Is it a country? A nation? A region of Spain? "Oh, and do they speak Catalan?"
We are currently living in a time of change and this can seem very disconcerting to anyone who hasn’t lived here so long. It is difficult to understand the situation because of the complexity of Catalan society and the long list of reasons that have led to people considering breaking away from Spain.
And Barcelona? Well, the city is a reflection of what happens in Catalonia as a whole. The main governing bodies of the Catalan region are located here and this is also where the big demonstrations and the parliamentary decisions take place that we then read about in newspapers around the world.
Recently there has been a lot of movement among the different parliamentary parties and we can see that although a majority of members of Parliament are in favour of a referendum on independence (Junts x Sí, CUP, and Catalunya Sí que es Pot), there are three parties that flatly refuse to even talk about it (PP, PSC and Ciutadans). In the last few years, the Catalan people have been trying to gain more autonomy in the areas of education, transport, and the building of a consensus that would allow Catalonia to be able to manage its own economy. In fact ex-president Artur Mas has tried many times to negotiate with Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, and has always left the Moncloa (seat of the Spanish Government in Madrid) without being able to reach any kind of deal.
Therefore, faced with this refusal of the Spanish government to negotiate or, for example, the ferocious attempts by the former Minister of Education, Jose Ignacio Wert, to make Spanish the main language of the Catalan education system, several initiatives have taken place in Catalonia since 2013, not for independence itself, but just for the opportunity to have a referendum which would allow the people to decide their future, as has happened in Scotland or Quebec.
So while this idea would seem to be completely legitimate and obviously acceptable, we realize that freedom of expression and democracy are still lacking in the Spanish Constitution. This is disturbing because it reminds us that we are still living in a country that has not fully left behind the era of dictatorship, where power was fully centralized in Madrid and where any attempt to speak out and take autonomous decisions was denied and not even heard.
Faced with the refusal to allow the people to decide, a new platform, Reinicia Catalunya, has been created, made up of 13 organizations throughout Catalan society, which has established a plan to draft the text of a future Catalan Constitution, in the broadest and most open, participatory and democratic way possible.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Parliament has agreed to hear the request of the parliamentary majority created by Junts x Sí and CUP to proceed with the presentation of three new laws (the so-called lleis de desconnexió), creating a legal framework, tax regime and social security model. However, the three minority parties who oppose this (PP, PSC and Ciutadans) have threatened to petition the Constitutional Court of Spain (the highest legal authority in Spain) if the Bureau of Parliament rejects their request to reconsider.
As we can see, the situation is not easy and it would take quite a few pages of articles to explain just how we got here. We would have to explain a lot of history to understand the tip of the iceberg that is the current situation today, here and now.
(Mar Puchol Cantalozella)