By Cobin Szymanski | SPAIN
The chants resonate through the street, a call for unity in wake of the terrorist attack that struck Barcelona. “No tinc por,” a Catalan phrase meaning, we are not afraid continues to echo throughout the street. However, this phrase is not only a cry of audacity, it is also a cry for unity against the central Spanish government, a cry for independence.
The semi-autonomous region of Catalonia has long been a part of the Spanish Republic but in many instances throughout history has been its own nation. In these times their culture has thrived but only to be suppressed by the next empire. Notwithstanding the fact that the state has been conquered and exploited through the centuries but the region shares common history and language, they are Catalan.
The country of Spain fell under a fascist rule in 1939 to Francisco Franco and remained so until 1979. Prior to this political epoch, there were a series of Spanish civil wars that wrought havoc throughout the nation. These events incited a series of political upheavals that lead to fascism. The rights of many Spaniards were suppressed under his rule but none more so than the Catalans.
The Catalans were granted regional autonomy during and prior to the civil wars, this gave rise to a sentiment of profound nationalism that could not be suppressed. However, Franco managed and revoked all autonomy of the region and for 40 years the Catalans were oppressed by the fascist regime. In 1975 the late fascist leader Francisco Franco died and the Spaniards adopted a democratic constitution. This constitution gave the Catalans what they were yearned for so zealously, autonomy.
The term autonomy is used quite ubiquitously throughout modern culture but what does it mean for Catalans. In many interviews, they have stated that what matters most dear to them is the democratic process, the ability to choose where their taxes go and who leads their region. In past times the Catalans taxes and revenue have gone to the central government and been redistributed around the country, the Catalans want total control, but it comes with a price.
In recent times the Catalans have demanded increased regional autonomy and even independence. These demands became increasingly fervent when in 2010 a part of Catalonia’s regional autonomy was again revoked. The Catalans were finally pleased when in 2016 the Catalonian president declared a referendum for independence to be taking place on October first.
Wih the Catalonian independence referendum becoming ever nigher Spanish government has increased crackdowns on anything pertinent to independence. Just a few days ago the Spanish government arrested numerous Catalan officials supporting the referendum. Further, they have seized millions of ballots and asked for apps showing polling stations to be deleted.
With this contentious issue continuing to be prevalent in discussions around the world the Catalans took to the streets chanting,”We will vote.” While polls have shown that only around 41 percent of Catalans support total independence, many are participating in this plebiscite as an act of defiance to Spanish rule. While rallies continue to occur around Spain the Spanish prime minister has decried the situation calling it a breach of the constitution.
Further, 2 ferries have arrived with the Spanish police that will patrol the streets on Sunday, in hopes of halting the illicit referendum. The Spanish prime minister is quoted saying, “In those demonstrations, you see the people who go, but you don’t see the people who don’t go, who are way more and are at home because they don’t like what’s happening.” However, if the vote is in favor of independence the Catalan regional president has stated that he will declare independence within 48 hours.
With tensions on the rise and fervent protests enveloping the nation, a football club has also taken the spotlight. FC Barcelona a longheld pride of the Spaniards has released a blatantly political statement earlier this week. In condemning the arrests of governmental officials supporting the referendum they said this in,”The defense of the nation, to democracy, to freedom of speech, and to self-determination” Barca condemn any act that may impede the free exercise of these rights.”
While this multifaceted issue continues to unfold framers have ridden their tractors onto Barcelona’s streets in the protection of the polling stations being used. This exemplifies the economically diverse crowd that is imploring for the referendum saying it is about democracy and not independence. The E.u has also recently stated that it will recognize the results of the election but will not allow it to become a member state immediately.
The Catalan people are filled with national pride as the referendum becomes ever closer. While they have been oppressed by fascist regimes and swallowed by empires their history and culture has survived. Tomorrow we will discover if the world map will be perpetually changed with the exemplification of the democratic process we hold dear.
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