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The Aquilian

Catalonia: the land of aspired independence

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Standing in line, waiting to cast your forbidden vote on Catalonian independence, you begin to hear the sounds of screams and sirens of the Mossos d’Esquadra and Spanish federal officers coming to beat down the doors of the voting precinct. They are there in command of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, the anti-separatist who controls the majority in parliament. 

Militants were sent to shut down voting places and to discourage pro-independence voters. The Catalonian independence referendum has many reasons for being not only considered but also passed by the people of Catalonia: economic inequality, cultural oppression, and voter suppression.

Spain has a very high economic output compared to many other countries in Europe and the EU. Many attribute this to their rapidly growing tourism industry, their food exports or maybe the $13 billion refined petroleum industry. 

But one-fifth of Spain’s economic output solely comes from the autonomous region of Catalonia. This might not seem like much, but there are 17 (+2 autonomous cities) other autonomous regions in Spain. Catalonians, on average, are taxed much higher than the average Spaniard, and their own industries are also taxed at an unfair rate. 

Catalonia is also responsible for 21% of the central government’s tax revenue. Simple math tells you that if the playing field were even, they would be responsible for only 5.88% (excluding the 2 autonomous cities). 

Spain was once ruled by fascist dictator, Francisco Franco, from 1939 until 1975. During his fascist reign, he completely oppressed the regional culture that Catalonia held so dear. Franco banned the Catalan language from being taught in any schools. He also banned the language outright; he thought that if the language disappeared, their culture would follow. 

Franco went as far as to outlaw any sort of regional celebration of any kind celebrating anything from regional traditions to holidays. After decades of injustice, Franco died and democracy was instated once again in Spain. This time all other languages were legal along with any other celebration or tradition. 

While Spain has legalized all cultural aspects, this does not mean that they are completely free. The legality of cultural celebrations has not stopped arrests of people who openly criticize the central government, something that should be covered under free speech. 

Twenty-one arrests were made in 2021 during Catalonia’s regional parliamentary elections where pro-independence parties won the majority. All of the arrests had something to do with money and embezzlement; however, many close to the situation say it is just a cover so that the government can arrest each political leader without question. 

In the last rounds of regional elections in 2017 where a referendum was held on the question of independence. Ninety percent of voters voted yes on the question. 

That might seem extremely high, but the turnout was a dismal 42.3%. This can be directly linked to police intimidating voters, shutting down polling places, and confiscation of ballots; 893 people reported injuries while trying to vote.

Catalonian independence is the only way to succeed in the fight for economic and cultural freedom and equality. But what will the average Catalonian have to do to make sure that their voices are heard? How many more leaders will need to be exiled or imprisoned until they are taken seriously? The passing of Catalonian independence is vital for the people of Catalonia who want to see economic equality, cultural freedom and full democracy.

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