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Catalonia: Time for Independence

Connor Hartigan '19
I am here to plead the case of the Catalan Republic.
For those of you who thought “Huh?” upon reading that, I’ll give a quick rundown. Catalonia, a culturally and linguistically distinct region currently claimed by Spain, is engaged in a battle for independence. After a referendum in October and a subsequent declaration of independence by the Catalan Parliament, the Spanish government deposed Catalonia’s autonomous administration and forced many of its top leaders, including President Carles Puigdemont, to flee to Belgium. Others are being held in Madrid prisons. However, in December, pro-independence parties won a majority in a snap regional election. Now they are back in control of Parliament, and President Puigdemont has been re-elected to rule from exile, but the Spanish state remains as intransigent as ever.

The confict between Catalonia and Spain is not new. The Catalans have lived under Spanish rule for centuries and have suffered continuous repression, including by fascist dictator Francisco Franco, who banned all manifestations of Catalan culture as a threat to the unity of Spain, and whose regime did not offcially end until 1975. Even after Spain’s “democratic” transition and the establishment of a semi-autonomous Catalan government, the fundamentals of the situation did not change. Right-wing governments in Madrid have played to anti-Catalan sentiment to win elections, and have repeatedly overturned socially and economically progressive Catalan legislation. In the face of this hostility, Catalans rightly feel that Spanish “unity” is a toxic system that leaves them subservient. Thus the passionate drive for an independent republic.

Why does any of this matter to us, an ocean away? As Americans, democracy is our founding creed. Our nation was built on a republican revolution against rule by a distant king, and we believe in the right of people to decide their own future. The Catalans’ democratic activism has brought nothing but repression from Spain. On the day of the referendum, Madrid deployed armed police (including the Guardia Civil, a paramilitary force that overwhelmingly rallied behind Francisco Franco’s fascists during the Spanish Civil War) to raid polling stations, remove the ballot boxes, and brutalize voters. Four Catalan leaders – Oriol Junqueras, Joaquim Forn, Jordi Sanchez, and Jordi Cuixart – sit in Spanish prisons for their roles in organizing the vote. This is not how a modern democracy, which Spain proclaims itself to be, should behave. It is bald injustice.

Many people at Hopkins strive to make the world a better place. They call for an end to racism and sexism, for a more welcoming attitude to refugees and immigrants, for fairness here in America. I know because I’m among them. I ask now that they – we – take a view of justice and activism that goes beyond American borders. It may seem random to become involved in a European issue, but in the 21st Century, the world is small. Catalonia deserves our support in its fght for independence from a rigid, hierarchical state.

And to the Catalans, I say: Endavant, amics. Forward.
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