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Post Thoughts on Catalonia and Catalan Independence
Created by John Eipper on 10/29/13 6:57 AM

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Thoughts on Catalonia and Catalan Independence (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela, 10/29/13 6:57 am)

I've been traveling in Spain for the last month, and have only now returned to Caracas. I'd like to respond to the Mario Vargas Llosa essay forwarded by Henry Levin on 27 September. My opinion on Catalan independence is not motivated by fanatic nationalisms. I have tried to impartially observe from abroad the current separatist Catalonian aspiration, in spite of being born in Mallorca (with its historical and linguistic connections to Catalonia) and having many and good friends from Cataluña, as well as being an admirer of their history and culture. Nevertheless, it hurts me that the Catalonian perspective presented by the nationalists is somehow dismissive and arrogant towards other Spaniards.

Arguing about "nacionalismo" (nacionalisms), as the politicians do, in the middle of a economic crisis, blaming Spanish institutions, might be justifiable because of the incompetence of most of the Spanish politicians and leadership elites, including those of Catalonia. However, it also might involve some pragmatic opportunism, motivated perhaps by ambition for increasing political power. Trying to justify Catalonian nationalism nowadays, based on history, culture and different language, might be reasonable, but some considerations deserve to be mentioned.

The historical differences between Catalonia and the rest of Spain, which are the roots of current separatism, have perhaps their distant origin in the struggle for hegemony between the kingdoms of Castilla and Aragon-Cataluña (not precisely Cataluña-Aragon), of which Cataluña was a part; and later the "Guerra de sucesión" in 1701, where the "Aragoneses-Catalanes" did not aspire to be independent, but to support Felipe V´s rival to the throne of Spain. Their defeat at Barcelona, in September 11, 1714, is today celebrated as the "Diada" in Catalonia (National Day).

Nationalism as a concept could be a justified aspiration of any nation, region or nationality; to protect their own language and culture is also a valid argument; above all, when opposed to the concept of imperialism. Nevertheless, used as political argument to satisfy economic class ambitions, rightist or leftist, seems a demagogic political concept yearning for dominance.

In the context of the modern world trends towards globalization, and political, economic or cultural integration, the concept of nationalism or separatism must be redefined; otherwise it looks like a provincial, narrow-minded, and even mean-spirited concept. That is what I believe Vargas Llosa is trying to express in his article; and from my side I strongly believe that Catalonian separatism is in large part motivated from emotional and visceral historical resentment.

From the economic standpoint, without trying to debate which entity has benefited more from times of prosperity, Spain or Catalonia, Catalan independence could be interpreted as a kind of uncalculated path of suicide. I believe that the Catalonian political leadership has not been revealing all the facts and consequences for Catalonian society, but only the claims for supporting separation. A fuller picture would require Catalans to reconsider the issue with a revelation of risks and potential benefits.

Fomenting independence, when the economic crisis has debilitated the state institutions in Spain, might be perceived by much of the world as opportunistic. Never before has Cataluña had more privileges, considerable economic and political autonomy, and if the Spanish state would be eventually restructured, as I sincerely hope, Cataluña´s future would prosper more fully than if separated from Spain.

Other countries in Europe, with similar difficulties and separatist regions, have resolved their differences, and today they are much better prepared for development. Those countries that were dismembered are today weak, some in crisis, and have a poor performance.

JE comments: I'm very happy to publish José Ignacio Soler's inaugural comment for the Forum. WAISers first met Nacho exactly one month ago, on 29 September:


As a Mallorcan living for many years in Latin America, Nacho brings unique insight to the topic of Catalan independence.  What is the division between the independentists' legitimate grievances and mere ambition and opportunism?  This is the 100,000-bolivar fuerte question. 

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