Catalonia, a region in the north of Spain most famous for containing Barcelona, is in the process of trying to become an independent state. There are divided opinions on the subject, so we interviewed Max, an 18 year old proud Catalan who lives just north of Barcelona, to tell us a little bit more.
1. Hola Max! What’s the current situation in Catalonia?
Hi! Well, currently Catalonia is in a sovereignist process in which we are trying to separate from Spain, to become an independent state. This process started after the massive demonstration (more than 2 million people on the streets) that was held in Barcelona the 11th of September of 2012 and the situation is now in a crucial state. The Catalan people are asking the Spanish government to let them vote in a referendum, but the answer is always no. Nevertheless, a date for the referendum has already been fixed by the Catalan government for later this year: 9/11/14.
2. Why do you want Catalonia to be an independent state?
I want Catalonia to become an independent state for many reasons. First of all, because I do not feel Spanish at all. We have our own language, flag, institutions and traditions which are almost 1000 years old. Catalonia has only been part of Spain for the last 300 years. Before being defeated by Felipe V, Catalonia was, along with Aragón and País Valencià, a sovereign country (Corona catalanoaragonesa). Through these 300 years of Spanish occupation of Catalonia, we have been abused day after day and year after year. The Catalan language and the Catalan institutions have been banned several times through these 300 years in an attack on the Catalan nation. Therefore, I don’t want to be part of a state which hates me and which has been unfair to mine.
Secondly, I want Catalonia to be an independent state also for economical reasons. Catalonia is one of the most prosperous regions of Spain, and as an Autonomous Community (AC), each year it gives a large amount of money to the Spanish government. The thing is that, although being one of the AC that gives the most money to the Spanish state, it is the one which receives the least money back. Every year Catalonia loses 16 thousand million euros to Spain. This is a very important amount of money that would prevent the Catalan government to use restrictive policies and to cut the budget if we were independent. We are also abused in many other ways. Catalan students are the ones who are given less scholarships, Catalonia is one of the the few AC with tolls, and the investments in the improvement of the railway system are ridiculous compared to those made in AC like Madrid, Andalucia or Castilla La Mancha, which are AC that give much less money to Spain than Catalonia. The centralism of Spain harms the catalan economy so much, and the situation in unsustainable.
3. Do you think it would be a problem to come from a country with such an unusual language spoken by only 11 million people? Would schools only teach in Catalan or would students learn Castilian too?
Not at all. I’m very proud of being a Catalan speaker. Catalan is such a cultivated and historical language and the fact of being bilingual is so useful. Catalan dates back to the XI century and played a great role in the Middle Ages. Great and famous novels have also been written in the region, like Tirant Lo Blanch, the first chivalry novel ever. Plus the language is spoken in four countries ( Spain, Andorra, France and Italy) which gives the language more repercussion. If Catalonia became independent, Castilian wouldn’t stop being taught in school since bilingualism is one of the things that defines Catalonia. And as former members of Spain, it would be nonsense to stop teaching Castilian.
4. When is the soonest that Catalonia could become an independent state?
I think the soonest Catalonia could be independent is 2015. Providing, of course, that the answer to the referendum were yes. If the referendum eventually couldn’t be celebrated, there’d be plebiscitary elections and 2015 would also be the soonest Catalonia could be independent.
5. Do all your Catalan friends agree with you? Do most people have strong opinions, or do some not care whether it becomes independent?
Yes, the vast majority of my friends are in favour of independence – up to 90% of them. Although there are people who don’t care very much, almost everybody has his respective opinion about the subject. And there are also some people in the region who don’t want Catalonia to become an independent state but want it to become a federal state of Spain, like the Socialist Party of Catalonia, PSC.
Read about a famous Catalan tradition here
Read about Barcelona here
Read about Catalonia’s national day here
Read about another Catalan city, Girona, here
Read about a novel set in Catalonia here
Whilst this was written by a British author, it’s about the Spanish Civil War and therefore totally counts as Spanish. Whilst many are familiar with George Orwell‘s Down and Out in Paris and London/ Animal Farm/ 1984, far fewer know about Homage to Catalonia. While this may seem very superficial of me, I was in two minds about starting this novel as the cover seemed rather dull (I know, I know, so stupid of me). However, it’s surprisingly readable! Orwell describes the Civil War in a way which really makes it come alive, something I haven’t really come across before, and it opened my eyes to the harsh realities soldiers faced, much like those in WW1. I’d recommend Homage to Catalonia to people with zero knowledge of the Spanish Civil War – it really does teach you about it in an accessible manner, and for anyone studying Spanish or Spanish culture, the civil war is something we need to know about. It doesn’t even take that long to read!
Human Towers or castells in Catalan, are (as the name says) human towers that have been built in Catalonia for more than two centuries. It was initially the final icing of a dancing called ball dels valencians but with the time they acquired more and more importance and finally emancipated from the ball. Castells are built by colles castelleres all around Catalonia . There are plenty of colles castelleres in Catalonia,with Els castellers de Vilafranca and Colla vella dels xiquets de Valls being the most famous ones. Every two years Tarragona hosts the most important Castells competition which is seen by ten thousands of people in the Tarraco Arena. On Novermber 16, 2010, castells were declared by UNESCO as Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Since then, castells have been performed in several places such as New York or recently, London.
– Max, Barcelona
Pa amb tomàquet, literally translated as bread with tomato, is a very popular recipe in Catalonia, north Spain. It is also the most simple one, because it only consists on tomato spread over bread and a little bit of virgin olive oil. Then you can add some nice cheese , ham, llonganisa (typical catalan food) or whatever you want. It is also perfect for sandwiches, as it is a complete meal with vitamines, carbohydrates and fiber. The first written reference is from 17th century and was found in the book “Modo de cuynar a la mallorquina” from Jaume Martí Oliver, so following this reference, Pa amb tomàquet is 400 years old.
– Max, Barcelona
Today is the National Day of Catalonia, a region in the north-east of Spain (where Barcelona is). Originally for commemorating the defeated Catalan troops in the War of the Spanish Succession (from 1701 to 1714), the national day was brought back in 1980 by the Catalonian government after Franco’s dictatorship ended. Now, on the National Day there are events and celebrations in Catalan villages as well as demonstrations in favour of Catalonia becoming an independent state, separate to Spain. Many Catalonians want independence from Spain, including teenagers. Today in Barcelona, there’s a big, non-violent march through the centre of the city( in which people of all ages will participate) where people are expressing their views. It’s going to be interesting to see how the Spanish government will react…