Catalonia votes to be independent from Spain

By David Villegas, Contributing Reporter

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92 percent of voters voted yes to become an independent state. Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Catalonia, a province located in Northeastern Spain, held a referendum where about 92 percent of voters chose yes to become an independent state as a republic.

The BBC reported on Oct. 10 that the Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and other regional leaders signed a declaration of independence while delaying its implementation for several weeks to have talks with the Spanish government in Madrid.

David Faris, associate professor of political science, explained why Catalonians held a referendum for independence.

“Proponents of Catalonian independence believe that the Spanish government does not respect their culture and language, which is different than what is spoken in the rest of Spain,” Faris said.

He said resentment by a large ethnicity is common in countries that have multiple cultures. Faris compared Spain to Canada, a country that has also faced resentment between the province of Quebec and the rest of Canada.

“The Canadians resolved this with strong federalism, whereby the government of French-majority Quebec has the right to set certain laws related to language and culture to prevent French-speakers from being eclipsed or marginalized,” Faris said.

Faris added a possible solution to ending the conflict between the region and the rest of the country.

“If the Spanish government is wise, it will seriously explore ways to satisfy the concerns of Catalonian separatists without having to divide the country in two,” Faris said.

Faris described why seceding from Spain will be difficult for the region. The process to secede from the country of Spain requires permission from the national government.

“That government disputes the constitutionality of the referendum and of any move to make Catalonia independent,” Faris said.

Faris gave the example of the Scottish referendum in 2014 to explain the differences.

“Sometimes, governments will agree to allow referenda and to respect their outcomes – this is what happened in the U.K. in 2014, when David Cameron’s government agreed to respect the wishes of the Scottish independence referendum… There is certainly the possibility that the Catalonia crisis could end in violence,” Faris said.

“I can only say that is a very sad situation for all of us and it will be really nice if we can resolve the situation with dialogue instead of fighting each other,” said Ares Sirvent, a film and broadcasting major at RU and an exchange student from Valencia, Spain. Sirvent also said he hopes the situation can end without resorting to violence.

Faris said that this won’t have a negative impact as currently thought of.

“We call this the ‘Russian doll phenomenon.’ Many states fear that successful separatist movements will inspire their own minorities to seek separate countries,” Faris said.

“But separatist movements must be built from the ground up, and other than Scotland, few European countries today face serious separatist movements,” Faris said. “So I think the impact overall would be less radical than is commonly feared.”

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