Although the mentioning of 9/11 causes most people around the world to think of the horror that unfolded in 2001, the inhabitants of Catalonia also connect the date to another significant event.
By Clara Rodríguez-Solé
In 1714, Barcelona was the bastion of last defense against the army of Philippe V. It wasn’t able to stand, however, and after the loss, the laws and institutions of Catalonia were abolished in favor of those of the Kingdom of Castella. Such, September 11th became the National Day of Catalonia and is simply referred to as “La Diada”. This day, however, does not commemorate the victory of Philip V, but instead is a symbol of our nationalism and reminds us of the freedom that was taken away from us.
Since then, the Catalan people take to the streets every year on “La Diada” in order to protest. Throughout the last three years, however, the movement for the independence of Catalonia has grown and the struggle became more prominent. This led to the evolvement of many NGOs from within the Catalan society, non-affiliated to any political party, organizing mass demonstrations and representing the desire for independence internationally. These manifestations are described as being festive, intergenerational, and informal, with people of different origins peacefully standing up for Catalonian rights.
In 2012, during the first of these three big demonstrations, 1.5 million Catalans participated in Barcelona, demanding independence under the slogan “Catalunya, nou estat d’Europa” (Catalonia, new state in Europe). Last year, on September 11th, 2013, we did “La via Catalana” (The Catalan Way). Inspired by the Baltic way, more than 1.6 million Catalans held each other by the hand and formed a 480-kilometers-long human chain, which spanned from Le Perthus in France, all the way to Alcanar, the last Catalan village in the south.
Finally, in 2014, the government of Catalonia, as well as other political parties, seem to listen to their peoples’ request. It was decided that a referendum, ultimately establishing the Catalans’ opinion, should take place on November 9th, 2014. The Spanish government, however, rejects this referendum and is not willing to allow it, citing the Spanish constitution and claiming it to be illegal. Due to that, 1.8 million people took to the streets of Barcelona, in what was regarded as the greatest mobilization in European history. They insisted on their right to decide, their right to vote, and ultimately on their right to democracy. The demonstration filled the two largest streets of Barcelona: La Diagonal and La Gran Via, which constitute 11 kilometers in total, all swamped with people wearing yellow or red t-shirts, representing “La Senyera”, the Catalan flag (yellow with four strips in red). Viewed from the sky they thus represented a gigantic Catalan flag, forming a V – the V that stands for “Via”, “Voluntat”, “Votar” and “Victòria” (way, will, vote and victory).
Despite the obstacles posed by the Spanish government to prevent the query of the 9th November, many people believe that common sense will prevail. Voting is the fundamental principle of democracy and any state impeding its citizens from voting is non-democratic. This also is a question left unanswered by the European community and the European Union, which have been silent on the issue so far. Regardless of the status quo of public law, it is time to listen to the people of Catalonia and their everlasting desire for independence.