divendres, de novembre 23, 2012

Catalonia tales: 'Independence began as something small in my heart' As Catalonia prepares for a vote which could redraw the map of Spain, Jon Henley goes in search of ordinary people's stories. (THE GUARDIAN, 23-11-2012)

Civil servant Marta describes her growing desire for independence Catalan autonomy protest, Barcelona, July 10, 2010 For Marta Masats, as for many here, Catalonian independence has not been the goal of a lifetime. The fervour that brought 1.5m people on to the streets in September and looks set to return a pro-independence majority to the regional parliament on Sunday has taken time to develop. A 46-year-old civil servant at the Catalan Statistics Institute, she has pictures of herself as a child on the first big pro-independence rally of modern times in 1977, when the chant – at that stage, there were still Catalan activists in prison – went: "Freedom, Amnesty, Autonomy." Then came the reward of Catalonia's autonomous status in 1979, and soon after, the victory of Socialist Felipe González in Spain's general elections of 1982. Marta went off to university with other things on her mind. "Independence then was something far off, on the distant horizon," she says. "The movement felt marginal. I wasn't that interested. Catalonia was ruled by the right; my priority was a leftwing government here. For me, independence started to feel like a serious goal after [conservative José María] Aznar became prime minister, in 1996. Especially after his re-election, when he began to impose his view of Spain as a kind of Castilian state." By 2006, when Catalonia was holding a referendum on a new regional constitution that would have given it much greater autonomy, Marta was voting no: "I wanted more. It wasn't enough. And when the Spanish constitutional court finally rejected it, that was it – even my mother, 87 years old, not even born in Catalonia, she said: 'Now we need independence.'" So it has been a near 40-year journey, Marta says. "Independence began as something small in my heart. I had other things on my mind. But slowly, surely, it has moved up my agenda, as it has for very many Catalans, I think. And now it is what we want, more than anything else." The September independence rally felt, in a way, as if life had come full circle: "A huge party! So much happiness, such a great feeling. A real family day. I went with my husband and my two kids; I have photos of my daughter, the same kind of age as I was in 1977, with her face painted in the Catalan colours." Marta has no illusions that independence, if and when it comes, will be easy. As a civil servant, she has seen her salary cut by 20% in the last couple of years. Her husband is not earning much either. "But if we are going to be poor for the next 10 years, I'd rather be poor building a new state," she says. "I could not bear to be poor and still part of Spain. The way Madrid has treated us; the arrogance, the short-sightedness. The refusal to listen, to co-operate, to offer the most basic respect. I'm tired now; tired of talking about independence. I want to get on with it, make something new. Get back to real politics."