One of Seventeen

By Jaclyn Lash

Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 6.40.16 AM

Traveling back through United State’s history, the desire for Southern Confederacy incited South Carolina to declare secession in 1860. After breaking away from the Union, South Carolina molded its own laws and culture. However, four bloody years of Civil War battle under the presidency of Abraham Lincoln successfully drew the states back into one united Union.

Fast forward one hundred fifty four years and travel four thousand miles across the Atlantic Ocean, history has yet again proven to repeat itself. While Spain is currently united by seventeen different autonomous regions, the region of Catalonia is looking to separate, however the GATEway ¡Madrid! journalism class quickly learned that this separatist movement is one of great controversy. Before venturing off from Madrid to Catalonia’s capital city, Barcelona, we wandered the streets of Madrid to listen to the civilians’ opinions on the topic.

Traveling from a newspaper stand and workers on the street, to a man waiting for the bus and our university receptionist, the views in general were similar. Almost all the interviews began with the idea that every region has its own rights and can therefore make its own choices, however, each interviewee had its own twist. The construction workers felt strongly that during Franco’s time as dictator, Catalonia received the large majority of industry and want to take what they received and bolt. The man in the newspaper stand reminded us that Catalonia’s history has never included a time when it stood as an independent nation. He also mentioned that now is not the right time to separate because of Spain’s current economic situation and due to the fact that Catalonia is just as responsible for the crisis than any other region. The man at the bus stop was adamant that the separation should never occur under any circumstances. Finally, our receptionist felt the most passionate about the topic, showing an extreme sense of nationalism. Her position stood that Catalonia is incapable of living on its own and that Spain is stronger when everyone is united.

As predicted by Mr. Turf, the opinions in Catalonia were completely the opposite of those in Madrid. In an interview Mr. Turf had in a clothing store, the manager rolled his eyes at the Spaniards argument that Catalonia needs to reciprocate its wealth. He explained that they have repaid their debt from the sixties as they are constantly giving so much money to the rest of the country and getting less and less in return; the benefit of separating is that Catalonia would be able to keep their wealth to itself. The Catalonians, he continued, for centuries have had their own culture, language, and history, which recently have not been respected by the Spanish Government. The Spanish Government has been hindering the amount of Catalán that can be spoken, causing the Catalonians to feel suppressed.

While a region with a language, culture, and history different than the rest of the country does seem to have the right to separate, it is important to remember that these Catalonians are still Spanish. And just as Mr. Turf has reminded us over and over, until their passports read “Catalán” rather than “Spanish,” they will continue to be considered one of seventeen.