Spain Breaking Up Again?

Spain is once again about to fall apart. This time it may have a real problem in Catalonia, the prosperous industrial province on its northeast Mediterranean coast.

In November 2014, 80% of Catalonians polled favored independence in a non-binding election.  The Spanish Constitutional Court ruled the plebiscite illegal; but the separatists did not give up.  Elections this September 2015 have given Catalonia's autonomous region a separatist legislature, well over half being secessionist (72 - 63), though the popular vote for these particular parties was only 48%. They are seeking independence in 2017. The battle is on.

Spain was and is a mess.  Spain is at least five separate nations, speaking at least four languages, under one government. 

(Only the gray area is proud to be Spanish) Spain is less a country than a very contentious contiguous empire of significantly different peoples.

In a nutshell:

Catalonia is in the northeast, and speaks Catalan, a language that looks like a French-Spanish hybrid.  They were once a separate nation.  They have waged more than one savage war to break away. In the 20th century, despite Franco's coercive efforts to crush their identity, they maintained their language, which is today re-asserting itself to the detriment of standard Castilian Spanish. Local schools instruct in Catalan, and 84% speak it to some degree. As time goes by, given the schooling, that percentage should rise. To raise the stakes, Catalonia has encouraged local immigrants to learn Catalan, not Spanish. The Moroccan immigrant, Najat El Hachmi, has won the Ramon Llull prize for Catalan letters.

To understand the Catalans, one must be apprised that until the early 20th century, the transition from Spanish to French did not occur at the Pyrennes.  Rather it went from Spanish in Madrid to Catalan in Catalonia, to Provençal near Marseille, to Occitan in Southern France, to Parisian French in the north. At each step of the transitions, the languages picked up more similarity to the other in an almost sliding scale. The border languages (Catalan, Provençal, and Occitan) can be mutually intelligible dialects with differences in spelling. The French worked to displace Occitan and Provençal by education, while the Spain's Franco brutally repressed Catalan -- albeit failing.

The Galicians are on the Northwest Atlantic coast, just above Portugal.  These are descended from Celts; and Galicia may be the ancient homeland of Ireland's Gaels before they headed north to Eire.  Of course, during the intervening two millennia of separation, the Irish Gaels were mixed with marauding Vikings, while in northwest Spain there was a slow creep of Moorish blood into the locals. The upshot is that today's Irish and Galician people now look different except for the rare red hair that occasionally crops up in Santiago de Compostela. What persisted was the culture. Galicians still play bagpipes and Celtic music. They speak a language closer to Portuguese than Spanish. Many also want independence. They had a very short-lived Republic in 1931.

While Galician nationalism is not as vibrant as Catalonia's, if Catalonia goes, Galicia may consider bolting. Its only drawback is its economy. Right now, it is slightly poorer than average, but has a great potential.

The Basque ... the Basque.  At the northwest border between Spain and France and crossing over into France, they speak a language unrelated to any other language on the planet.  If any people are worthy of independence, it is these Basque. Intelligent and productive, their local per capita domestic product rivals far richer nations. They defied the Romans, the Moors, the Franks, the Spanish, the French, and have refused to assimilate for over two millennia. They teach their language in local schools (ikastolas) and it is coming back.

The Basque are the stuff of legend.  Hemingway fell in love with their bull running at Pamplona.  Just 5% of Spain, in 2010, the Autonomous Basque Region was producing 33% higher per capita than Spain's national average.  And that does not even include the Basque in the Navarre province.

Unlike the presently pacific Catalans, the Basque have shown a continued willingness to fight. The 50-year conflict waged by the left wing Basque Separatist ETA only ended recently, and sentiments are still raw. The ETA never disbanded and its political wing is alive and active. It was the Basque who waged guerrilla war against Franco in the 50s and 60s; and the ETA that essentially toppled the Franco dictatorship, when they assassinated his successor, Admiral Carrero. Franco went to his grave knowing that the Basque were defiant.

This defiance cuts across the political spectrum. The Basque have both left wing (Batasuna) and right wing (PNV - Partido Nacionalista Vasco) separatist parties. Completely different ideologies, they unite in their hatred of Madrid. Should Catalonian independence gain ground, the Basque will not be far behind; and unlike Catalonia, the Basque may not be so gentlemanly. If truth be known, the Catalans are taking advantage of this. No one dares state it, but everyone knows it. Let Catalonia go peaceably, or Spain will be fighting the Basque ... again! Behind every eloquent Catalan spokesman is the specter of a well-armed Basque.  Both peoples are mutually supportive of each other's separatism, and often fly both flags in tandem.

The terrifying truth is: Remove Catalonia and the Basque country from Spain, and the rest of Spain becomes Greece.  Also remove prosperous Navarre, which was historically Basque, and Spain may become third world. The Basque Autonomous Zone, the Navarre Autonomous Zone (which is part Basque), and Catalonia are the 1st, 3rd, and 4th richest provinces per capita in Spain.  In terms of raw total product, Catalonia is number 1 due to its larger population.

One has to ask how much of Madrid's wealth stems solely from its favored position as the center of government, and the picture becomes clearer. Could Washington D.C., apart from the Federal Government, be able to even compete with Baltimore?  It is this centralization that infuriates the more productive Catalans and Basque. The Madrid Province is in 2nd place per capita (by euro), but its wealth may be artificially subsidized by taxation.  Catalan and Basque wealth is quite real.

Imagine if Texas, California's Silicon Valley, Washington State with Microsoft, and Western Fracking Oil States, decided to secede, leaving the USA with Washington D.C., Newark, Detroit, and the Rust Belt. Now, you know what Spain is facing.

Southern Spain, which was severely hammered by the Moors in the Middle Ages, is not so prosperous. Andalusia and Extremadura have roughly half the per capita output as the Basque.

I see Spain falling apart. The Spanish courts are trying to shut down the secessionists, but it looks like Catalonia will defy the court. Franco is long gone, and I cannot see the Army intervening this time. 

BARCELONA, Spain - The regional parliament of Catalonia approved a plan Monday to set up a road map for independence from Spain by 2017, in defiance of the central government. - CBS

My guess is that Catalonia will go free in 2017.  Right now, public opinion in Catalonia is split; but what the separatist parties have on their side is language. Spoken Catalan use is increasing. This will only fortify the lure of independence. An extra year is enough time to build a stronger consensus. This is precisely where Scottish Independence failed. Gaelic is dying out in Scotland. Catalan is resurging, amounting to a clearer identity.

I expect Catalonia to secede, if not in 2017, then soon after. I expect the Spanish Army to not intervene. This is a sturdy rebuke against the one-worlders who want to put everybody under one government.  People will not be mixed against their will. Nationalism cannot be eradicated. Catalonia, however, must not make the mistake of severely diluting ethnicity though, or their drive for independence will be worthless.

This is not prejudice.  One-worlders  seek to erase distinction to erase nationalism. People have a right to be distinct.  May Catalonia (Catalunya) be free and remain Catalan.  What will be really fascinating after that will be the Basque.


For a good explanation, which lists the abuses of Spain's central government towards Catalonia as of 2014, I recommend this short English language video by El Contexto Magazine: 
An impartial explanation of Catalan separatism

Spanish behavior chillingly resembles the British government's cavalier dismissals of colonial complaints; and will probably lead to a similar break away.

A longer history can be found here by Gary Gibson:

Spain's Secret Conflict

Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who is neither Jewish, Latin, nor Arab. He runs a website,, where he discusses the subculture of Arabs in Latin America. He wishes his Spanish were better.