The failed 2014 referendum wherein Catalonia sought political independence from Spain brought the regions’ woes to European and international attention. Catalonia, which comprises a region in the far north-east corner of Spain, “is one of Spain’s most industrialised regions, and also one of the most independent-minded,” writes the BBC in their article “Catalonia Profile”. The Catalan region, home to our beloved Barcelona, distinct cultural traits, and a fiery history of political oppression , is home to many Separatist thinkers who believe the region needs autonomy and independence from Spain. Have you ever wondered why?
Catalonia, as a geographically distinct region on the Iberian Peninsula, has been around since the Middle Ages. In 1715, the war of Spanish Succession defined the “modern day” version of Spain as one politically united region. Under Franco’s Spanish Republic in 1938, Catalans suffered extreme injustice as a result of their regional heritage. Franco took control off the Catalan region, killed over 3,500 individuals, and sent many more into exile. It is horrific historical events such as this one which propel the case for Catalan nationalism among Catalan separatists.
The traditional language in Catalonia is “Catalan”, and the language is an officially recognized second language of the region. Teachers, doctors, and civil servants in Catalonia are obliged to be able to communicate in both languages.
The cultural riff between Catalonia and the rest of Spain run deeper than the immense rivalry between their two national soccer clubs, FC Barcelona, and Real Madrid, but let’s just say the football fight represents cultural divide off the field.
In recent years, the more financial trouble Spain faces, the stronger the case for Catalan Separatists. Barcelona is certainly a massive urban centre, and many feel that it unfairly and disproportionately bears the burden of Spain’s financial crisis.
The cultural differences between Catalonia and Spain are remarkable, but thoughts about the need for separation and independence remain divided also. How do centuries of cultural division and, at times, flat-out oppression, play into the collective psyche of both Catalans and Spaniards? For now, inconclusively. Political stances aside, however, it is important to recognize the complex history of these regions, and acknowledge the cultural differences that make Spain and Catalonia so unique.