Tricia Sans Chan
The Scottish referendum may have left the UK intact after yesterday’s vote, but in another part of Europe, the issue of separation is still a highly politicized one.
“They say it is unconstitutional, to allow us to vote on the matter,” says Angel Calderer of Casal Catala de Vancouver, an organization that brings together Catalonians living in Vancouver.
While the Catalonian parliament has its own statutes and constitution that has established that issues concerning Catalan people are to be decided by Catalonians, the Spanish constitution maintains that Spain is an unbreakable nation, indivisible as a whole.
Interpretation of the law is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Catalan v. Castilian.
“The cultural issue is always at stake,” said Josep Lluiz Perez de Arce of Casal del Paisos Catalans de Toronto, another community group focused on Catalan heritage and culture. “The Spanish government now through education and through what they define as a democratic system wants to impose in Catalan schools that the permanent language should be Castilian, or Spanish. “
Due to a history of oppression and cultural attacks, Catalonians like Perez de Arce really value their distinct language and customs and feel as though they have had to fight to maintain them in the face of an overbearing central government.
““I belong to the older generation,” says Perez de Arce. “Actually I learned my language outside of Catalonia. There was no need for me to go outside Catalonia to learn my home language but Franco’s totalitarian regime forced the unification of our languages.”
Francisco Franco stayed in power for 40 years.
Economically, Catalonia is the powerhouse of Spain.
“We cannot finance our own institutions, our own hospitals,” says Calderer, who adds that sixteen per cent of the population should not have to foot the bill for the rest of the country.
Perez de Arce says the Spanish government is causing an economic problem in Catalonia by not giving the people of the region what they are entitled to.
“If I give you one dollar and you give me 95 cents in return, there will be no complaints. But you give me a dollar and on top of giving a dollar the Spanish government takes $1.45 then automatically there is no way you can manage your own administration your own community, the way Catalan used to do their own things. “
The Nov. 9. referendum will ask two questions: Firstly, should Catalonia be a state? Secondly, do you want that state to be independent?
“I think they should have the right to vote at least,” says Boris Anton, who was born in Mallorca, a region of Spain that identifies as Catalan, but currently resides in Canada with his family. “I don’t think it would be a good time for them to vote for independence, but the process of voting should definitely take place, to see what the people want.”
The official symbol of Catalan independence is the Estelada flag that is displayed prominently at separatist rallies and protests; the independence movement has used it for about a hundred years.
“Every region in Spain has it’s own flag, but I definitely associate the Estelada with Catalonia,” says Anton.
“We believe the way to achieve independence is through peaceful means,” said Perez de Arce. “We believe we can succeed in getting our own independence. Or at least people can choose what they want to be between the Spanish state or independence, the choice is there for them to choose it should not be an imposition.”