Fight for Catalonia

Graham Dano

 I was out of the country to study abroad in Barcelona around two years ago. 

The city is rich in culture, cuisine and campos de futbol, or soccer stadiums. 

Their soccer team, FC Barcelona, is one of the best in the world, and many IWU students have heard of its star player, Lionel Messi. 

The city is filled with history from the time of the ancient Iberians and Romans to the present. 

For a history major like me, there is probably no greater place to study due to the ruins, remains and historical buildings. 

Many don’t know about Barcelona’s current political turmoil. 

The people that live in Barcelona and the surrounding region of Catalonia- the Catalan people-voted to leave the nation of Spain to form an independent country. 

The central Spanish government in Madrid was not on board with losing such a vital part of their tourism economy. 

Federal police, or Guardia Civil, were sent in to stop the vote from being carried out and destroy polling stations. 

The Catalan people bravely resisted, and as a result, many were beaten and thrown in jail. 

The president of the Catalan General Assembly, or Generalitat, Carles Puidgemont, fled to seek refuge in Brussels, Belgium, as there is currently a warrant out for his arrest on the charges of sedition and treason. 

The current president of the Assembly decided to postpone his re-inauguration following new elections that Madrid ordered to take place. 

There is a sinister precedent to its blatant flouting of democratic governmental practice. 

For decades under fascist dictator, Francisco Franco, the Catalan people were strictly forbidden from speaking and writing their own language and practicing their unique cultural traditions. 

Democracy was restored when Franco died in 1975, and Catalonia was granted more self-autonomy under the Constitution of 1978. 

The constitution promised liberty and equality for all “the peoples of Spain,” which includes Catalans, Spaniards and several other ethnicities such as Gallicans and Basques. 

Catalans were still not truly free, and a referendum was held last fall to determine once and for all its status within Europe. 

The main issues for Catalans were its unequal representation at the national level, excessive taxation from a distant, pompous king and a disregard for their unique identity. 

Does this not sound like other revolutions in the past 240 years?

The United States should support Catalan independence from Spain considering how our country declared independence under similar circumstances and our history of supporting self-determination. 

After World War I, when the Treaty of Versailles was being hammered out, President Woodrow Wilson said that “‘Self-determination;’ is not a mere phrase; it is an imperative principle of action”. 

As a result, the nations of Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and many others in Eastern and Central Europe were formed. 

We should go back to our belief in self-determination and assist in the formation of a free Catalonian Republic. It would be an insult to our history and theirs to not do so.