t wait for this new adventure in Spain.</span><span style="text-autospace:none"><span style="font-size:16.0pt"><span style="font-family:"Times",serif"> </span></span></span></p>