Why Catalans want Independence, explained by an English writer

Matthew Tree

One of the easiest ways to understand something is to have someone explain it to you from your point of view. That’s why I think the text “Life on the receiving end” by Matthew Tree is so good. It is based on a speech he gave on November 2008 at the London School of Economics.

Matthew Tree is an english writer who has lived in Catalonia for 25 years and speaks and writes in English and Catalan and he explains the Catalan situation in such a way that it is very easy for anyone to understand why Catalans desire indepedence.

I include two excerpts of his speech:

“Put bluntly, the Catalans are tiring of a tiring situation that has gone on for far, far too long. Of the six million odd citizens who have the vote, over two million now want outright independence, with a further two million remaining undecided. Even us foreigners, voteless though we are, have been canvassed. A majority of Latin Americans, it turns out, would prefer to stay in Spain, whereas the Eastern Europeans, for example, are largely in favour of secession. As is at least one long-term English
resident. Especially since less than 40% of the Spanish population would favour an armed intervention should Catalonia and the Basque Country raise their hands to wave goodbye. ”

“I never realised just how much this was the case, until something similar happened to me. Here we have the Catalan original of a novel published in 2001, ‘Privilegiat’. The biographical blurb is standard: Taught himself Catalan in 1979, published this, that and the other (Catalan titles given), contributed stories to these anthologies, bla bla bla, contributes to this and that newspaper and this and that radio station (their names given, identifying them as Catalan language media). OK.
This is the Castilian version: born in London, writer, contributor to newspapers and radios. He has lived in Barcelona since 1984. Not a single mention of the fact that I had at the time published three books in Catalan, contributed stories to five others, and worked for the Catalan media. Nothing. No mention of the dreaded C-word.

And that is precisely where the problem lies at heart. Just to live in and form no matter how modest a part of the Catalan cultural universe, is in itself seen as indifferent or undesirable or politically incorrect or downright distasteful or even bloody horrible in monolingual Spain. Yet at the same time, in Catalonia we are bombarded with reminders, some of them laced with slights, that we form part of Spain and should therefore behave in a more Spanish way than we do.

I put it to you that this is an untenable situation, which sooner or later will have the kind of consequences that will make headlines around the world – at least for a day – given that they will involve a new place being laid at the table of the United Nations. What I’m sure everybody wants – and I include the vast majority of the inhabitants of monolingual Spain – is that in the photographs accompanying the banner print, there will be no violent scenes, no rumbling tanks, no cadavers on the streets of Barcelona.
Your turn. ”

Read the full article here

Catalonia is not Spain, the Centelles example

The Centelles' archive

Agustí Centelles was a photographer who took 10000 pictures in Barcelona during the Civil War, he died in 1985. In 1939 he fled to France and took 6000 of those negatives with him. The Spanish Fascist army seized the remaining pictures and took them to Salamanca to remain part of the Salamanca Papers, the documents stolen to the Catalan Generalitat to be used as part of the post war repression that were recently returned to their original owners after much controversy in Spain. Agustí kept those negatives hidden in France for 40 years until after Franco‘s death.

This week it’s been made public that the Spanish Ministry of Culture has paid Centelles’ sons 700000 euros for his father’s collection. It has also been made public that the Catalan Generalitat was also under negotiations and had so far offered 500000 euros but the Spanish Ministry of Culture has outbid the Generalitat without previously notifying them. The Minister of Culture, González Sinde, has announced the negatives will be moved to Salamanca. This can only be interpreted as a sinister “compensation” to the city for the “loss” of the stolen Papers.

The Centelles negatives are part of Catalonia’s cultural legacy and the money the Spanish government has used to pay for them comes from Catalonia. There is no reason for those pictures not to stay where they belong and Centelles himself would have rather burnt them than see them in the hands of the Spanish.

Yet another example that for non tax collection matters the Spanish know Catalonia is not Spain.

Spanish fury unleashed after all Catalan newspapers defend the Statute

Editorial en defensa de l'estatut.

Today all catalan newspapers have published a joint editorial titled “La Dignitat de Catalunya” (Catalan language version) or check here Catalonia’s Dignity, a translation into english.

That article is a defense of the Catalan Statue that was passed by the Catalan and Spanish Parliaments and then approved in a referendum by the Catalans. This text was already an extremely watered down version of the text originally approved by the Catalan Parliament which Zapatero had promised to approve without any changes but finally didn’t and had to endure very difficult negotiations that had as a result the elimination of its most important points that would have increased Catalonia’s self governance both financially and in its identity and cultural aspects to move it a little bit closer to normal federal states.

PP appealed the Catalan Statute to the Spanish Constitutional Court since they believed the text doesn’t comply with the Spanish Constitution but mostly following their usual attitude against anything that comes from Catalonia since many Autonomous Communities, following Catalonia’s lead, renewed their Statute with similar articles but PP didn’t appeal those.

No court has any legitimacy to deny what has been approved by the Parliaments and the people. The citizens’ will is the base of any democracy. With only 10 out of 12 positions currently filled and with five of them holding expired positions the Spanish Constitutional Court is formed by extremely policitally biased members that were nominated exclusively by the two main Spanish parties, PSOE and PP and is basically doing the dirty work that the Spanish Parliament didn’t do since it would have been unpopular with the Catalans.

Even though the current Statute is not really the tool that the Catalans need right now since it is so watered down that it won’t improve anything it was approved by the Catalans and therefore it should be respected. However, the Spanish Constitutional Court have filtered information to the Spanish media that they will cut most of its main articles.

In an attempt to influence this soon to come sentence all Catalan newspapers, even the ones with a more openly unionist profile, like La Vanguardia or El Periódico have published the same editorial appealing to Catalonia’s dignity so that the Constitutional Court doesn’t tamper the Catalan Statute.

This has had an immediate reaction from the Spanish media which and have published very aggressive editorials. Following is an excerpt of the first reaction in El Mundo: “What’s at stake is not “Catalonia’s dignity”, as these colleagues say, but the attempt of a political oligarchy to control the Catalan society by means of a Statute designed to distance it from the rest of Spain at the expense of breaking the Constitutional order and the model of democratic coexistence”. Other reactions include declarations by popular Spanish radio presenter Federico Jiménez Losantos saying that the Catalan society is “sick” and that the Spanish are “the jews of the Catalan nazis”.

While I agree that most Catalan newspapers are not independent what doesn’t make sense are the accusations of wanting to destroy Spain since the Catalan government is currently in the hands of a unionist party, the PSOE of Catalonia.

Therefore, what is the conclusion that the Catalan society has to extract from this? The certainty that the Spanish don’t seem to understand or respect that Catalonia is a nation and every attempt from the Catalans to try to fit more comfortably in Spain has always been received with extreme aggressivity or war

How much longer will the Catalans’ patience last?

Arenys de Munt votes for independence of Catalonia

Arenys - Photo by Raul Roncero, some rights reservedSomething is moving in Catalonia. Arenys de Munt a little village with 6500 eligible voters in the Maresme comarca (the Catalan equivalent of a county), 40km to the north of Barcelona  succeeded in organizing a referendum of independence from Spain last month. An overwhelming 96% of the voters said “yes” for Catalonia to become an independent state in the European Union.

The story of this success started as a private initiative (legally binding referendums are under the exclusive control of the Spanish state and the right to self-determination is not allowed in Spain).   A lot of publicity was given by the fact that a judge unsuccessfully attempted to ban it but since it was not an initiative coming from the town council, (although supported by it) but from the citizens, and the voting was held outside official offices, it was perfectly legal.

This happened while at the same time the authorities defended the right of the Spanish fascists from Falange Española, former dictator Franco’s party, to hold a demonstration in the village on the day of the referendum. Let’s not forget that fascist parties are not banned in Spain. This gave the event loads of publicity but the impact was even bigger when the opposition leader Mariano Rajoy, forced the Spanish president, Zapatero to comment on the subject. Zapatero declared  “I don’t expect this to go viral”.

On September the 13th  the voting went on uneventfully and in a partyish atmosphere until the results were made public at the end of the day. Meanwhile, 50 Spanish fascists arrived to Arenys, did their demonstration closely watched by the police and were largely ignored except for the media, with more than one hundred reporters following the events. The local mayor Carles Móra said that “this is a triumph for democracy”.

Many Catalan politicians, observing the success tried to show their support once it was clear how important the event had been, although they had ignored it beforehand. It seems that the current Catalan politicians are unable to lead the Catalan society and so society spontaneously takes action.

International media, like the New York Times included the news in their following day editions.

Señor Zapatero was wrong, inspired by Arenys de Munt’s experience many Catalan municipalities have decided to organise a similar voting, this time simultaneously, on December the 13th. As of today at least 117 catalan villages and cities are preparing independence referendums next December with more municipalities being added to the list every day. There are already plans to organize  a national referendum next year. Political parties have been excluded from this since the organizers want to make it clear that this is a citizen initiative.