No, unfortunately I haven’t been to Minnesota but rather a group of students from that university currently studying exchange programmes in Rome were interested in the Catalan pro independence movement as part of an organised visit to Barcelona and requested a lecture on the issue which finally took place on February the 17th.
I love doing this type of lectures, last year I had loads of fun in México and the UK doing similar ones, but this has also showed me that it doesn’t matter how much effort Catalans put into explaining that we are a country, etc. Until the day when we become independent the world will continue to question us things that other countries, with less “national credentials”, if you want to call it, enjoy just for the pure fact of being a state while accusing Catalans of being “nationalistic” and “extremist” for wanting those things. Like, that the language is official, that everyone has to learn it if they want to live there or just as important, for the Catalan government to control all Catalan finances, taxes and infrastructures amongst other things. To be just another state within Europe.
In general people from the outside perceive the Spanish State as a homogeneous block, with only one culture (just picture in your head the stereotype of what Spanish culture is, yeah that) and one country with one language spoken within it (the language most widely spoken in other places like México, Cuba or Argentina). This is no coincidence, the Spanish have for centuries put so much effort into projecting that image to the outside that eventually it has paid. As you can see Catalonia does not appear anywhere in this picture, it is not invited to the party, but hey it is supposed to pay for it.
Therefore, it is always a pleasure to explain things like that Catalonia is more than one thousand years old, that it had the first Parliament in Europe and was completely independent and with its own Constitution until the 18th century. That it never asked to be part of Spain and was brought into it by the force of arms.
Or that Catalan is the 10th language of the European Union (even though not one of its 23 official languages) and is spoken in 4 European states. That it is the language number 14 on Google, number 8 in amount of blogs and number 20 in literary production worldwide.
And, also, quite important, that there is an ongoing secession process right now, even if the Spanish, and Catalan, authorities try to overlook it as much as they can. For instance in April the 10th a popular referendum of independence will take place in Barcelona.
One day in the next few years the world will wake up and find on the news a headline about a new state in Europe called Catalunya. They’ll wonder exactly where it is and when they find out they’ll wonder how they had never heard of the country of which Barcelona is the capital. And then life will go on (and I’ll gain loads of spare time to dedicate to other things).
My favourite part of the lecture was the questions, it is always very interesting to hear what foreigners ask since it gives me a point of view and forces me sometimes to think about concepts that I, being so involved in the issue, might have overlooked.
The students asked things like: whether media in Catalonia was biased (it is, the pro Spanish control practically all the mainstream media, even the Catalan public media is Spanish-centered. Luckily, things have tremendously improved since the Internet age has brought an incredible amount of Catalan centered media, which have decisively contributed to the pro-independence movement), how relations with Spain would change in independence (they would be better than ever, this permanent “tug of war” between Spain and Catalonia is exhausting for both), in which form would independence arrive (declaration of independence, since a referendum like in Canada or Scotland is impossible in Spain on one hand and unnecessary, thanks to the clarification on the sentence on Kosovo by the International Court of Justice of The Hague, on the other).
And above all I was pleasantly surprised on the interest on the issue by a foreign institution. I’m sure this is another (small but positive) symptom that we are advancing towards our goal.
Thanks to the University of Minnesota and see you soon!