Twilight in the Square

By the time you read this, the Catalan elections will have been over and done with and lord only know what else will have happened: perhaps the Catalan parliament has been shut down by paramilitary police; perhaps Washington is desperately trying to persuade Madrid not to bomb Barcelona; or perhaps the unionists won by a landslide. Writing as I am on September 7th, I haven't got the foggiest. One thing's for sure, though: the pro-independence campaign was a one-of-a-kind, unique-in-Europe affair, something I only realised personally when, at 7pm, I stumbled into a rally in the Plaça Major of Banyoles (a town not far from Girona). The place was packed tight enough for walking to become onerous. The main speakers belonged to the coalition called Junts pel Sí ('Together for Yes') one of the two parties running on a pro-independence ticket. First on was Artur Mas, the Catalan president and the leader of a social democratic party not unlike the UK's Lib-Dems. For years, Mas and his party had cultivated an image of somewhat pompous staidness until, on the Catalan National Day of 2012, one and a half million of his fellow Catalans demonstrated in favour of the right to leave Spain. This impressed him enough to set the current independence process formally in motion. After his speech (the light was starting to fade in the Plaça Major, the three thousand people gathered there were turning grey) came the turn of Lluís Llach, a legendary left-wing singer-songwriter who had been harassed then forced into exile by Franco's minions, who has 33 albums to his credit and whose protest song 'L'estaca' has been adopted by the Perpignan Rugby Club, the Polish union Solidarnosc, and the Tunisian Revolution of 2011. He was followed by Raul Romeva, an eco-socialist who was a respected refugee worker in Bosnia and later stood out – who wouldn't? - as a hard-working EMP between 2004 and 2014. As dusk turned into dark, the strangeness of having seen three men of such different backgrounds and beliefs and generations talk on the same platform in favour of the same issues, finally sunk in. Earlier the same day, all three speakers and many more people active in the same party had called on Catalan municipalities across the land to take in Syrian refugees. In previous Catalan autonomous elections, even if I'd been eligible to vote – which, like 600,000 Catalan taxpayers who don't hold a Spanish passport, I wasn't and am not – I probably wouldn't have bothered, believing as I did in the old Anarchist adage which states that if voting could change anything, it would be illegal. But this September, for the first time ever, anywhere, I had an inkling that voting might change a very great deal. Whether I was right or not, we will all know well enough by now. 

Matthew Tree, Catalonia Today, octubre de 2015


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