As Catalonia reaches for independence we look at the pros and cons of their moves. We also look at the truths and myths of the culture, beliefs and people.
Catalonia is a currently a state in north eastern Spain on the Mediterranean bordering France. Over the centuries through bad luck and bad choices, the state has either taken 2nd place to their partner cultures, or been forced to speak Spanish for punishment of the choices for fear of persecution. The spoken dialect is not related to Spanish but Spanish has left its mark on the language, just as much as the former French overlords also had on the language.
These people are proud and harder working than the average Spaniard. Catalonia has its own culture and gastronomy as does every single region in Spain and Europe.
The birth of a new Race of people?
A united Spain. The Romans were the first rulers to unite the various separate tribes and kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula. Catalonia remained united to the central rule under a Gothic kingdom, and then the Moorish conquest of the peninsula sent the Catalan history on another path for a period of time. While the Iberian capital remained occupied for centuries, northern areas like Catalonia were constantly forced to change allegiances depending on who would provide them the greatest protection.
Catalonia came under French protection, and when the French gave them more independence they united through marriage with the crown of Aragon. In this union, the Kingdom of Aragon came the heyday for the Catalan language. As they conquered their borderlands and pushed south through Valencia, they also conquered other parts of the Mediterranean (Sardinia, Balearic Islands etc) spreading their language. While the capital was always in Aragon, the language of the conquered lands was Catalan.
The Catalan Language
Contrary to what most would think the Catalan language is not a dialect of Spanish. The last remnant of the mostly extinct Gallo-Romance group of languages which included the most spoken of the group Occitan, was spoken in southern half of France from the Italian border to the Atlantic Ocean and up to the Spanish border. Originally Catalan started in a area straddling 50km either side of the Pyrenees from tMediterranean to a bit west of Andorra, and not including Barcelona or Girona. Today there are 7 million speakers in Catalonia alone. And thanks to the principality of Andorra to the north of Catalonia, which is the only official language of Andorra, it is an officially recognised language of the European Union.
The language contains many words that are neither French or Spanish related tancat- closed, sometimes some that are more Spanish- dia-day and others that are more French- sis plau/s’il vous plait-please-. Compare it to Occitan and you will find that it is more French orientated than Spanish
In Catalonia you are either Catalan or an outsider. So even if you were born in a foreign country their is a lot of pressure to conform just so your are not the enemy in your new place of residence. Catalans take their individualism with them outside their country. When asked where they are from they will say Catalonia. Much to their frustration many people don’t know where it is. If they say it is Spain the light-bulb finally flashes.
To the Catalans there is nothing culturally, linguistically, behaviorally or physically similar between the Spanish and them so therefore they should become independent.
Stories exist on the net of Catalans, taking their patriotism and anti Spanish anger overseas, and then having it reversed. Upon finding that no-one knows about Catalonia, and why they should become independent, they end up finding that their Spanish brothers are really not that different to them and start to include many within their circle of friends.
Or those who are children of Galician and Catalan parents, both areas wanting independence from Spain, and growing up in Madrid, who sees a Catalonia interconnected to Spain, just as much today as it was in the past. A Catalan news-presenter who works in Catalonia in Catalan and then goes to Madrid and works in Spanish there. Politicians on both sides who cause friction to discredit the other and wrap themselves in a flag to shield themselves against the fallout. Also being a part of a united Europe, and when anything goes wrong they blame each thereby making themselves a divided part of a united circle
The head politicians of Catalonia run a well oiled propaganda machine. While the Global Financial Crisis is deemed responsible on external forces, Catalan politicians blame it on Madrid. To convert Madrid into a ubiquitous enemy, anything that negatively effects Catalonia is the fault of Madrid. This brainwashing in Catalonia starts at a young age. Catalans make a big deal of who they are and why they are different. The learning in schools is done in Catalan, with lesser amount of time devoted to Castellano so they can communicate with their current fellow countrymen. The history lessons affirm a propaganda of Catalanism, and after decades of this propaganda machine, they have placed a wedge between themselves and the rest of Spain, which will take just as long to reverse.
While most tourist areas in Europe have multilingual signs, in Catalonia you have signs in Catalan and nothing else. As Catalan is not related Spanish good luck understanding. A visit to a typical Spanish franchise 100 Montaditos will confirm this. The menu in Catalan, even a Spanish speaker from anywhere in the Spanish speaking world needs a translator.
The Spanish are fuming at the audacity of the Catalans. Although the Spanish know they are better united and together, they are drained from the rhetoric and selfishness, of various entities like Catalonia, and sometimes wish they didn’t have to put up with them anymore. They are well aware, that Catalan politicians are too leftist for the survival of a nascent country, nor can various left wing parties be united enough to form a stable government. Their ideals The debt that they have racked up and be given as their share of the economic burden will leave them in a bad place, and they haven’t even a plan of how
In greater Europe northern countries are not willing for them to separate, and assume that they will receive the same monetary benefits as Spain
What makes Catalans distinct? They are more hard working than the average Spaniard. Obviously they have gastronomic and cultural differences from the rest of Spain. The pass-time of building human towers “Castellars” instead of bull fighting which they invented.
Are Catalan people really that different. It is hard to really imagine that in many aspects. All over Europe cultural and linguistic differences occur in any united country from region to region. And still these differences seem quite small when perceived as part of a group from a larger country.
Are Catalans like Portuguese or French? Absolutely not! They are more like Spanish than anywhere else in Europe. Physically speaking, while you can notice differences between Asturians and Andalucians, and between Catalans and Portuguese, physically these similar local people extended from the Iberian peninsula into southern France. However, internal immigration from the blonde northern part of France has led to a bigger difference between French and Spanish, and likewise Catalan blood is a mixture from people who have migrated there from all parts of Spain.
Gastronomically they have far more in common than their Iberian neighbours than French and therefore not really enough difference to say we are not alike.
Catalans are also good at partying like the Spaniards, and unlike the French, or Portuguese, so you can say they are a chip off the old block.
Barça is the pride and joy of Catalonia. It is also used as a place to show their nationalistic pride. But they think that because of the money that the club makes for La Liga and television rights, and due to their rivalry with Real Madrid that they would be silly to kick them out. Nothing would hit home harder that independence is a bad idea, than the ejection of Barça from La Liga. The head of La Liga, had said that Barça or any other Catalan team will not be part of the Spanish League if they went independent. However the success of any club is transient, and it would be hard to assume that any smart businessman would not see the opportunity that exists, and throw their money behind Valencia the next largest city in Spain and create a new rival and maybe a new superpower team in Europe. I’m putting it out there for any smart entrepreneur.
Baleares/Mallorca, Rousillon-France, Catalonia, Valencia & Andorra
The idea of a Greater Catalonia or Paisos Catalanes has been proposed on a few occasions. The idea is to include all the Catalan speaking parts of Spain, Andorra (already officially Catalan speaking). It has received only mild support from Valencians, while most preferring and trust being allied with Madrid rather than Catalonia. Many Valencians wish them luck but don’t want to be part of their story. You could say if the idea was so good why don’t the other Catalan speakers want to join in? Politically speaking the Catalans are and always have been left wing thinkers and the Valencians and Balearic Islands lean to the right like most other Spanish communities.
Predictions for a Successful Nascent Country
Let’s put things in perspective. Part of the success of Catalonia is through Barcelona. Spain’s 2nd city and a port to boot, by the sea, in a nice climate, has led many businesses to locate there instead of crowding out inland Madrid. Being outside of the EU will limit the success of many of these businesses being now outside the EU, and will tend to relocate to other parts of Spain. Despite of the complaining about taxes, Catalonia is bankrupt and have borrowed more than their share of taxes to plug the hole in their economy, making them a huge liability to Madrid. Huge corruption issues exist in the state and these things are usually endemic and are hard to get rid of once the habit has been set. To top it off Catalonia given their habits also come from a part of the world where money doesn’t go as far as it should like a northern European country would. These days sovereignty is an overrated issue, many nations abuse it. I’m declaring it will be a failure and another burden on the EU and world community.
Declaring an independence vote without the backing of the central government is illegal in any democracy. 43% of the eligible Catalan voters voted with a 90% majority for yes. Statistics show that the yes vote in Catalonia is in a minority. For fear of breaking the law the “no” voters abstained from voting. If Catalonia decide to go against the wishes of the majority of the Catalonian residents, independentists risk isolating themselves from Europe, and Spain would make life very hard for them and their future viability. The European Union and other world leaders have already said they will not recognise a new nation of Catalonia. Catalonia will automatically be outside of the EU, and Spain could veto any attempt for them to re-enter. Many companies have expressed wishes of moving to Spain amid fears of not being able to trade with EU, including 2 of Spain’s biggest banks that were founded in Catalonia. This would further decrease any possibility of future economic success. Catalonia’s opposition leader Ines Arrimadas has spoken in the Catalan parliament saying, “this is a coup, most Catalans feel that they are Catalan, Spanish, and European. We won’t let you break our hearts (Carles Puigdemont)”.
Let’s see if you are as passionate about this issue as we are. Having lived in Spain and developing a connection with it, I have noticed the lack of unity within the country. Many regions feel they would run a better ship than Madrid, but it is easy to notice from a country that does, how they are not living in a real world, and would quickly sink in an economic quagmire. The best way of survival is united.