Erin LePoire graduated from University of Illinois in Spring 2016, with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies, and Spanish.
The people have spoken, or at least voted, and the regional parliament of Catalonia decided to begin the process of secession from Spain, with hopes of completing it by the year 2017 (Time.com). The likelihood of actually accomplishing secession remains to be seen, but the fact that the process has begun is a big step in and of itself. To look at how Catalonia got here, it is important to review Catalonia’s past.
Catalonia came to be a part of the Frankish Empire in the late 9th and 10th centuries, not becoming a part of the Spanish Empire until the 15th century with the marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand. The war of Spanish secession in the 18th century was a real blow to Catalonian independence, in that the Catalonian state was abolished and Spain became a ‘unified nation’ (cataloniavotes.eu). Fast forward to Franco’s dictatorship in the 1930’s and anything associated with Catalonia was repressed. People were exiled to France, and the Catalonian culture was suppressed. When Spain began to become a democracy again in the 70’s, a reemergence of Catalonian culture occurred. What really spurred this most recent push for independence however was Spain becoming an EU member state, and the 2009 collapse of the economy. With Barcelona being one of the biggest economic powerhouses in Spain, the economic downturn hit the region of Catalonia hard.
So what does this mean for Catalonia now that it has begun unilaterally the secession process? First and foremost, it means a lot of uncertainty. While Barcelona is the economic powerhouse of Spain, the region of Catalonia actually has a lot of debt (BBC). While yes, the debt was caused by the Spanish government taxing the Catalonian region in the first place; the process of secession really only exacerbates the issue. What’s more, is that Catalonia is not in control of its finances, an autonomy that has been granted to the other region in Spain that identifies as culturally different: the Basque Country. Not being financially autonomous means that Catalonia essentially doesn’t have the (recent) experience of financial stability or accountability, a pretty large component what it takes to successfully be an independent country. But stepping away from the economic negatives that successful Catalonian secession would have, what are the positives?
I think the major benefit of an independent Catalonia would be that the vibrant cultural identity of Catalonians would now have now an official and separate matching nation, and not just the constitutionally recognized “nationality”. The cultural aspects of Catalonia are quite different than the majority of Spain. This is most clearly seen in the views on bull fighting. Spaniards in general view it as a part of their culture, which Catalonians view it as cruel and inhumane towards animals (debatingeurope.eu). By beginning the process of secession from Spain, the Catalonian region begins to remove and distinctly distance itself from traditional ‘Spanish’ culture. This distinction of cultures can be beneficial, but can also have the negative effect of cultural monotony, which could lead to a very isolated Catalonia.
Lastly, and arguably the largest, impact that the beginning of the process of secession from Spain has had on Catalonia is the language. While around 11.5 million people in Spain speak Catalan, almost all of them are also fluent in Spanish (debatingeurope.eu). This leads to two possible scenarios, the first of which is that over generations, Catalan becomes the more dominant language. The second scenario is that people within and outside Catalonia need more than just Catalan to work, and so continue to use Spanish in addition to Catalan, leading to no drastic change in the status of the language. This second scenario leads to no real benefit to Catalan from Catalonian independence.
In conclusion, the beginning of the process of secession from Spain leaves many uncertainties for Catalonia. From the economic disadvantages to the Cultural gains and losses, what secession means for Catalonia remains to be seen. But it is still a long, uphill battle before independence is even remotely secured.