The History People


Has anybody in the English-speaking world really realised that a country they never knew existed is about to re-enter the international stage nearly three centuries after being kicked off it? To judge by UK and US media coverage and the odd expat tweet, most people have only a vague notion of what is going in Catalonia today, believing as they seem to that the push for independence is little more than a selfish knee-jerk reaction to the economic crisis. On the contrary, the current push for Catalan independence has been been a long time coming. Indeed, if we're going to get historical, we could trace the start of the process to the refusal of the Principality of Catalonia to be part of the Bourbon dynasty's Spain-building project back in the 18th century, a recalcitrance for which it has been paying a high price ever since: a crippling war followed by a military occupation that lasted into the early 20th century (Catalans lived 60 of the 86 years between 1814 and 1900 under martial law); the elimination of its legal system; the suppression of its language (banned in 1881 from all official documents; in 1896, on the phone; in 1900, in theatres; in 1923, in all schools...); and two violent, drawn-out attempts to eradicate its identity entirely, courtesy of the dictatorships of Primo de Rivera (1923-1930) and Franco (1939-1975). To which can be added the increasingly widespread odium of all things Catalan fostered in monolingual Spain over the last 30 years by Castilianist politicians and their media allies. History aside, those seeking reasons for Catalonia's disaffection need look no further than the reactions of the Spanish establishment to the 11th September demonstration in Barcelona, when 1.6 million people marched for independence and kick-started the secessionist process. Madrid offered no possibility of dialogue or debate on the matter. Instead, Catalonia has been regaled with a dismissive scolding from the King, aggressive affirmations from various ministers that an independence referendum will not be allowed under any circumstances; declarations by the Spanish Education minister to the effect that he will oblige Catalan schools to 'hispanicise Catalan children'; and four direct threats of military intervention from various sour-faced officers. Meanwhile, several neo-Fascist formations – unionists all - have been scrawling anti-Catalan hate graffiti around the country. If you consider that, on top of everything, the Catalans – according to the Wall Street Journal – have been fiscally fleeced more than any region on the European continent, what's really surprising is not that they're leaving, but that they've taken such a very, very long time to decide to do so. 

Matthew Tree, Catalonia Today, novembre de 2012

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