A Separate Catalonia?

I am not Spanish, but I am following in the path of other Americans -- such as Washington Irving, Ernest Hemingway, and Orson Welles -- who find Spain absolutely fascinating. Recently, Spain has revved up its always impressive offerings of Hispanic chaos, and the cacophony has spilled over into France.

Spain is fascinating because it is not a country, but at least five countries, possibly more: the Basque country, Catalonia, Galicia, Andalusia, and the interior where the hated Madrid bureaucrats live. The closest equivalent might be the United Kingdom. If so, the Basque history of armed insurrection finds its closet equivalent with the Irish. The Catalans find their equivalent with the Scots, with a mix of present legal wrangling and a past of armed resistance. Wales might be similar to Andalusia, in that Andalusia, similar to Wales, is not really able to go it alone.

Galicia is quite surprising. It speaks a dialect closest to Portuguese, and claims a genetic heritage with the ancient Celts, before they left for Ireland about 2,000 years ago. There is no equivalent analog to the UK.

Despite centuries of forced centralized intermingling, and Franco's quasi-genocidal policies to force a unified Spanish identity, separatism is alive and well, and threatening not only Spain, but all of Europe.

Right now, Catalonia is going ahead with a referendum for separation in 2017. Unlike Scotland's push for independence in 2014, the Catalans have laid a strong foundation for separation. Thanks to the local school system, the Catalan language has roared back; and Madrid is furious that Castilian Spanish is being successfully contested and de-emphasized.

Among those under 25, only 3% do not speak Catalan. Those who can speak the language are 84%, while the remaining 13% understand but are not able to speak it. -- Nationalia.info

Catalonia has secured the next generation. They are wise enough to embrace those Spaniards who moved in during the Franco era, as long as they learn Catalan. There is a Catalan-speaking region just across the Pyrenees border in France -- well, sort of -- but the Catalans have been wise enough not to emphasize it... for now.

...French Catalans are largely indifferent, in large part, because they feel French. Catalan, too, but mainly French. Key to that has been language. In Spain, Catalans have defended their language for centuries...

In France, only about 1 in 5 people use Catalan daily and even fewer can read it and write it, says Jaume Pol, Perpignan's Catalan Affairs counselor.

"We have lost the Catalan language," Pol said. "There is only one official language in France, and that is French, period." -- Public Radio International

It would have seemed that France was safe, but bureaucratic bungling never fails. The French tried to merge two regions obliterating the name of the French Catalan region from the official map. Suddenly, the French Catalans are upset.

The 450,000 or so French Catalans -- or Catalans of the North, as most people here call themselves -- regard the new name as erasing their presence from the map. In Perpignan, which was once an important military fortress, opponents of the name Occitania are determined to resist. -- NY Times

The sleeping bear has been awoken.

In Spain, so real is the continued threat of Catalonia bolting that the Spanish High Court suspended a referendum.

Spain's Constitutional Court on Wednesday suspended a resolution by Catalonia's regional parliament that called a referendum next year on independence from the rest of the country. -- The Local, Dec. 14, 2016

Apparently, the Catalans are going ahead anyway.

Catalan separatists gather, prepare independence vote -- The Local, Dec. 24, 2016

With the linguistic foundation laid, and with better economic performance than Spain in general -- both of which Scotland lacked with regard to England in 2014 -- it will almost certainly be a Catalexit.

However, as noted in my other articles on Spain, behind every polite Catalan separatist using legal methods, there is a Basque separatist, with the implied threat of a renewed guerrilla war. As Catalonia goes, so goes the Basque country. About one week ago...

French and Spanish police forces have made five arrests over the weekend in relation to a weapons’ cache belonging to the Basque terrorist group ETA. -- New Europe

Of all the groups vying for independence, the Basque clearly have the best case. They have a unique genetic profile with unusually high Rh- concentrations.

Basques are a cultural isolate, and, according to mainly allele frequencies of classical polymorphisms, also a genetic isolate -- Discover Magazine Blog

Basque is not only a separate language, but a language isolate. The Basque did have a kingdom once: Navarre, which province today ironically has a Castilian population in the south. The Basque have a stronger claim to nationality than most countries. History has been grossly unfair to them.

What is interesting about the Basque is that this drive for independence cuts across the political spectrum. Both left and right support a break with Madrid, only the methods and goals differ. After a supposed ETA disarmament, there was a few years of peace in the Basque country; but as last week's story shows (see above), there remains quite a fire in the Basque belly. It is the Basque country which has to frighten Spain the most.

As the central government in Madrid squares off against secessionists in Catalonia, separatists in another Spanish region have begun formally laying the groundwork for their own push for independence.

EH Bildu, a leftwing pro-independence party in the Basque country, has submitted a bill to the regional parliament that it hopes will pave the way for consultations to be held in the region. “The aim is to put the political, economic and social future of the Basque country in the hands of its citizens,” EH Bildu’s spokesman, Hasier Arraiz, said as he presented the legislation.

The bill mirrors that passed by the Catalan parliament last year. -- The Guardian (2015)

Making matters worse, the Basque, along with Catalonia, are the industrial engines of Spain, without which Spain would devolve to third-world status.

The northern Spanish region of the Basque country has Spain’s highest GDP per capita, at €30,051 ($32,600), almost double that of Spain’s poorest region, Extremadura, at €15,133 -- The Local.

Metro Madrid, the receiver of taxes, and home to the Spanish bureaucracy, competes with the Basque for local income; but if the Basque taxes were cut off, and remained in Donostia ...? [Note: figures can vary because of date or exchange rate]

Some videos for those interested:

CATALAN INDEPENDENCE:

Dec. 2016

From 2011, but a classic documentary

November 2016

BASQUE INDEPENDENCE:

April 2016

Short but accurate history.

Orson Welles - great documentary

Sept. 2016

Sept. 2016

This specter haunts both France and Spain, which are closing ranks against European separatism. Hence, both France and Spain oppose the EU dealing with Scotland,

Brexit: Spain and France oppose Scotland EU talks -- BBC

And the French foreign minister supports a united Spain. The elite of Europe want no trouble from their "peasant classes," and have put aside rivalries to close ranks.

But Spain is not disappointing the viewers of history. It remains ever fascinating; and unlike the more Nordic areas of Europe, volatile enough to surprise.

Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who wishes he had availed himself more fully of the opportunity to learn Spanish in high school, lo those many decades ago.

I am not Spanish, but I am following in the path of other Americans -- such as Washington Irving, Ernest Hemingway, and Orson Welles -- who find Spain absolutely fascinating. Recently, Spain has revved up its always impressive offerings of Hispanic chaos, and the cacophony has spilled over into France.

Spain is fascinating because it is not a country, but at least five countries, possibly more: the Basque country, Catalonia, Galicia, Andalusia, and the interior where the hated Madrid bureaucrats live. The closest equivalent might be the United Kingdom. If so, the Basque history of armed insurrection finds its closet equivalent with the Irish. The Catalans find their equivalent with the Scots, with a mix of present legal wrangling and a past of armed resistance. Wales might be similar to Andalusia, in that Andalusia, similar to Wales, is not really able to go it alone.

Galicia is quite surprising. It speaks a dialect closest to Portuguese, and claims a genetic heritage with the ancient Celts, before they left for Ireland about 2,000 years ago. There is no equivalent analog to the UK.

Despite centuries of forced centralized intermingling, and Franco's quasi-genocidal policies to force a unified Spanish identity, separatism is alive and well, and threatening not only Spain, but all of Europe.

Right now, Catalonia is going ahead with a referendum for separation in 2017. Unlike Scotland's push for independence in 2014, the Catalans have laid a strong foundation for separation. Thanks to the local school system, the Catalan language has roared back; and Madrid is furious that Castilian Spanish is being successfully contested and de-emphasized.

Among those under 25, only 3% do not speak Catalan. Those who can speak the language are 84%, while the remaining 13% understand but are not able to speak it. -- Nationalia.info

Catalonia has secured the next generation. They are wise enough to embrace those Spaniards who moved in during the Franco era, as long as they learn Catalan. There is a Catalan-speaking region just across the Pyrenees border in France -- well, sort of -- but the Catalans have been wise enough not to emphasize it... for now.

...French Catalans are largely indifferent, in large part, because they feel French. Catalan, too, but mainly French. Key to that has been language. In Spain, Catalans have defended their language for centuries...

In France, only about 1 in 5 people use Catalan daily and even fewer can read it and write it, says Jaume Pol, Perpignan's Catalan Affairs counselor.

"We have lost the Catalan language," Pol said. "There is only one official language in France, and that is French, period." -- Public Radio International

It would have seemed that France was safe, but bureaucratic bungling never fails. The French tried to merge two regions obliterating the name of the French Catalan region from the official map. Suddenly, the French Catalans are upset.

The 450,000 or so French Catalans -- or Catalans of the North, as most people here call themselves -- regard the new name as erasing their presence from the map. In Perpignan, which was once an important military fortress, opponents of the name Occitania are determined to resist. -- NY Times

The sleeping bear has been awoken.

In Spain, so real is the continued threat of Catalonia bolting that the Spanish High Court suspended a referendum.

Spain's Constitutional Court on Wednesday suspended a resolution by Catalonia's regional parliament that called a referendum next year on independence from the rest of the country. -- The Local, Dec. 14, 2016

Apparently, the Catalans are going ahead anyway.

Catalan separatists gather, prepare independence vote -- The Local, Dec. 24, 2016

With the linguistic foundation laid, and with better economic performance than Spain in general -- both of which Scotland lacked with regard to England in 2014 -- it will almost certainly be a Catalexit.

However, as noted in my other articles on Spain, behind every polite Catalan separatist using legal methods, there is a Basque separatist, with the implied threat of a renewed guerrilla war. As Catalonia goes, so goes the Basque country. About one week ago...

French and Spanish police forces have made five arrests over the weekend in relation to a weapons’ cache belonging to the Basque terrorist group ETA. -- New Europe

Of all the groups vying for independence, the Basque clearly have the best case. They have a unique genetic profile with unusually high Rh- concentrations.

Basques are a cultural isolate, and, according to mainly allele frequencies of classical polymorphisms, also a genetic isolate -- Discover Magazine Blog

Basque is not only a separate language, but a language isolate. The Basque did have a kingdom once: Navarre, which province today ironically has a Castilian population in the south. The Basque have a stronger claim to nationality than most countries. History has been grossly unfair to them.

What is interesting about the Basque is that this drive for independence cuts across the political spectrum. Both left and right support a break with Madrid, only the methods and goals differ. After a supposed ETA disarmament, there was a few years of peace in the Basque country; but as last week's story shows (see above), there remains quite a fire in the Basque belly. It is the Basque country which has to frighten Spain the most.

As the central government in Madrid squares off against secessionists in Catalonia, separatists in another Spanish region have begun formally laying the groundwork for their own push for independence.

EH Bildu, a leftwing pro-independence party in the Basque country, has submitted a bill to the regional parliament that it hopes will pave the way for consultations to be held in the region. “The aim is to put the political, economic and social future of the Basque country in the hands of its citizens,” EH Bildu’s spokesman, Hasier Arraiz, said as he presented the legislation.

The bill mirrors that passed by the Catalan parliament last year. -- The Guardian (2015)

Making matters worse, the Basque, along with Catalonia, are the industrial engines of Spain, without which Spain would devolve to third-world status.

The northern Spanish region of the Basque country has Spain’s highest GDP per capita, at €30,051 ($32,600), almost double that of Spain’s poorest region, Extremadura, at €15,133 -- The Local.

Metro Madrid, the receiver of taxes, and home to the Spanish bureaucracy, competes with the Basque for local income; but if the Basque taxes were cut off, and remained in Donostia ...? [Note: figures can vary because of date or exchange rate]

Some videos for those interested:

CATALAN INDEPENDENCE:

Dec. 2016

From 2011, but a classic documentary

November 2016

BASQUE INDEPENDENCE:

April 2016

Short but accurate history.

Orson Welles - great documentary

Sept. 2016

Sept. 2016

This specter haunts both France and Spain, which are closing ranks against European separatism. Hence, both France and Spain oppose the EU dealing with Scotland,

Brexit: Spain and France oppose Scotland EU talks -- BBC

And the French foreign minister supports a united Spain. The elite of Europe want no trouble from their "peasant classes," and have put aside rivalries to close ranks.

But Spain is not disappointing the viewers of history. It remains ever fascinating; and unlike the more Nordic areas of Europe, volatile enough to surprise.

Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who wishes he had availed himself more fully of the opportunity to learn Spanish in high school, lo those many decades ago.

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