People Are Still Yearning for Independence in Barcelona

People Are Still Yearning for Independence in Barcelona

Last year, the region of Catalonia in Spain declared independence. The government in Madrid came down hard. What's happened since then?

“Who delivered liquidation to the independence movement? Mariano Rajoy and the PP,” Santamaría continued. “Who deserves the votes to continue liquidating the independence movement? Mariano Rajoy and the PP.”

In a nation whose government once murdered political opponents and members of the Catalonian independence movement, the word “liquidation” carries unpleasant connotations. Many Catalans will also remind you that the PP was founded in 1989 by Manuel Fraga, Franco’s former minister of the interior who authorized the execution of political prisoners while the regime was in power.

In short, some Catalonians wonder out loud if history might repeat itself as far as Madrid’s response to the independence effort is concerned. Franco might be dead, but fear that there will be a kind of “Franco-lite” policy of political repression and use of force to keep Catalonians in line seems just another echo from the dead caudillo’s tomb.

Although there was a “transition” after Franco’s death that was supposed to help the country make the change from dictatorship to democracy, some Catalonians say that the independence movement has prompted Rajoy and the PP to show its true colors.

“Now more than ever there are Francoist attitudes from Madrid,” said Joan Ramon, a director for Channel 3, the leading public television station in Catalonia. “It’s subtle, but it’s still there. The transition didn’t really happen. It just covered over the garbage. Franco’s family is still influential in Spanish politics.”

Ramon said that during his youth he encountered many Spaniards who stereotyped Catalans, calling them racist names and accusing them of being stingy or ignorant. Although he laughs it off today, he conceded that outside of Catalonia attitudes like that still exist.

He also said that Francoist attitudes motivate many who possess corporate power in Spain, particularly in the media. That has led to biased coverage of the Catalonian independence movement and media manipulation of public opinion in the rest of Spain.

“I demonstrated against Franco when I was finally able to do so,” he said. “Then we knew who the enemy was. Now, it’s far worse. ”

“From Spain, there is a colonial attitude,” Ramon continued. “The Spanish government thinks that Catalonia is an arm of Spain. Spain has a right to cut that arm because they think it belongs to them.”

There are also people who doubt whether independence will make any difference.

Daniel Madjody, is a school teacher in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Barcelona where he teaches immigrant children including Romani children, who are frequently called gypsies. The child of a Spanish mother and an African father, Madjody is more wary of bias toward people with immigrant roots and Spain’s unwillingness to deal with the consequences of its colonial past.

Describing himself as neither for or against Catalonian independence, he is skeptical of real change no matter who is in power and he doubts that independence will make a difference to his students.

“I’m against any kind of nationalistic feeling,” Madjody said. “I have the same feeling that I have for myself. They are gypsies and they will be seen as gypsies and end up that way in either Catalonia or in a Spanish country.”

Catalonians who favor separation acknowledge that even with the successful December vote independence is a long shot. Still, the most enthusiastic supporters of independence say they will work for nationhood even if it takes years.

Those years in a political sense might be like drops of water wearing away the stone-hard refusal of Madrid to acknowledge Catalonia’s dream of independence.

“I’ll do whatever is needed from me,” said Olf Praderas a graphic designer. “If I have to be a little drop with other neighboring drops, or two million drops, or whatever drops that are needed, I’ll do it. I wasn’t thinking that independence would be declared in one day. I thought it was going to be a long process. If I have to be a drop among one, two, three or whatever million drops, then I’ll be one of the drops.”

Paul R. Huard is an award-winning journalist who covers military history and national security issues for daily newspapers and online publications. His work has appeared in the National Interest, the (Portland, Ore.) Oregonian, RealClearDefense, RealClearHistory, RealClearPolitics, War Is Boring, War On The Rocks—Molotov Cocktail, We Are The Mighty, and Arc Digital.

Image: Reuters


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