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Update From Spain on Catalonian Independence

In recent days, the political situation in Barcelona has been rapidly changing. On Oct. 22, in my morning class, my professor told us that the president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, was scheduled to finally declare Catalonian independence. A few hours later, in my afternoon class, the professor reported that, instead, Puigdemont had declared he would leave the decision up to Parliament. Eventually, Parliament voted and declared independence.

The situation changes quickly, but not without warning. My professors have started to link political events to the class subjects, and my economics professor told us that by looking at the Spanish stock market you can predict what is going to happen politically. Often, the stock market is influenced by information not yet accessible to the general public and on the morning of Oct. 22 the stock market was doing well, implying that Catalonia would not be declared independent that day.

In my Sport and Culture class, the professor has addressed the role of soccer team FC Barcelona in the Catalan independence movement. On Oct. 1, the day of the original referendum vote, FCB played its game behind closed doors and released a statement condemning the violence against voting citizens. FCB has a huge global audience and is able to introduce people all around the world to the issues that are stirring in Catalonia.

People are not afraid to share their opinion and many walk around with either the Catalan flag or the Spanish flag, hang them from their balconies, and even attach them to their cars. Recently, the majority of protesters I have seen have been opposed to independence. These people walk or drive around with the Spanish flag, honking and occasionally yelling. The huge demonstrations occur near government buildings or in popular plazas, but are easy to avoid.

Also, many people are pushing for unity and not picking a side in the Spain vs. Catalonia struggle but hoping for Spain, Catalonia and the European Union to work out their issues. I understand where the deep-rooted Catalan pride and the strong will for independence come from, but I do not think independence is a good solution to the problems many Catalan people have. I think there needs to be discourse between Spain and Catalonia, and that neither side is handling the situation well. I hope these parties can come together and unify.

The U.S. State Department has sent the same message many times to American citizens in Spain, urging us to stay away from demonstrations and providing sources for further information. The director of my program has been very helpful, sending us thorough emails explaining what is happening and where. No classes have been cancelled, and recently things have been quite normal — although throughout my two and a half months in Barcelona, “normal” has come to include an uncertainty about the state of political affairs and constant surprises. 

Harper Johnson is graduate of South Eugene High School and former EW summer intern. She is on a study abroad program in Barcelona through Arcadia University and taking classes at Pompeu Fabra University.