We recommend Ricard Gonzàlez and Jaume Clotet’s article “Spanish Prisoners” published in The New York Times.
History can follow a capricious path, sometimes meandering slowly for decades only to accelerate abruptly and take a vertiginous turn. The immediate cause of Catalonia’s sudden outbreak of secessionist fever is so-called fiscal looting. The region accounts for about one-fourth of Spain’s exports. But for every euro Catalans pay in taxes, only 57 cents is spent in the region. Before taxes, Catalonia is the fourth richest of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions. After taxes, it drops to ninth — a form of forced redistribution unparalleled in contemporary Europe.
(…) But money isn’t the only cause of secessionist sentiment. We Catalans have long been attached to our distinct identity and never accepted the loss of national sovereignty after being defeated by the Spanish monarchy in 1714. For three centuries, Catalonia has striven to regain its independence. Most attempts to establish a state were put down by force. The “Catalan question” was a major catalyst of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, and Gen. Francisco Franco’s dictatorship harshly repressed Catalan culture.
At the core of Catalonia’s unique identity is the Catalan language, which is distinct from Spanish. Since the re-establishment of Spain’s democracy in 1977 and Catalonia’s autonomy in 1979, Catalan has been revived in the region’s schools. However, a recent ruling by Spain’s Constitutional Court threatens this policy. To most Catalans, our language is a red line. If the current system of autonomy can’t guarantee protection of it, independence is the only solution.
The independence movement is not driven by hatred of Spain. Catalan nationalism is civic and cultural, unlike the ethnic nationalism that has so often plagued Europe. Indeed, most of the two million Spaniards who migrated to Catalonia in the 1960s and ’70s are today fully integrated and many of them have embraced secessionist ideals.
(…) Unfortunately, the Catalan demands for self-determination have so far been met with threats and contempt by the Spanish government. This attitude differs starkly from that of the British prime minister, David Cameron, who has been negotiating with Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, over a scheduled 2014 referendum on Scottish secession from the United Kingdom.
Spain’s Constitution may not permit regions to secede, but the principles of democracy and justice necessitate finding a political solution to Catalonia’s demands. In a world where deep-seated national grievances often lead to violence, Catalans offer the example that peaceful change is possible. Denying Catalans the right to self-determination would be an affront to the democratic ideals that Spain, and Europe, claim to embrace