Sunday, October 01, 2017

The Catalan independence vote

Banners supporting Catalan and Basque separatism on a political party building in Bilbao
During the entire month we were walking in Spain, the impending October 1 regional referendum on Catalan secession dominated news media. Whenever we caught a glimpse of a newspaper or a few minutes of TV news in a bar, the separatist effort in the Barcelona region overwhelmed all other topics. (Even Trump. That was sort of restful.)

The situation is very complex, arising from centuries of historic grievances complicated by contemporary differences between a conservative federal government in Madrid and a pro-independence regional government. The national government has outlawed the referendum; it is not at all clear whether any of this is going to reveal the desires of a majority of Catalans.

Some of the apparently most complex coverage, sympathetic but honest, I've seen of the Catalan situation in English has been in the Guardian. Perhaps a British newspaper, with experience with Scottish and other regional independence movements, is better at this than U.S. media. In any case, for more substantive information, read them, not me. I know little.

But I can share an observation from our walk on the Camino that may cast a weak light. In the north of Spain, the home language of many or even most people is not what we think of as "Spanish." In Spain, "Spanish" means Castilian and that is what people call it. Catalan is the co-official language the Mediterranean coast, of Catalonia. In the Basque country, people and their street signs, use Euskara. As we walked west, signs changed languages. In Asturias, though the language is not officially co-equal, Asturian is the mother tongue. And in Galicia, the province's official language is Galician, which speakers of the majority Castilian Spanish think of as akin to Portuguese. This map shows the language distribution; like so much in Spain's rich diverse fabric, it's complicated.


Rain Trueax said...

I just wish so many of these disagreements didn't end up in violence ;(. I especially wish it since our son is in Barcelona on business this week. The countries that can settle things without rage turning to riots are to be admired the most.

Hattie said...

Good background here:

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