Catalan Independence Declared

La Senyera Catalana. Barcelona, 2015
La Senyera Catalana. Barcelona


Yep, they did it. The Catalan government voted to declare independence.  

No one knows where this goes now. It’s all uncharted territory, as everyone is saying.

We could hear the sounds of the police helicopter overhead last night as enthusiastic Catalans gathered outside the Generalitat at the city’s center. The chopper was just keeping an eye in the sky on things, I guess.

Here are the likely key moves now from Madrid as Rajoy invokes Article 155:

–Dissolve the Catalan Parliament

–Remove and replace the Catalan President, Vice President, Chief of Police, Ministers, and perhaps other high officials of the Catalan government

–Call new elections for December 21st, 2017

As far as life on the street goes, it all seems pretty normal. I can still get my chocolate-filled croissants from the corner bakery, and I still plan on climbing at Montserrat on Sunday. It does look like there will be an anti-independence protest today and I am sure we will see more pro-independence protests at some point as well.

But, I wouldn’t expect any serious violence at all. Both the European Union and the Catalans don’t want that. The latter have always tried to keep this movement tranquil and peaceful over these past years, albeit with constant vocal and popular pressure against the central Spanish government.

There are really no guns around, so its not like there will be an armed insurrection any time soon and no one really expects anything like that. If you have plans to travel to Barcelona, I wouldn’t change them–just don’t step in between the police in riot gear and a crowd wrapped in Catalan flags if you happen upon such an unusual scene. Most anywhere you go you should be fine.

(Not-so-random factoid and violence comparison: Somewhere around 11,000 Americans are killed by guns every year–and there isn’t even a revolution going on there. Folks here cannot even begin to wrap their Mediterranean heads around that statistic and they figure America to be a way more dangerous place to visit.)

Historic Elections Tomorrow (9-27) in Catalunya (Updated with results)

Independence Rally 9-25. Barcelona, 2015
Independence Rally 9-25. Barcelona, 2015


[NOTE: For an excellent, detailed, overview of the significance of the vote, the political parties involved, what the polls say, and so on, see THIS SUMMARY in The Guardian, a UK newspaper.]


Today is a “day of reflection” during which no political activity is allowed. It is a time for each voter to quietly contemplate how they will mark their ballot on Sunday.

Yes, tomorrow could be vewy, vewy intewesting.

Throughout Catalunya, tomorrow, citizens will go to the polls to make their selections for members of their provincial parliament–but, most importantly, it is billed as a vote for or against independence from Spain.

Why is this so, if the ballot actually does not include a specific referendum on independence? Well, if the majority of the Catalan voters select pro-independence candidates then these politicians, once in office, have promised to continue down the road toward an official declaration of independence from the government in Madrid.

Secession, essentially.

What will really happen is anyone’s guess. The polls seem to show a tilt toward independence.

If the vote indeed goes that way, what will Madrid do? Send in the tanks? That would look pretty bad in a peace-loving European Union, especially given that the Catalan independence movement so far has been extremely orderly and peaceful. I see whole families and kids out with their flags at the demonstrations. No extremists or Molotov cocktail-throwing radicals here!

There are pretty good arguments to be made on both sides–and I personally watched that take place last night on the street at the rally in the photograph above. I watched a man with a Catalan flag over his shoulder in a deep, animated, yet relatively cordial, discussion with another man from the party whose slogan is “Junts Millor”, or “Better Together”.

I am not sure how much of the rest o’ the world is paying attention, but there is a very palpable energy and excitement in the air in these parts. What will happen…what will happen?

Standby for an update once the results are known late Sunday night!

EXTRA, EXTRA!!! September 28, 2015: Post Election Update!!!

Well, if you are a supporter of the independence movement you are thrilled because your politicians now have a majority of the seats in the Catalan Parliament–and they have promised to continue pursuing independence (possibly within 18 months!) from Madrid.

On the other hand, if you are a Spanish unionist, you are happy because the separatist candidates did not win a clear majority of the popular vote–and two separatist parties have to band together to make up an absolute secessionist majority of seats in the Catalan Parliament.

So, it was sort of a mixed bag. This will ensure that the Spanish political scene will remain a little unstable into the foreseeable future. As happy as the Catalan independentistas might be, there is a whole pile of work lining the long and winding road ahead–and Rajoy’s Partido Popular will probably need to reassess their so-far failed approach to address Catalan grievances.

Here are links to two pretty thorough New York Times articles (in English) in which the election results are discussed:

Vote Fails to Settle Dispute on Secession by Catalonia

Separatists in Catalonia Win Narrow Majority in Regional Elections

La Senyera Catalana. Barcelona, 2015

La Senyera Catalana. Barcelona, 2015

Catalunya: A New Country?

Young Catalan Protester
Young Catalan Protester. Barcelona, 2010

My wife, being a native Catalana from the city of Barcelona, that portion of what is now northeastern Spain and southern France is near and dear to our hearts. Barcelona is very much like our second home. The Catalans have their own language (and no, it is NOT Castellano!) and a culture and history very distinct from the rest of Spain.

Now, if you have paid any attention at all to European news you know that the economy across the pond is not doing very well–especially in Ireland, Greece, Italy, and now Spain. This has pushed the Catalan population to shout much louder for their independence. Catalunya, being the most productive region of Spain, feels that they are being taken advantage of by the rest of the country.

So, this past September 11th, on the anniversary of Catalunya’s loss of independence in 1714, well over a million Catalans took to the streets calling for separation from Spain.

Now to the photography. This link takes you to a spectacular 360-degree, zoomable image (not mine, it’s from The Telegraph via the La Vanguardia newspaper, I believe) of one such mass demonstration and starts with a performance by one of the traditional castellers, or human castle groups of Catalunya:

Above, I have inserted one of my own images from a similar demonstration for independence in 2010 when we were living in Barcelona.

So, what will happen now to Catalunya? Will the government in Madrid let them go without a fight, political or otherwise? Will that mean separation for the Basque Country, too? Can we see the future in the eyes of this young Catalan protester? Will he grow up in a Catalunya separate from Spain? Time will tell.