In English Voices From Spain

Catalonia in Two Halves

Originally published in Spanish. “Cataluña en dos mitades”. Manuel Jabois. El País.

To notice that Catalonia was becoming independent, you had to turn up the volume. It happened in a bar close to the Sant Jaume square, where TV was showing the Catalan Parliament’s plenary session on mute. “What are they voting now? Bring the remote!” What was being voted was that Catalonia were a new Republic, but the people did not stop eating. At each “yes” voiced for the favourable votes, a knife and a fork waggled. Immediately after the voting, however, came a grave silence, as when you push a red button to see what happens. In that moment, like fallen from heavens, a just married couple appeared in the street, a man and a woman. It was as if, in a fit of euphoria, people started to marry out of control. The photographer placed them next to a group of Mossos, because Mossos are now the custodian angels of love —under the new Republic, they will carry sonnets instead of guns. It was the first gesture of society after getting rid of the Spanish oppression and punishment: to smooch in peace.

What happened when the half-empty Parliament declared independence? Nothing. It was as if people in the street went mute out of shock. In Sant Jaume there were only cameras pointing nowhere. In the adjacent streets, just the usual hustle. That was what happened in the very first minutes, silence and expectation, similar to the retreating sea exposing the seabed objects, animal skeletons and shipwrecks. It was only at the arriving to Via Laietana when you started to know that something has happened, thanks to the car and motorcycle claxons, which in a first moment were patrimonial of the pro-sovereignty happiness. That street would be occupied hours later by tractor drivers claiming their limelight in the Catalan process; among other missions, it was their duty to block the regional roads that leaded to inland towns that voted, without neither Mossos nor police, on the October 1st.

As the street started to heat up, and Sant Jaume and its surrounding were getting crowded, and began the traditional emotional outpouring typical of the era, the most technical aspects of the declaration of independence —carried out in a half-empty Parliament, on behalf of an illegal referendum lacking of guarantees according the Generalitat’s own observers, and through a ballot box and a secret vote—, started to dilute. All of this ignoring, one more time, of the requirements by the legal services of the Parliament itself. Those MPs that voted “yes” on the sly, as someone making a mischief, were not present in the gatherings outside schools on the October 1st, have tried by all means to erase administrative tracks that could comport criminal consequences and, finally, when the voting of their lives arrived, after insanely claiming the transcendental moment of founding a nation at the expense of half of citizens, they do it in secret, without any hint of dignity, in the most embarrassing moment of the pro-sovereign process; the latter has an unquestionable merit —the only thing they did not to do, indeed, was to deposit their votes with tongs to ensure that no fingerprint was left in the ballot. So, what kind of country can be founded like this? Not a shred of responsibility.

The independence illusion obliterated all these details. A walk through the Barcelonian neighbourhoods at mid-morning, while the Parliament debate was in progress, was the best proof that the confection of the new country did not matter that much at this point. It was better ignoring what it was being done and how; turned-off televisions or on mute, no interest at all in the streets, no retransmission to watch in some place. And this was also true in the surroundings of central areas like the Palau, hence the ecstasy and euphoria were developing slowly, beginning to massively manifest only in the afternoon, as people living a dream, which they prefer to ignore how much it costed. Now, at nine pm, half Catalonia believes to be living in a country and the other half in another. In most part of the city, you can not distinguish between today and yesterday, between a day and another. In the pro-independence movement too, there are people who does not ignore the reality principle, and instead of happiness, they expressed resignation. In the coming days, the region that expected to become a nation will be deprived of its autonomy.

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