04 de setembre 2007

The viability of an independent Catalan State (II)

This is the second part of the article titled "The viability of an independent Catalan State" by Josep Desquens. The pictures are not in the original article.

Catalonia: An overview

With roughly six and a half million inhabitants, the Autonomous Community of Catalonia is larger than four of the current fifteen member states of the European Union (Denmark, Ireland, Finland, Luxembourg ) and than seven of the ten new countries joining the E.U. community in 2004. It has approximately the same population and surface area as Switzerland.

Catalonia has an ancient history. Greeks, Romans and Phoenicians have all left their mark in the country. Arab influence was also notable, though less than in other parts of Spain as Arab rule was brief. In the Middle Ages, as a central component to the Crown of Aragon, it became one of the most important powers in the Mediterranean Sea. In the 15th century, it was united with the Kingdom of Castile through a royal marriage. Yet the result was not a common state, but a confederation of states with separate parliaments, laws, and language. In 1640, the War of the Harvesters was fought against the increasingly centralist Castilian government.

The War of the Harversters (1640 - 1652)

At the same time, Portugal (then also attached to Castile) fought for independence and won. Instead, Catalonia lost the war and was forced to cede its northern part to France. During the War of Spanish Succession in the 18th century, Catalonia supported the Habsburg pretender to the Spanish throne, who favored a federalized Spain, against the French Bourbon claimant, the future Philip V of Spain. Once again, Catalonia lost, and as a consequence, the new Bourbon king wiped out all Catalan institutions and forbade the official use of the Catalan language. This effectively ended the Catalan state structure and began a process of cultural assimilation that continued until the 20th century.

The Catalan national conscience reemerged in the 19th century, as nationalism surged throughout Europe. Initially a culturally focused movement that looked back at the medieval epoch of political glory and cultural and literary richness, it soon developed into a regionalist movement demanding greater political autonomy. During the early 20th century before the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939, Catalonia enjoyed partial self-rule on various occasions and a Catalan Republic within the Iberian federation was proclaimed twice. However, with Franco's victory in 1939, one of the darkest periods of Catalan history began.

Gen. Franco's dictatorial regime is key to understanding Catalonia today. While all Spaniards were victims of Franco's ruthless and institutionalized violation of human rights, Catalonia suffered a cruel and systematic attempt at cultural annihilation. It endured repression of individual and collective cultural rights, such as the prohibition of the use of the Catalan language, the public denial of the Catalan identity and the punishment for cultural expression.

The arrival of democracy in 1975 initiated a process of recuperation of the Catalan institutions, culture and language. Today, Catalonia has the highest level of self-governance that it has enjoyed since the Bourbon dynasty came to power three centuries ago. The Autonomous Government and Parliament have substantial responsibilities in areas such as education and culture, its own health care system, its own police, etc. After Germany and Belgium, Spain is the most decentralized country in the European Union, with the Basque Country, Navarre and Catalonia as the most autonomous regions.

Language is central to understanding Catalonia's identity. Having survived three centuries of repression from Spain, it still has a vibrant and sophisticated literary scene and its language is used by about eight million, known by ten million and widely spoken at all levels of society. It is spoken not only in Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands (Autonomous Communities where it has the same legal status as Spanish), but also in the eastern part of Aragón, the Principality of Andorra (where it is the only official language), the historically Catalan territories of southern France and the city of Alguer (Alguerho, Italy). In fact, Catalan is more widely spoken than a number of other official E.U. languages, like Danish, Finnish, Slovak, Slovenian, Latvian, Lithuanian and Maltese. Yet it does not enjoy recognition by E.U. institutions, as all Spanish governments have consistently ignored Catalonia's demand to press for this. There are numerous radio and TV channels, newspapers and magazines in Catalan, and, more than eight million books are edited in Catalan every year. This recovery of the Catalan language - thanks to a vigorous language policy and hefty funding - might look impressive by many counts. However, it faces very serious threats and is a main concern for many Catalans. Catalan is the weaker language in a bilingual society where Spanish is equally spoken.

Map of the Catalan language

Apart from its long-standing literary tradition, Catalonia has shown a high level of cultural creativity over the last century. Many painters (Dalí, Miró, Tàpies), architects (Gaudí, Bofill), musicians (Granados, Savall, de Larrocha) and opera singers (Carreras, Caballé) confirm Catalonia's standing in art and culture. It still is a center of imaginative talent in areas like design, fashion and architecture, particularly focused in Barcelona, the capital.

Apart from its long-standing literary tradition, Catalonia has shown a high level of cultural creativity over the last century. Many painters (Dalí, Miró, Tàpies), architects (Gaudí, Bofill), musicians (Granados, Savall, de Larrocha) and opera singers (Carreras, Caballé) confirm Catalonia's standing in art and culture. It still is a center of imaginative talent in areas like design, fashion and architecture, particularly focused in Barcelona, the capital.

1 comentari:

alanindyfed ha dit...

Por favor mes amigos,
Please visit "independence Cymru"

Sunday, 2 September 2007
Winning the Battle for Wales

Let us now look at the pitfalls as well as the exciting possibilities, as we progress along this rocky road towards independence and full national sovereignty. As I see it the main stumbling block is winning over the people of Wales to the quest for separation from the union and the realisation that Wales would fare better by going it alone. People - some people at least - have dreamed of this since the year 1409, when it seemed that all hopes of freedom had been dashed forever. But the one great thing about the dragon is that it is indefatigable and resurgent. It is now, in the 21st century, rearing its head once more and twirling its tail in anticipation of what is to come.
The pitfalls and the snares which line the path of the dragon are as follows, as I see it :
1) the stultifying apathy of the people at large, including professed supporters, who have given up the struggle, adopted a fatalistic attitude, and have been cowered into submission by the dead weight of British bureaucracy and ineffectual policy of all Westminster parties towards Wales;
2) the mind conditioning brought about by habit and the assumption that the union is established and cannot be undone, that Britain is a nation of which Wales is a part and that there is an implied duty to support Britain in everything, come what may;
3) an ignorance of true facts and the history of the Welsh nation, and a failure to understand the details of the many struggles which arose from impositions from across the border and the denial of human rights. This includes the attempted eradication of the Welsh language;
4) the myth-making tactics of the opponents of any total devolution of power and those who believe in the superiority of Britain and the British way of life over that of other nations . These
myth-makers include Peter Hain - "separatists and isolationists", and Kim Howells - "separatists and incompetents" - with the backing of Lord Kinnock. These so-called representatives of the Welsh people, from Welsh constituencies, wish to hold back the tide of progress and do their best to impede political and social development.
Despite these pitfalls and snares there is a movement which gains momentum, inspired in part by developments in Scotland, and with Ireland already in place as a model of independent and successful democracy. The path is rockier than the "Rocky Road to Dublin" but the spirit of a resurgent dragon is not something to be ignored. The message goes out to all the opponents of "the new dynamic" in politics and the detractors and denigrators of self-determination ignore it at their peril. Cymru fydd will not be denied this time around.

Posted by alanindyfed