divendres, de novembre 23, 2012

Catalonia tales: 'read the press in Madrid to see what Spain thinks of us' (THE GUARDIAN, 23-11-2012)

As Catalonia prepares for a vote which could redraw the map of Spain, Jon Henley has gone in search of ordinary people's stories. Here he speaks to staunch independentistas We have been overwhelmed this week by people wanting to speak out in favour of Catalan independence. Such has been the response that we have been unable to publish them all. But here are a selection of views: Alba Barbosa "I am 25, Catalan, unemployed. Although I have always felt Catalan and not Spanish, I haven't been a pro- independence supporter all my life. About eight to 10 years ago I changed my mind when I really realised how unfairly we are being treated by Madrid and rest of Spain. It's enough! Our economic claims are obvious but above of all, it's about respect. I want independence for Catalonia because I am fed up of being offended by Madrid; because I want my culture and language to be respected as I try to respect any other culture, and I do not feel it is treated the way it should be right now. And I want to be independent because I know that we can be better. I guess is not going to be any magic solution to solve our problems, of course it won't. But, what I am sure about is that things cannot get worse, and independence will let us manage our budget, and take decisions without having to wait for Madrid's approval. "Sometimes it's difficult to talk about independence with my friends from Madrid because we don't share the same point of view but there is something that I would like to make clear. I have nothing against people from the rest of Spain, I have really good friends in Madrid and I appreciate them as I do with my Catalan friends. What I cannot accept is the image that politicians and the media have been building against Catalans and Catalonia these last years. What are they afraid about? Why they don't let us to decide whatever we want to be? Is Spain a democratic country? I wish we could be treated as England is treating Scotland. I spent few days in the Edinburgh parliament last April and I was told: "We've got the politicians, but not a strong independence feeling among the citizens; you've got the citizens, although not the politicians". I just cannot wait to 25 November to say yes to independence. Toni Escandell "For the last 30 years, Catalans have been trying to fit into Spain. We only have received misunderstanding and contempt. Now, we need to find understanding and respect beyond our borders. I'm tired of having to explain why I am Catalan. It is like I want to annoy someone or I was against something. No, I'm just Catalan because I feel it. An Englishman, a Scotsman and a Swede does not have to explain it, and nobody asks them why. This is what I want for my country, to be a normal country." Núria Guilayn "I went to the pro-independence rally in September with my husband and daughters. I couldn't help thinking all the time about my grandfather, who lost his right arm fighting in the Spanish civil war. He was one of the last to be enlisted, because he was in his mid-30s and had a wife and child. He fought for Catalonia, for the republic and for liberty. The war changed his life and his family for ever. The postwar generation, my father's, is probably the last to be convinced that independence is the only way out. And that's because they grew up in fear and repression. The Catalans that lived under Franco's dictatorship are still afraid to ask for what should be the right of any nation, the right to decide its own future. "Forty-two years after Franco's death, you only have to read the press in Madrid to see what Spain thinks of Catalonia. Anyone would only wonder why on earth they don't let us go. The answer is obvious: we have been a very important contributor to Spain's treasury for centuries. After many years of wishing and hoping, it seems the time for us to decide has finally arrived. If there is a majority in favour of independence, we will have to rely on international support, because Spain will try to prevent it by all means." Pau Torrent Barranco "I consider myself an independentista. But I'm not a radical one. I do not hate Spain. And I think here there is a lot of hate by both Catalans and Spanish people. Yes, it's true that Spain is not fair with us in many ways, including our taxes. But I do think we've got a better economy and the people who live in Catalonia are different from many other southern citizens of Spain. We are willing to work! We are willing to build a new country, from bottom to top! So why isn't that possible? Because Spain fears losing us. They don't want to give us the option of deciding democratically our future because they fear losing us … or perhaps our money. Let the people vote! Why can the Scots vote and not us? This Sunday I hope [Catalonia president] Artur Mas will win as he's the one who's headed this movement and the one the international community are expecting to win. This will mean this is serious, and that they've got to say something about it." Laura Xicota "One of the main arguments for independence is the economic imbalance that Catalonia is suffering. I have lived that, having to pay for things that are free in other places of the country (ie motorways) or seeing how we pay more taxes than most. If that had been translated into better infrastructures no one would have complaint, but we have one of the worst railway systems and the high-speed train network that was supposed to connect Barcelona with France is still to be finished. "To sum up we are giving more than we are getting. If you had asked me some time ago when I was still a hot-blooded teenager I would have told you that we needed secession as soon as possible no matter the consequences. Right now I am still pro independence, although I think everything needs its time and that it needs to be done in a thoughtful manner." Montserrat Grau "I'm 46 years old. I'm a primary teacher but I'm working like a language assessor for primary and high schools, a town near Barcelona. I'm Catalan, I speak Catalan, I think in Catalan and I don't feel Spanish. There are a lot of people in Catalonia with the same feelings. In my childhood there was Franco's dictatorship and my parents couldn't speak their language in public places. There were a dark period for our culture. More than three centuries suffering Spanish domination. We want to be free. They don't respect us, never. We tried to explain our identity to them but it's impossible. We have a lot of reasons to hate them but we don't. But we have our dignity. That's enough. Now we are living an historical process. We want to decide our present and future, but it will be difficult without international support." Serge Riboti Cantos "I'm independentista and I will tell you the reasons: one of the worst things that can happen to anyone is to be dependent on people who don't loves you. The Spaniards don't love us. They call us pejorative names. They can't stand our different language, they think that Catalans use it only to annoy them. They can't stand our culture, they can't stand our institutions, and our self-government too, but we must remain in Spain anyway! Why? We feel as a people, as a whole nation, and Spanish governments don't want to recognise that. 'The only nation is Spain,' they say. They always use the law, the Spanish constitution, as a wall that Catalans are not allowed to climb. Spaniards understand the constitution as a final point, a full stop. Catalans try to develop it, with an open-minded point of view." Bernat Bardagil "I spent five years [in Canada] between Ottawa and Montreal. I came back to Catalonia a year ago, almost as if I had intended to be here for the big independentista explosion. I really got to see what the situation in Quebec was like, and living there also gave me something of an outsider's perspective on separatism in Catalonia. Needless to say, I would cast a big yes for independence in a referendum. To me, "independence" means opening to Europe and to the whole world and, hopefully, progress, research and welfare. Pere Gabarra "I am 68 years old, divorced and retired. I am a member of many Catalan civil associations working towards independence. I work with them on pensions, showing retired people that claims by Spanish government about us not getting our pensions paid from a Catalan state are incorrect. What we say is that with a Catalan state, the first thing that will happen is that €16.5bn yearly deficit with Spain will now automatically go straight to the Catalan tax office, and with this money we can start investing in better infrastructure, helping small and medium companies to get finance to create jobs and wealth again." Agusti Codina "I'm 53, born in Girona. I'm obviously concerned about the future – but I believe that, in the same way that in a democracy individuals are free to express themselves, nations (communities, like Catalonia, bound by a language, a history and a culture) must be free to decide their own future. Will Spain allow us the Catalans to freely express ourselves in the same way that the UK will allow the Scots? I'm afraid they won't." Joan Saborido "I'm 60. Born in Sabadell, Barcelona, worked in international banking for years. I was not for independence. I love Spain and the Spaniards. They are nice people. I trusted the Spanish constitutional pact after Franco; I thought the 'state of the autonomies' would gradually become a sort of truly federal state. But it is obvious that just a few Spanish regions want that: the Basques, Catalans, and a handful more. Ever since, the People's party (currently in power in Madrid) has thought it had to stop this way of understanding Spain, and has shown in public very ugly signs against the Catalan language, culture and, indeed, self-government. Madrid and the central administration does not reflect at all the fact that Spain should be a multinational state, they are the capital and the government of the old Castille. We have had enough! We have the feeling that, even within a highly worrying economic situation, this country has recovered something that we had lived – and lost – at the time of the transition after Franco: hope! We feel that such a state of common feelings can move huge barriers." Eduard Tardio Capdevila "I'm a 20-year-old student at UPC (Polytechnic University of Catalonia). Catalonia is my nation and Catalan is my language. I was born in Barcelona and I've lived my whole life here. I speak Catalan with my family and friends and I usually use Catalan at university as well. These could be some of the reasons why, although I respect Spain and its people, I don't feel Spanish. Not that I have any problem speaking in Spanish with people who prefer it, of course not. But this is nowhere near what many people in the rest of Spain think about us, the Catalans. Some just don't understand the pluralism of Spain. Many Spanish politicians, in or out of Catalonia, are now clearly showing what kind of people they are and what they want the rest of their compatriots to be. Their tactic is simple: scare and threaten the separatists. From saying that an independent Catalonia would never enter the EU and will be ejected from the euro market, to claiming that drastic measures would be taken because a referendum on independence is prohibited by the Spanish constitution. As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to doubt real democracy in Spain. Besides, there is the economic issue, which is as easy to explain: every year Spain takes 8% of the Catalan GDP to invest in the rest of the country. Despite the lack of respect and abusive authority towards Catalonia, most Catalans don't feel Spanish not only for the reasons above but also because we have our own culture and language, our traditions and way of living and our own institutions." Salvador Martí "I am 65 years old. So, my life is divided between 33 years with the dictator Franco, two with a transition, and 30 with a democracy. I was encouraged by the fact that a democracy would allow my homeland, Catalonia, and her culture, traditions and language, to be recognised as such, accepting that we have a common language: Castilian/Spanish. But 30 years after the beginning of democratic system, a large number of very important Spanish people – living out of Catalonia – have apparently assumed that Catalonia, the land, is Spain. Catalan language, culture and traditions are not. "I don't hate Spain, but I hate some Spain's procedures. A very simple example: why do they think that the prohibition of bullfighting in Catalonia is an attack against Spain and its traditions? I hate bullfighting and consider it a great shame to have this cruel show as the Fiesta Nacional. Why must we accept this "tradition" if a clear majority of our parliament decides to forbid it? And why are we described us "anti-Spanish" for that? Why can't we live as Catalans and be "full Spanish" at the same time? And, what is the problem to let Catalan people express them will and opinion about the future of their country?"