You Can’t Leave!

October 7, 2017
Catalonia is not Spain. By SBA73 via @Flickr CC By-SA 2.0

What happens when one part of a country wants to separate from the rest of the country? Three words: it’s not pretty. That’s what’s happening in Spain right now. Catalonia, a region in northeastern Spain, has been wanting to leave Spain and form its own separate and independent nation for years. A referendum election took place on October 1st to determine what the people of Catalonia want. Of the millions of Catalans who cast their vote, approximately ninety percent voted for independence from Spain. That means Catalonia gets to leave Spain, right? Well, not so fast.

Leading up to the election, Spain claimed that the referendum was illegal. The Spanish government even sent police to the polling booths to keep people from voting. Despite these efforts to keep the election from happening and people from voting, the Catalonian government moved forward, and millions still voted. After the election, the Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy, announced that there was no referendum because it was completely illegal. As a result, the votes cast did not count.

Now the question is: can Catalonia move forward with their secession plans? If the referendum was indeed illegal, does the outcome of the election count? Does the Catalonian government have any power to really leave Spain? The answers to these questions will come, but perhaps the question we should ask first is why Catalonia wanted to separate from Spain in the first place. There’s no specific reason, but there is speculation as to why they want to leave.

By Philipp Reichmuth, (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
First, let’s talk language. The native language of Catalonia is not Spanish. Although some Catalans might know how to speak Spanish, the native language of Catalonia is actually Catalan. Second, Catalonia is the wealthiest region in Spain. In fact, the region is as wealthy as the entire country of Portugal! Over the last ten years, Spain has been experiencing a financial crisis. There weren’t enough jobs for people looking for work, and the country had a hard time paying back money that they had borrowed from other countries. But taxes and debts needed to be paid, and the wealthiest parts of the country paid for a larger portion of those taxes and debts. As a result, some Catalans cried foul and disliked that they had to help the rest of the country dig itself out of a financial crisis.

So, what happens now? Protests have erupted throughout Spain, and economists are predicting that if Catalonia does succeed in gaining its independence, Spain will experience another financial crisis, just as things were starting to turn around.

What do you think? Should Catalonia move forward with secession?

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