“The Invention of Spain” and a prickly question

A radio show that looks at Spain’s regional diversity from a historical perspective is currently being aired on the BBC. You can listen to the three episodes here. This show, “The Invention of Spain”, is especially relevant in the current climate, and it does refer to the question of Catalan independence, or the “Catalan question” as it is sometimes called, as in this interesting article from the New York Times from 1918.

Calling it a “question” is apt because while it does approach being a debate in Catalonia—where you can hear a range of opinions in the media and from political parties, in Spain (outside of Catalonia), it just seems to be an “issue” or a “problem”. Because, for once on a matter of national politics, the Spanish media of all shades and colours agree.

You hear the same story on the right wing and conservative radio station the COPE as you do on the Cadena SER (at the other end of the spectrum): Catalonia can’t and mustn’t become independent; it shouldn’t even want such a thing. Sometimes the message is explicit, but most of the time it’s dressed up in apparently objective and logical reasoning that always arrives at the same conclusion: it’s just not possible and, in any case, would be bad for everyone. There is, of course, a difference of opinion on how to remedy this “situation”. The left usually calls for dialogue and likes to focus on how fantastic Spain’s diversity and unity are, while the right generally just wants to put Catalonia in its place.

But this, in itself, says a lot about the “question”. The Spanish media only ever agree (in direction at least, although probably never in form) on issues of national interest. So, if an internal issue is being treated as if it were one of national interest in a large part of Spain, maybe it really is time to start redefining borders. There is, however, no universal chorus in Catalonia, where the split of opinions will hopefully at least make for a good debate. If one is allowed to be had.

It’s understandable and logical that the rest of Spain almost unanimously doesn’t want to see Spain broken. But what is a little disappointing is that there are next to no voices in Spain outside of Catalonia—or in the opinion part of the media at least—saying something like, “I don’t like it, but, as we are a democracy, let’s let Catalonia sort out what it wants, and then we can all negotiate the rest of it”. But no. No-one ever gets that far. Everyone is too busy talking about how bad and impossible it is. A very difficult question indeed.

Anyway, below is a clip for the first episode (click to play).

STOP PRESS: I just came across this article, “What the elections in Catalonia are really about“, on the upcoming elections in Catalonia from the Col·lectiu Emma, whose mission is “to ensure that the world’s public opinion gets a fair picture of the country’s reality today and in history”. The country they’re talking about is Catalonia, so understand that from them you will always get the Catalan perspective, or one of them, I should say. 🙂

Written by Rob Lunn

Rob Lunn is a freelance legal translator based in Spain. He translates from Spanish and Catalan into English.

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