Marina Daroca Bazán

I am writing these lines tonight, hours before the President of the Autonomous community of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, potentially declares the secession of Catalonia fromSpain. I am bitter and concerned about what has happened in Catalonia these previous weeks and how tomorrow and the following days’ decisions discussed on the parliament will affect the future of my loved ones. 

At the same time, I am conscious and fully supportive of what we have wanted from the early beginning: the right to decide; Yes or No;  specifically, the right to democratically decide. 

According to Article I of the Charter of United Nations, Catalonia’s main argument has always expressed self-determinations as the right of people and the Spanish government has always given deaf ears, and, blind eyes to a growing, strong-beating reality. As Spain’s central government denied every chance, Catalonia tried unyieldingly to reach an agreement to settle their conditions and timing — but Catalonia’s government saw only one possible outcome. 

On Oct. 1, 2017 the “illegal referendum” took place and police following Court requests tried to stop it. The police engaged in tampering and destroying ballots, arresting political figures, violating personal mail, repressing civilians on the streets by the use of force, closing down Catalan internet websites, intimidating media and voting centers (a.k.a schools), and calling to testify against city council mayors. 5.2 million Catalan people were called to vote; roughly2.2 million managed to and nearly one-million votes were captured by theNational Police and the Guardia Civil. 800 were injured by police aggression. And through all those aggressions there was still a 92% population approval for the independence of Catalonia. 

I cannot fully explain my opinion and feelings without first providing a cultural, linguistic, and economic historical background of what Catalonia has gone through in the past to correlate it to what it is living today and how deep and severe the issue is.

In the 12th century the region of Catalonia began developing new institutions that granted certain powers over its own region as the “Generalitat de Catalunya” and “Consell de Cent.” This gave Catalonia the power to handle issues in its own land as well as the complete adaptation of Latin into a new language, Catalan. Those were very convulsive times for Spain, which was suffering from wars, dynastic problems and families of kings that succeeded one another: Trastamara dynasty, Austrian dynasty, Austrian dynasty, and Bourbon dynasty — the Bourbon dynasty still holds power in the Spanish monarchy chain today. After The War of Spanish Succession against Charles III of the Habsburg Dynasty, the Bourbon dynasty abolished for first time the institutions of self-government of Catalonia on Sept. 11, 1714 and Castilian was imposed as the one-and-only official language. 

That was the start of the oppression that would be continuously suffered by Catalan society for the next centuries leading to today. With the prohibition imposed, Catalan grew stronger on the streets. It developed into a mark of national conscience;  it was the start of Catalan nationalism. 

In the 20th century, Catalonia lived the greatest freedoms with the proclamation of the Second Republic in Spainand the worst of repression with Franco’s dictatorship, which started in 1939. The regime persecuted and murdered those who thought differently to the regime. Due to its idiosyncrasies , Catalonia was harshly punished during those years: Catalan was once again prohibited , and institutions were once againabolished, politicians and intellectuals were imprisoned, killed, or exiled until the end of Franco’s life and his dictatorship, which also died with him in 1975.  

In 1978,  with the transition to democracy, the constitution was written and divided Spain into 17 autonomous communities, and although Catalonia received a considerable amount of autonomy, it did not achieve full sovereignty,  which was an important issue among some sectors of the Catalan society. The constitution also stipulated that it was the duty of the State to collect and redistribute taxes to ensure stability throughout the country. But here comes the economic conflict: throughout time, Catalonia began to claim that the financiation of the taxes was damaging, and theyensured to be providing more money than they received. To solve this, the Catalan parliament approved a reform of the autonomy statute in 2010 that was promised to be successful by Spanish leaders, even though the reform was blocked by Central Administration initiatives at Constitutional Court. This caused millions of Catalans to be enraged.  

The year 2012 caused a shift in balance, which moved into the direction in asking for the right to decide about our own management of capital as well as our own management as an independent country. Catalonia’s government tried to negotiate and explain Catalonia’s aspiration, but once again they weren’t listened to. 

Catalonia has a strong foundation of Catalan nationalist spirit that has been preserved for decades in its communities and families with Catalan ancestors, but that isn’t my case. I have always loved Spain; I have always loved Catalonia; My parents raised me speaking Castilian at home, and I would continue to speak it throughout all my schooling as well as with most of my friends in Catalan. 

When it came to voting on Oct. 1, the Catalan society was more united than ever for a unique and simple reason: democracy. It was nota matter of independence from Spain —  it was a matter of us, as citizens, having the right to decide. My father voted “Yes” and my mother voted “No”. And what I didthat 1st of October was cry. I cried that day for what was being done to my people in the streets that I have grown up on. I cried because of not being heard.  I cried for democracy. 

How am I supposed to feel pride for Spain when its own central government allows such repression in a contemporary European society? We have been asking since Oct. 3 for International Mediation and the Central Administration of Spain, butSpain is not willing to attend any offers or accept any advice either. As of today, our Catalan President has no other way out than calling for independence. If no one from the United Nationsorother International institutions or governments give any other alternatives to this abhorrent conflict in Catalonia, Puigdemont and many other officials will probably face court demands of 20-year jail sentences. This is all because the main parties in Spain do not want to see that our Constitution from 1978 surpasses the old one. A constitution that was okay for a transition period into a democracy, but not for a democratic country of the 21st century. 

Not today, not tomorrow, but we will decide. In the meantime, we will peacefully keep replacing our sufferings, sadness, and frustrations, with humor. We will look for smiles and laughs to relax our minds and refuse this wave of incomprehensible impasse and storming clouds.