We Catalans have long been attached to our distinct identity and never accepted the loss of national sovereignty after being defeated by the Spanish monarchy in 1714. For three centuries, Catalonia has striven to regain its independence. Most attempts to establish a state were put down by force. The “Catalan question” was a major catalyst of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, and Gen. Francisco Franco’s dictatorship harshly repressed Catalan culture.
At the core of Catalonia’s unique identity is the Catalan language, which is distinct from Spanish. Since the re-establishment of Spain’s democracy in 1977 and Catalonia’s autonomy in 1979, Catalan has been revived in the region’s schools. However, a recent ruling by Spain’s Constitutional Court threatens this policy. To most Catalans, our language is a red line. If the current system of autonomy can’t guarantee protection of it, independence is the only solution.
The independence movement is not driven by hatred of Spain. Catalan nationalism is civic and cultural, unlike the ethnic nationalism that has so often plagued Europe. Indeed, most of the two million Spaniards who migrated to Catalonia in the 1960s and ’70s are today fully integrated and many of them have embraced secessionist ideals.
Opponents of secession often argue that Catalan independence doesn’t make sense in a globalized world where state sovereignty is progressively being eroded. However, the opposite is true: it has never made more sense — at least for small European nations. Europe’s common market and its increasing move toward greater political union enhances the viability of small countries. Small states are more competitive and tend to react faster to global economic challenges. Catalonia has a population of just over 7.5 million. Twelve current European Union members, including Ireland and Denmark, have smaller populations.