Catalonia, history and independence

Do you see from a historical perspective any plausible claim for independence of Catalonia or maybe it is more about myths, perceptions and political constructs? (Of course, for better or worse myths are usually politically important for the nations). Read few comments.

Carsten Humlebæk, Associate professor, Department of International Business Communication, Copenhagen Business School

Well that really depends a lot: Catalonia was never really independent in the form we know it today. Most recently it was a part of the Kingdom of Aragón (1479 – 1714) although they were at war with the Spanish kings a couple of times. Portugal succeeded in getting away from Castile, but Catalonia didn’t! It was as a part of the Kingdom of Aragón that Catalonia lost the last privileges in 1714 due to loosing the war of succession to France. That loss is a central part of the Catalan myth of victimhood: the anniversary – 11th of September – is the national day and in football matches in Barcelona stadium usually the time 17 minutes and 14 seconds is marked in some way!!!

Anyway: what the current race towards independence forgets (and silences) is that Catalonia until 5-7 years ago was one of the regions in Spain with the highest level of double identity: people were able to feel both Catalan and Spanish in various proportions without great difficulty. Now of course, that is getting increasingly difficult and a larger proportion of the people are in favour of independence. But they still do not have a majority and for the 2-3 last years the polls have been remarkably stable: some 40-45% support independence from Spain – thus suggesting that the polarisation of these last two years have not had such a great effect. It is after all not likely that these characteristics change dramatically over a short period of time, but in the climate that secessionists parties have favoured in Catalonia, the ones who are against secession remain silent. That fact remains the largest problem for the secessionist project, one that they ignore by not wanting to bother about the ‘silent majority’. Now, it is pretty obvious that the secessionist project right now is to agitate the situation as much as possible making the Spanish state (forgetting that they themselves are part of the Spanish state) and the Spanish government react in ways which can be interpreted as repressive thereby perhaps convincing some of the doubtful people into real secessionists. But so far, polls have shown no clear effect. They also take advantage of the fact that a very large majority of Catalans favour a referendum on the question which in face of the Rajoys absolute negative makes a good case for their narrative of oppression and that they are the real ‘democrats’.

Lacking a clear majority in the population and doing all they can to split and polarize the population the secessionists run a great risk: when eventually a referendum of some kind (I think that some kind of referendum is inevitable sooner or later) will take place and if they loose, they risk being put into oblivion being associated with a profound social trauma and a period that a majority of the Catalans by then will prefer to forget, a bit like it has happened in Canada. Therefore I really think that the secessionists should care much more about what the silent majority thinks and feels instead of just ‘othering’ and ‘stigmatizing’ them. Democracy is precisely about this: about caring and listening to those who think differently than yourself searching for common ground, which makes it all the more ironic that the secessionists are marketing themselves as the ‘real democrats’.

Francisco Romero SalvadoReader in Modern Spanish History, University of Bristol

No, there was never a state (independent) called Catalonia. During the reconquista (800 hundred years of war against the Muslims), Catalonia – then a group of diverse counties, being the most important that of Barcelona, formed part of the Kingdom of Aragon. In fact, the heiress of Aragon married the then Count of Barcelona

Of course, it is all about ‘imagined communities’ , something that was well analyzed in Anderson’s book by that title. Catalonia has, of course, differential elements that could increase that myth: the main one is the language but also the more industrial and prosperous economy.

One Response

  1. rather useful, thak you

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