October 1

Not many days left in September. Bought our first set of ecological logs yesterday for our wood burner, nicely named ‘the Hobbit’ (should be getting some commission for that mention?) as from the end of October we will be lighting up right through to March. Seems crazy haring had so many heat waves this year. A small change, but as we head to October 1 there is potentially a very big change in Spain. Spain is divided into 17 comunidades, one of the bigger ones and the richest is Cataluña with its capital being the well known city of Barcelona. On October 1 the Catalan government is intent on having a referendum concerning Independence. The central government (based in Madrid) is in total opposition to that and the courts have deemed it illegal.The BBC article gives a fair report on where things are at. It seems Madrid will not put troops in to Cataluña to block the vote, but there are very real threats of a significant number of arrests. Likewise it seems the Catalan government will not back down and last night the campaign was launched at a public rally. The president of the Catalan government, Puigdemont, even cracked a joke last night about all the legal action against them: ‘From lawsuit to lawsuit until the referendum.’

Of course there is history that lies behind all the tension. My take is probably very inadequate on it all but I will have a go. Spain consisted of a number of independent kingdoms, the two of Aragon and Castile being the most prominent and it was when there was a marriage between Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabel of Castile (1469) that there was a movement toward a unified Spain which was formalised in 1516. Cataluña was not a separate kingdom in this period but was subject to Aragon.

In the war of succession, the outcome of which is what gave Britain Gibraltar and the Spanish slave trade (1713), established the Bourbon family as the royal family of Spain. Cataluña was punished for its opposition to the Bourbon king (as was Valencia and Aragon), resulting in the Catalan constitutions being abolished and with it the Catalan and Valencian parliaments and their rights. The Catalan universities were suppressed and the administrative use of the Catalan language was abolished. Mid way through the 1700s the Catalan language would also be banned from primary and secondary schools.

In the period of the Second Republic (1931-39) Catluña and the Basque Country was given space and even favour that could have opened the door to independence. Franco resisted this, conquering Spain for Spain and for God, and he treated both Cataluña and the Basque country oppressively. Again post-Civil war the language was suppressed.

Not being a fan of centralisation, and certainly not being a fan of oppressive centralisation I have huge sympathies with the Catalans, but… living here in the Valencia communidad (the one directly south of Cataluña) there would be a strong sense that often what Madrid is to Barcelona, Barcelona is to Valencia. Cataluña would really like to include Valencia and the Balearics in this movement to independence. After all the languages are so close (much closer than Scottish Gaelic / Irish / Welsh) and the Spanish government recognises them as sharing one language.

It is hard to know how this will be resolved. Two pretty intransigent positions with a load of history behind it all. Having travelled as we have and come to the conclusion that ‘convivencia’ (sharing life in the same space and time / co-habiting) is part of the Pauline Gospel it was interesting to come back to a statement from Puigdemont that nothing will break ‘conviencia’ in Cataluña.

Rights and wrongs, and how much can ever be settled at a ballot box or politically? But the way of Jesus, that third way is what is so needed in our world. I have sympathies with Cataluña but whenever I seek to address the situation in prayer, it is hold back, don’t go.

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2 thoughts on “October 1

  1. So Martin, this independence vote appears to be heating up. Just read that Madrid has taken over local policing in a bid to stop the vote. Heavy handed reactive actions certainly play into the narrative of those seeking independence. How do you see it going there on the ground?

  2. Great analysis of the complexity of the situation. I am watching the reports of violence on voting day – seems the Spanish government has found a great way to harden attitudes for independence and to move those still undecided to a position of seeking a way to minimize the relationship with Madrid. Interesting choice of action from the Spanish gov’t – almost guaranteed to backfire.

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