's the Catalan question



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Allowed to talk about it?

Dear Julie: it was kind of surprising to read how difficult it seems for you to be "admitted" in a regular conversation about the Catalan question, here in Catalonia, among locals or a mixture of locals and non-locals. As a Catalan, I've always felt quite the opposite: a local starts a conversation on the subject (carefully avoiding to do that every ten minutes, that's right) and the average non-local will immediately start showing non-verbal or verbal signs of boredom (if lucky), or directly speaking out their suspicious neutrality on the question. Why suspicious? Because in a big percentage of cases like this, the non-local tends to be a person who arrived in Catalonia without knowing (wanting to know?) much about the strong identity of this territory, their miserable economic situation in terms of Central Spanish spoliation, their love to the language (next to their gladness of speaking Spanish too), their powerful spirit of showing themselves to the world the real way they are, and therefore, their strong will of self-determination as a free nation among the other European countries. So the average reaction, unfortunately, is more on the side of deception or disappointment when realising that he/she tremendously failed on landing on that pre-conceived idea of Barcelona: that lovely Spanish paradise that consists of a mad mixture of a Cosmopolitan great European city by the sea, and yet a place where improve their Spanish, eat tapas until 1:00 AM and party like hell. Then, the non-acceptance internal dialogue of this archetype person non-local would be something like "Jeez, again with the Catalan thing ... Why the f**k don't they give up? Spain is a marvellous country, and Spanish is a beautiful language ... ", while the external verbal position would be something on the side, as I said, of "neutrality". Only the true open-minded non-Catalan born persons will be capable (and generous enough) to jump out of their narcissistic point of view and truly understand the situation here, commit with the dreams of this bloody, unbowed Catalans, freely mix with them, avoid any comparison with Scottish, Quebequian, Basque or Flemish situations, and finally show some respect for this little country which is just gagging to explain to you, with joyful eyes, what the hell is this silenced question about, "now that someone out there is listening". So please, let yourself go and start to realise how easy it is to speak about all that among Catalans, if only you freed yourself from pre-conceived own ideals or prejudices against national cries for freedom. And of course, I know you will forgive my poor English above. Your Catalan, I'm sure, is much better.

Xavier more than 4 years ago

Reply to Lin

Thanks for your comments Lin. I actually agree with you that the Catalan people should be allowed to have a referendum, and, of course all the other regions in the EU who have an identity and language which is different from the one their passport favours. I am by no means a Spanish nationalist and dislike all 'isms' and would rather not see a world with even more frontiers. I think the problem if a referendum were to yield a 'yes' to independence is that it would cause a huge amount of conflict between Catalonia, the rest of Spain, the EU and maybe countries further afield. Would it really be feasable and worth it? I have lived here for many years and have contributed to the Catalan economy. Does that make me a Catalan person elligible to vote? How would you define 'The Catalans? You mention the present is what counts, and I agree. We live in a young and inmature democracy. Maybe if the politicians mature and are capable of having real debates and actually listening to each other, a lot of problems could be ironed out without creating new borders.

Paul Malcolm more than 4 years ago

Charging the red rag

Anecdotally, many foreigners here tell me they wish the Catalan issue was put to bed once and for all, but they keep quiet when the issue of politics/separatism comes up, because their opinions as outsiders are not welcome. Yet at the same time, a Catalan friend pointed out to me that here, war stories are not fireside tales – they are within living memory. You only need to look at what’s happening right now to Garzón to see the degree to which Spain’s not-so-distant history still rankles. What depresses me is that these shades of grey, which I and no doubt other foreigners perceive, are not even admitted into the conversation. And I suspect it will remain a monochrome minefield for some time to come.

Julie Sheridan more than 4 years ago

Answer to Paul Malcolm

Paul, I think that the fact that Catalunya was never an established nation-state does not say anything about whether it should become one or not. No political state that exists today has existed since the beginning of time. The Catalans were however a nation (in the sense of people with common language and culture) at the time that Spain unified in a kingdom. In the end the decisive factor should be the present and not the past.
And as for the EU, I am hardly under the same impression. As a matter of fact it seems most of the EU is looking to expand, though it is not a question that everyone agrees on and there are people who are against it.
I think many people do not actually consider the question at heart and just think that the borders they learned in school are the most natural ones, but are they?
I think it is for the Catalan people to decide.

Lin more than 4 years ago

A strange taboo

Interesting to hear that you were discouraged from discussing Catalan nationalism online. That must be especially strange for you coming from Scotland, where views on nationalism have always been discussed freely, even before the current referendum furore!

Kathryn more than 4 years ago


Interesting article Julie. I gave up keeping my politally 'incorrect' opinions to myself a long time ago, so......I think there's one or two obvious things worth pointing out:

1) There was never a country called 'Catalunya' unlike Scotland which was, so talk of becoming independent always confuses me - an independent what? Not a country. The same applies to the Basque Country.

2) The EU does NOT WANT more member states, it arguably already has too many, so Brussels would do everything possible to discourage moves towards seperatism. I think seperatists need to look more to the outside world to get a perspective.

3) Catalan/Castlian antagonism has been used, very consciously and cynically, by politicians to gain votes (nationalists in Catalonia/PP in Madrid). I find this stoking up highly irresponsible and the damage is hard to undo.

4) Yes, Catalans are different from other Spaniards in some ways. Spain is a big country. Inevitably there is cultural diversity. Does that mean we have to seperate from eveything that is different from us? A bit philosophical this last point perhaps, but worth reflecting on.

If I have ruffled feathers I make no apologies, just healthy democratic discusion...


PAUL MALCOLM more than 4 years ago

Catalan nationalism

I like the points you raise. I've been here 11 years and now tend to shy away from any debate on this with local people. Always gets me into trouble... I do discuss it with foreigners though.

Charlie more than 4 years ago

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