Global Independent Analytics
Enric Ravello Barber
Enric Ravello Barber

Location: Spain

Specialization: History, Catalunya, Spain, Geopolitics, Nationalism in Europe, Islamization, Immigration

CATALONIA. A LONG WAY TO INDEPENDENCE

To be or not to be?..free

Historical Background

Around the year 1,000 bC the territory that now is Catalonia was a part of the Central European culture known in German language as Urnenfelder. During the VII-IV centuries bC it begun the Greek colonization of the Catalan coast, as well as some Phoenicians traders arrived to this area.  Their influence - along with other factors - will lead to the development of the so call local “Iberian culture”.

Greek colons coming from Masalia (Marseille) founded Emporion (nowadays Empuries) in the North of the Catalan coast. Emporion was an important place for trading; it was in the context of alliances between Greeks and Romans against Carthage, when the Romans landed in Emporion to help the Greeks (218 bC). Thos was the beginning of the Roman conquest of the whole Hispania (Latin name for the Iberian Peninsula).

In Catalonia the Roman conquest was very quick, and with a deep acculturation of the population, who lost all the own languages, so Latin became the only language. During the Roman times, Catalonia is part of a province called Tarraconensis, with capital at Tarraco (Tarragona current).

In the V century d. C, the Visigoths burst into Hispania, creating the so call Visigoth Kingdom in almost the whole Hispania. In 711 by internal conflicts among the Kings of the Visigoths, Moslems took the opportunity to invade Hispania, with the support of the Jews who had been subjected to very strong pressure under the Visigothic Kings.

After the Islamic invasion, the Visigothic nobility was divided in different areas of resistance: Asturias (where then will be born Castilla), Cantabria (which will also be part of Castilla) and in the Pyrenees, a point that will lead to Aragon and another that will result in Catalonia. On the other side, Basque resistance nucleus took place to the Kingdom of Navarra.

In that Visigoth nucleus of resistance in the eastern part of the Pyrenees, is where originated the Catalan language: and the Catalan people: a symbiosis between the Visigothic aristocracy and the people of celto-roman-iberians background.

The birth of Catalonia

Charlemagne helped the first Visigoths-Catalan nucleus of resistance with its Army and gave this territory the name of “Marca Hispanica”. The local Catalan-Visigoths nobles recognize** Charlemagne as King.

The Carolingian King, Charles the Blad, named the Visigothic noble, Wilfred the Hary, as earl of Cerdenya and Urgell (877) Gerona y Barcelona (878), Wilfred makes this title hereditary. So Wilfred is known as the first earl-king of Catalonia. He is also known as the person who designed the Catalan flag, with the red color trace of his four bloody fingers  over his yellow shield, after a battle against Muslims.

Wilfred´s descendant, Borell III didn´t renew the oath to the Carolingian kings (988), so that is the date of the political birth of Catalonia.

On XII century, Ramon Berenguer IV the Catalan earl-king, married Petronila of Aragon, so he join Catalonia and the Kingdom of Aragon into the so call Crown of Aragon, a Confederation of kingdoms in which Catalonia was the most important one.

On XIII century with the whole Catalonia dominated by Christians Catalans, King James I the Conqueror, conquers to Islam the Balearic Islands and Valencia. Kingdoms of Balearic islands and of Valencia will be independent kingdoms in the Confederation of the Crown of Aragon, but both territory will be repopulated with Catalans, so from those times to nowadays Catalan language is spoken in Valencia and Balearic islands.

The Spanish unity

In 1469 Isabel of Castilla married Fernando of Aragon (Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia and Balearic) but it was not at all the unity of Spain, they just joined their Crowns, each Kingdom continued to maintain their language, their laws and their mores.

From 1412 to 1700 remains this way: independent kingdoms, under a same Crown. Castilla makes some attempts to dominate Catalonia form Madrid but always centralized movement had an answer in Catalonia; the most famous one was the “revolt of Segadors” (1640) against the King.

In 1700 Carlos II the last Habsburg King of Castile and Aragon died, to his death the war of succession begins: Castilla supports Felipe of Anjou and Catalonia Karl of Habsburg, a “War of Succession” split.

1714 Felipe of Anjou Carlos won the war and he become the first Bourbon king in Spain with the name of Felipe V. Catalonia is defeat and assimilated by right of military conquest to Castilla, with a Spanish Law call “Nueva Planta”. Then was when there were removed much of its laws and when Spanish language gets into administration. Catalonia lost their own self-Government and own laws as well.

Since then starts a strong campaign of annihilation of the personality and identity of Catalonia.

Sometime later,  Napoleon I tried to create a Catalonia independent but dominated by France, but it failed.

XIX century and Franco´s time

In the 19th century - 20th this annihilation of Catalonia becomes stronger. 

Under Franco´s Government, the Catalan language was prohibited and was promoted a hard outside immigration of Spaniards to Catalonia; part of them are integrated into the Catalan people, others not, and the bulk of those who today oppose independence.

After the death of Franco:  most part of the political forces (right-wing, left, Catalans, Basques, etc.) came to a some kind of agreement call Transición (Transition), the result is that in Catalonia and the Basque country were given autonomy, but then this autonomy is extended to other regions with the Catalans and Basques feel deceived and both always ask for greater autonomy fees and self-government fees

Current Situation

In 2005 the Catalan Parliament approved by a large majority a “Nou Estatut” (New regional Law) giving to Catalonia more self-government, within Spain.  This New Statute applies until the Spanish Constitutional Court declares it illegal and repeals it (2010).

At this moment much of the Catalans understand that the only real solution for Catalonia was independence.

In 2012 a civil association called ANC (Assamblea Nacional Catalana - Catalan National Assembly) convenes a large demonstration on September the 11st (the national day of Catalonia) calling for independence. Participation goes beyond any forecast and it was up to one million people (Catalonia has 7,5 million inhabitants).

On 2012 there were anticipated political elections in Catalonia. Parties which proposed a referendum on independence achieve 87 of the 135 seats in the Catalan Parliament.

On 11th September 2013 ANC convenes another demonstration. This time was a human chain covering all over Catalonia. More than two millions of Catalans took part on it.

In December 2013 Catalan Government announces the date of November 9th 2014 to take place a referendum for asking Catalan people about independence. In March 2014, the Spanish Government denies any agreement and says that the referendum is illegal, but the Catalan Government responds that the referendum will be under Catalan law. Nevertheless referendum took place, being disregarded for the anti-independence parties in Catalonia. The result was:

Participation: 35%

For independence: 80.76%

For con-federalism with Spain: 10.07%

Not independence: 4.54%

After those results Catalans went to new elections on 27th September 2015.  This time were regional elections absolutely legal and with pro and anti independence taking part.  There were three kinds of candidature:

-For a quick way to independence: Junts pel Sí (JxS) and CUP

-For a legal referendum according with Spanish Government, and the opportunity to decide their own future for Catalan people: Catalunya sí es Pot (QSEP) and Uniò

-Anti-independence, and to keep Catalonia in Spain: Popular Party, Socialist Party, Ciutadans

And the results were:

For the pro-independence parties: 47.7% and 72 seats

For those who want a new referendum recognize by Spain: 11.44% and 11 seats

Not independence: 39.3% 52 seats.

Those were the results. Independence parties promise that Catalonia will be independent within 18 months. From the Spanish Government side, they said they will not allow that, and –this is a fact- according to the Spanish Law, Catalonia´s independence is not possible.

Closing this article, on 27th October, Catalan Parliament has just approve and official Declaration supporting the way to independence, a few hours later, Spanish Premier, Mariano Rajoy declared that Spain will use all their instruments to avoid that.  So there are some many open questions: Will be Catalans politicians brave enough to find a way for real independence? Will Spanish Government be able to stop this movement? What will happen if Catalonia doesn´t get the independence? What will do the UE? Answers will come in the following months.

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