Daniel Balagué Guardia, an adjunct professor in the math department and native of Catalonia, has been directly impacted by the events that are currently unfolding in Spain. Growing up, he “never felt like his community was part of Spain,” and has become outspoken on the issue of Catalan independence.
The push for Catalan independence is not a recent political development, but the Catalan independence movement has been growing rapidly since 2010 with now over 40 percent of Catalans supporting independence. Historically, Catalan independence goes back centuries and stems from the repeated conquering and the resultant Spanish stripping of Catalan rights. Then, when Francisco Franco took over Catalonia in the mid-20th century, all Catalan politicians were executed or jailed; the withstanding effects of that oppressive rule are still felt to this day.
Balagué believes that the push for Catalan independence is necessary to alleviate the many forms of systemic oppression Catalonia faces.
“There are very few people who are politically appropriate to run for president,” he said. “[Those who are] are banned by the Spanish government from running forever.”
He also emphasized that they incur fines of millions of Euros, or are jailed for years for negligible offenses equating to the voicing of opinions of Catalan independence.
Spain’s constitution is continuously rewritten to allow for discrimination against Catalans, similar to how the revision of Jim Crow laws in the United States allowed discrimination toward African-Americans. Discrimination against Catalans is stunningly obvious at times; it includes being kicked out of restaurants or stores for speaking in Catalan. However, the most oppressive aspect of Spanish rule is on politics; the Catalan president was forced to leave the country to avoid being imprisoned.
Balagué believed it was a tough situation because while some think that it was best for the president to avoid being put in jail so he can continue advocating for the Catalan people, many were hoping that he would stand up against the oppression and incite a change. Balagué finds it almost comical that Spain is often “viewed as a success story for democracy,” but only with “so much rotting under the surface.”
It has now become a legally risky agenda for Catalan political parties to support Catalan independence. Furthermore, many of the officials tallying the Catalan votes have already been reprimanded for tampering with election results. In effect, it is unlikely that Catalans will ever be accurately and rightfully represented.
Many people fear going to polling stations since the riot police there are known to beat voters, and many of the votes that do get through are confiscated. Still others are given reasons for not being allowed to vote. This hits close to home for Balagué , as his friends and family went to polling stations among masses of other Catalans in an attempt to protect them from Spanish police.
Ultimately, he believes that it would be a good idea for Catalan to leave the European Union because “we cannot stay in a state that is canceling or banning all of our laws that we are approving.”
The Catalan government often approves tax and social policy among other laws that the Spanish government bans on the grounds of “being illegal.” Ironically, they often pass the same or very similar laws themselves shortly thereafter.
While Balagué is optimistic that change will eventually occur, he thinks that it will be a very slow process.