After nearly a month of protesting following Catalonia’s overwhelmingly vote to separate from Spain on Oct. 1, the Spanish government has now moved to fully suspend Catalonia’s autonomy. On Oct. 28, the Spanish government will impose direct rule on the region.
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has so far rejected the decision, sparking more protests over the weekend and prompting the Spanish Government to strip Puigdemont and his regional executive of their positions.
While European media claims that Catalonia’s fight for independence has sunk Spain into its worst constitutional crisis since the restoration of democracy in 1977, the Catalans have a long history of opposing Spanish rule.
Clara Morales is a third-year journalism student at TRU, a Catalan from Barcelona and a supporter of the independence movement. Morales said that she and her family have been long-time independence supporters.
“I guess I’m pro-independence because I want things to change,” Morales said. “I don’t mind being Spanish. I know I have my own culture and my own things, but how things are going now, I want Catalonia to be its own country.”
Morales, her family and many Catalans like her, feel that the lack of dialogue between the Spanish and Catalan governments has led to a breaking point. They see the only solution as a separation referendum.
“I feel like we have been trying to do things right for a long time and the answer of the Spanish government has been, ‘No, no, no,’” Morales said. “Maybe it’s a little bit rushed, but we have no other way to do it. We want to talk about this and they don’t.”
In spite of the massive protests in recent days over the arrest of the separatist leaders, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, there are some Catalans who are against secession.
Currently living and working in the UK, Oriol Salvador is a TRU journalism school alumni and expat Catalan and anti-separatist.
“I have never been pro-independence. My perfect future is a European one with less borders,” Salvador said. “For me, borders are more limitation than anything.”
While Salvador says he didn’t always identify with Spanish values, he identified with his city, Barcelona, more than anything else.
“During International Days at TRU, I would always say I was from Barcelona, I wouldn’t say Spanish, but I wouldn’t go with Catalan either,” he said. “Everyone knows Barcelona. I found it easy to identify with my city, because I’m more of a city boy and that is where I’m from.”
Salvador also believes that the independence movement is getting too polarized, dividing Catalonia into those for and against secession and with no room in between.
“You are either a believer in independence or you aren’t. I use the word believer very intentionally because no one really knows what will happen when it comes to Catalan independence. Like my family was making fun of me for worrying about my savings in the bank, but I’m legitimately worried about that because nobody knows what will happen.”
Though Morales’ and Salvador’s opinions on separation differ, both are concerned about the level of violence police have used on protesters.
“I had a friend who wasn’t directly hit by a rubber bullet, but it was so close to her head that she was freaking out,” Morales said. “My parents are really mad right now. There are all these people saying that we are going back 50 years to Franco’s time.”
“There was just no need for violence,” Salvador said. “It’s dumb to think that it would fix anything.”