Catalonia mon amour?

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If you’re interested just upload a video of yourself talking about your chosen subject to YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion or any video sharing website. If you don’t have access to a camera just write in, like our Generation Y viewer Marc did, to tell us where he stands on Catalan independence. To see what he has to say, scroll down and read our interview with him.

Who is Marc?

Marc, Catalan Boy

Marc, Catalan Boy

I am a Telecoms Engineer living in Barcelona. I am by no means expert in history, economics or politics, but I do enjoy spending hours reading up and analysing the subject of Catalan independence. My ideology has changed every two to three years which I think is a positive. I love to generalise, and am happy to admit when my view turns out to be wrong.

I consider myself Catalan, but I also feel Spanish and don’t feel this to be contradictory. A classical liberal, I don’t believe in borders, imposed or otherwise as a solution. What I do believe in are referendums, and I would fully accept the public’s decision whatever it may be.

The things I hate most are imperialism, totalitarism and corruption – all of which I still see evidence of throughout Spain and Catalonia – so in this sense, there are no goodies or baddies. As a progressist I strongly believe in individual freedom, and my beliefs are that a good society is one that mixes people from all ideologies and learns to respect them over a completely homogenic mind.

Write to Marc

What are his views on Catalan independence?

Catalan pride

Courtesy of PhyreWorX (click on the image to see the original page)

I’m not an expert. I don’t claim to have all the facts or the answers but what I can offer is my view on the contentious subject of Catalan independence.

To me, Catalonia is a mixture of realities where it is impossible to estimate just what the current national global reality really is. That’s why analysis and foresight failed to predict the recent election outcome – even the president was surprised!

But when you look at the facts, the fragmentation of Catalans plays a huge part in its uncertain future. For example, if you were to create a voters map in Barcelona, you would clearly be able to see that one neighbourhood would be totally CiU (Convergence and Union party) while others would be completely PSC (Socialists’ party of Catalonia), ERC (the Republican left of Catalonia), or PP (People’s Party of Catalonia).

Marc on Barcelona Beach

Marc on Barcelona Beach

And even though Barcelona isn’t particularly ‘ghetto-oriented’ compared to some European cities – though naturally some parts are wealthier than others – you do find different voting schemes in adjacent areas.

There are regions (in Baix Llobregat, or Salou, for instance) where so-called unionists parties have lots of support and others where they don’t even get 15%, like Vic. There is no evident geographical indicator, instead demographic and socioeconomic status, which can be spread over all Catalonia or hidden away, are far more telling. Young Catalans, as a global concept in terms of joined political interest, does not exist unless you consider Catalans as people: who don’t mind or prefer speaking Catalan, who are rooted sentimentally in the idea of being Catalan or, who simply feel more Catalan than Spanish – this however is a dangerous game that could be viewed as cultural discrimination. This is certainly the main voter for independence, in the shape of CiU, ERC or CUP (with the exception of the green party IVC, where this isn’t a priority).

In order to understand this in its entirety, you have to take into account the fact that Catalonia was a land of Spanish national immigration in the 1930s and 1960s (some even believe the latter was all part of Franco’s plan to colonise Catalan culture and dilute it), so (I dare say) most of us [Catalans] are descendants of Spanish immigrants. Two out of my four grandparents are from Aragon and Extremadura in the north and south of Spain, and my second surname is French, introduced from Figueres (French border), so I am a real charnego, as this term was originally coined for descendants of French immigrants. So what factors make second or third generations adopt a new culture, any different to those who remain Spanish in their culture, language and symbols? We’ll never know. At least, I won’t.

Catalonia VoteIt could depend on: how open minded you are to adopt a new reality, your previous ideals, the friends you make, the town you’re born in, or your economic status… But then add to the equation, people who feel Catalan and integrated but prefer feeling Spanish, then you could have others who really never felt connected with Catalonia as a secluded concept, who never learned the language but still feel emotionally divided, or maybe they just want to support their relatives who do believe in the nation… from these brief examples, it’s clear to see the subject at hand is far from simple!

Marc expressing his views through his guitar

Marc expressing his views in a different way…

The only thing I can opine that could be useful to unravelling the subject is my personal view on independence. I strongly believe Catalonia as a state would be much wealthier if it were independent. Maybe the first few years would be hard due to the boycott the Spanish threaten us with, but it’s clear for me that in the long term we would be one of the richest regions in Europe – if things were done right which would not be easy, but then nothing worthwhile ever is. I myself do not feel like a “symbolic” Catalan. I don’t support the cause for independence because of a national language, dance; traditional clothing or idiosyncrasies. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of my local folklore, but I think both nationalisms are overused for moving the mass in a symbolic way towards their political interest. Nowadays we don’t have the same kind of oppression as we had in the past, so this only helps to exclude and discriminate against the other side to Catalonia who just don’t feel as patriotic.

Quite simply, Spain’s nationalistic affairs work at present, for me, as pure lobbyism, trying to increase economic power and political attention from all sides, but unfortunately for us Catalans, the referee is biased.

You can clearly see this with the recent EuroVegas headquarters (a Las-Vegas-style casino strip on the outskirts of the Spanish capital, planned to become Europe’s biggest gambling mecca providing thousands of jobs and costing millions of euros in the middle of a crisis) which Madrid and Barcelona both fought for. In my opinion, Madrid is trying everything to ensure it becomes the real ruler of Spain – economically and socially – and it certainly has a closer government support to do it in the name of ‘Spain’. This is not bad, per se, as Catalans also look out for their own interests, but nationalistic issues often create a superficial war that masks this conflict of interests. For example, Spanish socialists historically have the votes from Catalonia and Andalucia, the two biggest regions which represent a third of the population, while demo-Christian or conservative PP are strong in Madrid, Valencia, Castilla León and recently Galicia.

Catalan President Artur Mas

Catalan President Artur Mas

This lobbyism in my opinion, helps the political network both in Spain and Catalonia become a breeding ground for corruption and localised interests. This is perhaps why funding has been given to spend on non-profitable train connections, or airports, instead of more productive demands such as the Mediterrani Corredor that would run along the Mediterranean coast to France; which experts say is the 9th economic axis on world,(but will it ever come to fruition?). Instead, Madrid goes ahead with plans to put a train through (the geographically more unpleasant) Aragon from Madrid, avoiding Basque Country and Catalonia-Valencia (which are wealthier and bigger exporters). Also Catalonia is a tourist hotspot along with the islands; however, Madrid continues to monopolise aerial space as an international hub by securing bigger investments, meaning Madrid is number one for international arrivals while Catalonia, which has three times as many tourists lags behind. (According to government data in 2011, Catalonia was chosen as an international destination by three times as many people than Madrid, and according to the National Statistics Institute, Catalonia has three times more pernoctations).

A cake with Catalan colours during the National Day

Nobody wants to share the cake

Fiscal balance is another bone of contention for Catalans. Being the second region after the wealthy but small Balearic Islands on deficit. Central voices will account investment for a region in the name of the country as ‘shared costs’, even when it represents an objective welfare for that region alone, and when government spending through public institutions is huge in the capital, much more than Bavaria (3,5%), Scotland or any special state in Europe. This is the official data given by the socialist government in 2008 (which was rejected to be re-published after 25 years of waiting for transparency); imagine the data exposed by Catalans when our government has the chance to do their own calculations… they say it would be closer to a (maybe) exaggerated 15%.

The flip side is we [Catalans] have to hear in the media on a daily basis about ‘how greedy we are’, and ‘how dishonest we are for not realising we don’t give more than we receive’, and so on and so forth, I mean, really it’s just tiresome, because at the end, they are playing the same game with opposed interests. The truth is that data within such a system cannot be 100% reliable and if Catalans are the real burden as some say we are, secession would probably be as peaceful as Slovakia’s.

1 Here an example on divided lobbism regarding European train connection.

After, the European point.

2 In the quest of Barcelona aerial hub and share of investment along with Madrid Barajas.

Official data from government on touristic traffic and destinies.

Official National Statistics Institute data. Look also here.

3 Fiscal scale official data (2005, published in 2008). Money flow calculus was omitted or almost ignored when centralist media exposed the results.

(Many thanks to Lorna Gangel for her invaluable help)



2 thoughts on “Catalonia mon amour?

  1. I like your approach and hats off for an interesting blog and commentary. I for one am out for the count. Having been 1st witness to representatives of the Catalan state beat people senseless while the local press, which other than the one in receivership doesn’t really represent any notion other than conservative right or left wing. This view is backed by many a journalist and PR pro working here in BCN.

    Sadly, a conservative view doesn’t seem to cut it when it comes to analysing the playing field and where people are being led.
    The term Cataluna is a region, Catalans are its ethnic inhabitants. When I start to hear nationalistic heart strings being pulled, I start to think about other warnings and blindness from history.

    Ask a Catalan about Franco. We get the bad spill. Then remind them about the manufacturing hubs being centralised in Cataluna during Franco’s regime which in turn, created wealth after his passing, we have an ironic outcome. The greatest oppressor gave the region its biggest stone to later economic independence.

    Sadly its not the Catalans [as an ethnic populous] whom ought to be blamed for the regions shortcomings. It’s rather their poor choice of leaders who sadly play the populous’ heart strings. The present government’s disregard to basic human rights, as demonstrated in Plaza Cataluna, by the regional governments own police force, who disregard [as a secondary measure another country’s constitution [read Spain], for some could be concerned.

    While the melody of independence is being played, so sadly are the populous. We have an independence being chorused without any hard written promises. We have a regional government who haven’t got the concept of human rights down, let alone the concept of theft [from the less than 150 street snatch and grab, to alleged investigations into the CiUs leadership].

    Something tells me that there’s something wrong. When I see flags being waved and not much analysis into the abuse the leadership, power and where a region/country being lead by reform, la propa parada is…. probably the same s*** but different label.

    What I’d love to see is a reform in the whole democratic system. I think maybe those voting want to see something a little more realistic and radical. Give me better human rights, better value for my dollar, a system which allows voter transparency at the voting lobby into what performance my councillor has done vs. their pledge and for/against the official line, plus current investigations into corruption then you’re around 25% there into getting into the spirit of reform.

    Cataluna has pioneered a lot of new things. Sadly political reform isn’t one of them. I would like to see it lead with this and then into independence and not one second before.

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