Catalans to take to streets today over independence poll

The Spanish state has deemed a type of ‘referendum’ to be illegal

A Catalan flag flutters above Barcelona’s Mercat de Born. Today’s Diada, or Catalan national day, marks the anniversary of city’s  defeat of 1714 during the War of Succession. Photograph: Josep Lago/AFP

A Catalan flag flutters above Barcelona’s Mercat de Born. Today’s Diada, or Catalan national day, marks the anniversary of city’s defeat of 1714 during the War of Succession. Photograph: Josep Lago/AFP

 

In the Born Cultural Centre, history is presented as a violent drama whose heroes and villains are painted in broad strokes. A huge, glass-ceilinged hangar, it was built around the excavated ruins of a market that stood on this spot when Barcelona was besieged in 1714 during the War of Succession.

The cultural centre offers visitors information about that historical market but, more prominently, it presents a robust version of the story of Catalonia’s relationship with Spain.

Examples of the uniforms worn by the Catalan soldiers who defended Barcelona from the Spanish-backed Bourbon forces are on display: audiovisuals recreate the siege, and an accompanying text tells of how Catalans were “terrorised” by the invaders. “Philip V [of Spain] imposed his tyranny with the laws and institutions of Castile”, reads one information board.

Jordi Benet, a local retired bank employee, has come to the centre for a third time, drawn by the impressive ruins on display, but also by what he believes the Born represents. “This place is an icon of Catalan independence,” he says. “I want us to break away definitively from Spain, which is a country that oppresses us, harms us and steals from us.”

It’s no surprise to hear such opinions from those visiting the Born centre, which has become the closest thing there is to a museum of Catalan nationalism. The building is the hub of many events organised to celebrate today’s Diada, or Catalan national day, which marks the anniversary of the defeat of 1714.

The September 11th Diada has taken on increasingly political, pro-independence overtones in recent years. Given its 300th anniversary this year and the fact separatists have planned a non-binding referendum on secession from Spain for November 9th, today’s event has enormous significance for Catalan nationalists.

Illegal poll

Carme Forcadell is president of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), a civic organisation campaigning for the referendum to take place. History is important to the ANC, to the extent that the phone number of its main office ends with the digits “1714”.

“The Spanish state is not our state, it doesn’t want to be,” she says. “For 300 years it’s had the opportunity to be our state but it hasn’t wanted to do that. The Spanish state, instead of seeing the cultural, linguistic and national diversity of Spain as a good thing, sees it as a problem.” She also highlights the fact that November 9th will mark 25 years since the Berlin Wall’s destruction. For her, the comparison is valid, because both mean the liberation of millions of people from oppression.

However, those who want Catalonia to remain part of Spain have a very different view of history. Historians and intellectuals outside Catalonia have been busy in recent days insisting that the siege of Barcelona was a less black-and-white affair than nationalists might admit, with Catalans divided during it.

The Born centre itself is a “pro-independence Disneyland” full of half-truths and myths, according to Josep Ramon Bosch, president of Catalan Civil Society, which brings together politicians and public figures of different stripes who oppose independence and the referendum.

As Barcelona was preparing for today’s series of pro-independence events, Bosch and a small group of fellow unionists were staging their own ceremony a few miles away. They gathered yesterday morning in a church in Sant Boi de Llobregat where 18th-century Catalan patriot Rafael Casanova is buried.

Descendents of both Casanova and those who fought against him were present, laying a wreath in the colours of the regional flag at his grave in a gesture of union that Bosch feels is more necessary than ever right now.

‘Propaganda’ drive

It is still far from clear whether the November referendum will go ahead. But the small turnout for the unionist tribute to Casanova compared to the massive attendance expected for today’s pro-independence events reflects how Catalan separatism seems to be dominating the debate – historical and otherwise – in the region’s public sphere.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.