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Does Catalonia’s bid for independence affect you?

If you live in one of the many areas of Europe or, indeed, the rest of the world, does the local fight for independence, whether peaceful or forceful, make you feel uncomfortable and want to leave? Or are you keen to support the independent movement, and understand their desire for “freedom”? Have your say here!

Catalonia demostrations for unity
Demonstrating for unity in Catalonia, Spain (Editorial credit Andreagab / Shutterstock.com)

Whether you live in Spain, and particularly Catalonia – also spelled Catalunya and Cataluña – you cannot have failed to notice the dramatic scenes there over the past months as the Catalan autonomous government called for a referendum on independence, then actually declared for independence on the back of that result. The days after saw demonstrations from both sides, the independistas and the rest of the population in Catalonia and in other parts of Spain too.

The Spanish government stepped in and declared that Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, had acted illegally and independence was “unconstitutional and void”. Puigedemont and four other leaders from his government travelled (fled?) to Belgium.

Puigdemont, who turned himself in to Belgian police, after Spain issued a European arrest warrant for rebellion and misuse of public funds, is barred from leaving Belgium without a judge’s consent.

A Belgian judge granted conditional release to the sacked Puigdemont and four of his ministers on Monday (6 November).

“The next step in the proceedings is the appearance of the five defendants before the Chambre du Conseil within the next 15 days,” prosecutors said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Spanish government has recognised the depth and heat of feeling across the country and is considering changing the constitution and allowing the autonomous regions, including Catalonia, to vote on independence in the future. However, all Spaniards throughout the country would also be allowed to vote on the issue, not just the people from the regions.

The Catalan flag drapped over a balcony in Catalonia
The Catalan flag hangs determinedly over a balcony in Catalonia

Schooling and minority languages…

I lived in Catalonia for eight years, my daughter was born there, in Barcelona, and my son started local school there when he was four years old. When our lives began there in 2002, the Catalan independence movement seemed to be very low key. Catalan was taught in schools, but alongside Spanish. Roll forward six years and Catalan had become the main language of tuition, with English as the second language and Spanish kicked into the long grass. My son, by then fluent in Spanish and Catalan, was reprimanded one day when he was talking Spanish in the school playground with his Spanish friend – whose parents were from Madrid and Barcelona. It was at that point we asked ourselves if we wanted to restrict our children’s education and potentially their future aspirations, by being taught in the language of the minority in a country we loved. We didn’t, and set off on a new course that ended in France!

The Atlantic‘s report on the question of language, school education and nationalism makes very interesting reading: ‘Is Catalonia Using Schools as a Political Weapon?’

I asked expat friends, who have lived in Catalonia for years, how they felt about being in an area that supposedly wanted to leave the country they moved to – bearing in mind that they didn’t chose to move to Catalonia they chose to move to Spain.

One friend, who prefers to remain anonymous, says, “It’s been hard because I have a lot of Catalan friends and most of them are independistas. They send me propaganda videos on Facebook that I don’t respond to because I really don’t want to lose these friendships over this! When I received videos saying there would be no consequences in Catalunya for those who wanted to stay, I just didn’t believe it. I think my image of the Catalan government was forged the day I went to a meeting when my son was 6. A German mother asked to clarify in Spanish what kind of trainers her son needed for gym class. The gym teacher all of a sudden had a look of panic on his face and he said, ‘They told me I would lose my job if I answer a question in Spanish’. That was it for me. The notion that the Catalan government is completely tolerant is a false one. And is it in the best interest for their children to hate Spain, Spaniards and to separate from the rest of Spain? I don’t know. On the other hand, I am appalled by the reaction of the Spanish government. I understand that Catalan and Spanish cultures are very different – and I do feel closer to the Catalan than the Spanish culture. But of course, who has the right to speak for Catalunya? What is a Catalan today? Someone who has lived there most of their life? Someone born there? Or only someone whose Catalan roots go back generations? Doesn’t someone who chooses Spanish as their first language have equal rights? I’m very suspicious that the independistas say they speak for the majority of those living in Catalunya. Especially those living in the larger cities.”

Unity

And another long-time Mexican expat friend, also living in Catalonia with her family, went to Barcelona to demonstrate her affiliation with those who did not want to leave Spain. She writes: “Cataluña, Spain has been our home for more than 16 years…as such we felt the need to support the many millions who want to stay part of this beautiful country and part of Europe!! Gracias Cataluña, España por habernos dado un hogar todos estos años! Queremos seguir siendo parte de tan lindo país y cultura!

Just after the (illegal) independence vote had been held, and local Spanish, Catalan and expat residents were demonstrating peacefully for their allegiance with Spain, I was visiting Santander, in northern Spain. I have never seen so many Spanish flags flying. The local people were showing their support for all the people in Catalonia who wanted to remain part of the whole country.

Do you live in Catalonia? Or perhaps another part of the world that is seeking independence from the parent country?

Maybe you live in Brittany, Scotland, Wallonia, Flanders, or the Faroe Islands, all regions fighting in one way or another for independence. Check out this map by The Guardian that shows the 21 regions in Europe that have pro-independence movements. Please add your thoughts about independence in the ‘Comments’ section below.

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