Scenes of Spanish police beating people trying to vote in an Independence Referendum in Catalonia have disturbed us all. Here our good friend Enric Ravello Barber gives an insight into both the historical background to the conflict and current events.
Catalonia was one of the first zones of the Iberian Peninsula by which the Indo-European entered in it, giving place to what was called the “Culture of the fields of ballot boxes” in German Urnenflederkultur. On this substrata was built the so-called “Iberian culture”, not by any change of population but by cultural and religious influences of other peoples of the Mediterranean
Catalunya was deeply Romanized and later it was one of the areas with the most Gothic influence of the Iberian peninsula. After the Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula (711) several resistance areas were formed, one of them in the Pyrenean zone, which were protected by Charlemagne in what was called the “Marca Hispanica”. The Eastern part of this “Marca Hispanica” is where Catalonia was born, as a people, a language and a political entity, with the symbiosis of the Gothic and Gallo-Hispanic-Romanic elements.
Catalonia ceased belong to the Carolingian empire with the arrival to the throne of Wilfredo the Hairy (IX century), a noble Goth, who is the author of the Catalan flag, which symbolizes blood (red) and shield (yellow) poured into the fight against the Muslims to conquer the territory of the present Catalonia. The Principat of Catalonia joined the kingdom of Aragon and together they formed the Crown of Aragon (XII century), probably the most powerful state in the medieval western Mediterranean.
In 1492 Isabel of Castile married Ferdinand of Aragon the so-called “Catholic Kings”, this didn´t suppose at all the “unity of Spain”, but the unity of the crowns, that is to say both crowns will always have the same king, but both states (Castilla and Aragon-Catalonia) continue working practically independently. In 1700 with the death of the last Spanish Hapsburg King, Charles II, that there was a war to inherit the Spanish crowns. Felipe V of Bourbon won, supported by Castile, while Catalonia supported the Habsburg house. Felipe V brings from France, his model of a centralist state and imposes it on the defeated Catalans. Catalonia passes to the dominion of Castilla-Spain through “military conquest” as stated in the corresponding law. Catalonia loses all its laws and freedoms in this moment.
Nationalism in Catalonia
Catalunya loses its own institutions until in 1914 the “Mancomunitat Catalana” was born resurrected, this is accompanied by the birth of Catalan nationalism with a clear Volkish component, a cultural movement called Renaixença, and an awakening of the national consciousness with the first manifestations of protest.
This movement was a typical popular nationalism, of vindication of the past, of national pride, like most ethno-völkish movements of the XIX century.
The Spanish policy
During those years the Spanish centralist politics followed the growing Catalan demand, the forces of the Spanish right were the most opposed to any concession of self-government in Catalonia, leading Catalan nationalism to lean toward the left.
During the Second Republic autonomy was granted to Catalonia, and that is a major reason why Catalan nationalism sided with the Republicans against Franco who denied any autonomy. This, together with Franco´s policy of centralism and repression of the Catalan (language, institutions, etc.) brought Catalan nationalism closer to the left.
After Franco’s death, an autonomic regime was established in Spain, but instead of giving autonomy only to “special” areas (Catalonia, Basque Country, Galicia …) it is given to all regions, with which Catalonia demands a greater recognition of its specificity.
The road to Independence?
In 2010 the Catalan Parliament approved a new Catalan Statute, by an absolute majority that came into force, but which was later annulled by the Spanish State. Since 2012 the Catalans see independence as the only option for them, it is when the demonstrations begin and the political movements that culminated in the referendum of 1st October, with a great victory for independence.
In the coming weeks we will have to see the reaction of Spanish politicians, and the ability of Catalan politicians to keep their promises … or to betray the Catalan people to whom they have promised independence.