Will Catalunya be the first new independent country since South Sudan?
At the time of writing, October 12, Spain is celebrating the Fiesta Nacional de España—the anniversary of the day on which Christopher Columbus finally found land in a scurvy-addled state after having lied about being able to read maps. He went looking for India as we all know, but ended up in the Americas instead—but then again, if you too were long gone in syphilitic madness, you would not know the difference either. Columbus Day, as it is known in the US, is now regarded, much like every other holiday celebrated in the US, as a reminder of a racist past (because we all know that racism has been cancelled indefinitely since they elected a half-black President—but that it is in no way still a thing, stop saying it is, it's not).
This day is about celebrating being Spanish, and the rich history of Spain. God knows they need to celebrate history because the last few years haven't been too kind to them. This recent downturn was most recently compounded by a referendum held last week in the region of Catalunya to declare independence from Spain. This is bad news for a couple of reasons: firstly, the region of Catalunya appears to be the only part of Spain that can still function economically and has become the richest part of the country. Those bloodsuckers in Madrid need the Catalans to keep their country afloat. If they were to secede, all Spain would be left with are crippling levels of unemployment, a growth rate that's only positive because they had nowhere left to fall, debilitating austerity measures, and a bunch of farmers who are too lazy and too stuffed with paella to do anything productive. That and the Basques, another secessionist region but one so hapless at doing so, they might as well be called Scotland. Secondly, half the Spanish national football team would be Catalan and in a World Cup year, that's not going to end well.
The Catalan referendum was as messy as you would expect from the only country to be punished for being an Axis Power in World War II without being an Axis Power. They're like the anti-Switzerland, a country whose famed neutrality was rewarded by getting to keep all the Nazi gold in their banks. It's around that time though when the beginnings of modern Catalan resentment began. Like any ethnic minority, they were brutally oppressed by a fascist dictator—the immaculately named Generalissimo Francisco Franco (or as he was affectionately known by his friends, Froo Froo). Catalunya was especially targeted—Catalan autonomy was repealed under Franco, all protests were quashed and between 1938 and 1953, 4,000 Catalonians were sent to bed without dinner, by which I mean they were massacred. Democracy was only restored in the 1970s when a by-then senile Franco finally kicked the bucket.
In 2010, the Catalan parliament approved a new Statute of Autonomy, which is sort of like a participation medal as far as secession and independence goes. I too got one of these when I ran the wrong way during a foot race, and upon realising my mistake, slinked off hoping no one would notice. Everyone noticed. This Statute of Autonomy passed to the Constitutional Court in Spain where the judges laughed at it so hard and for so long, they wet their robes, just a little bit. Articles about an autonomous justice system, the status of Catalan as an official language, and references to Catalunya as a nation were scrapped to absolutely no one's surprise. Three years later, Catalunya made the Declaration of the Ability of Catalans to Decide—which they did, in a referendum, but no one noticed and as a result, it was a massive waste of everyone's time. In 2015, they filed a Declaration of This Time We Will Actually Start Becoming Independent. It then took them a whole two years before convincing anyone to leave their homes to go cast a meaningless vote.
That brings us to last week when those poor Catalans had to go outside in their perfect Spanish weather and vote to become independent for the 84th time. This time, however, because there was nothing else going on in the world (except for a genocide in Myanmar, an assembly line of hurricanes in the Caribbean, a man in Las Vegas going crazy, and Harvey Weinstein trying to out-sexually-assault Bill Cosby), the vote finally gained a little traction.
A week after 93 percent of the 40 percent that could be bothered to vote voted for independence, we are still awaiting the official Declaration of Independence. The Spanish government has given them till next week to go back to their lives and continue carrying the rest of the country on their backs. The Catalan parliament has been trying to stall by sending various members to juggle while riding a unicycle; in the meantime, a group of Political Science majors from the University of Barcelona are busy trying to write a constitution in a dungeon under Camp Nou. Carles Pudgy Mouth, the 130th President of Catalunya, a title equivalent to having your own meme page on Facebook, has said that it should be ready in a week or so. We will see what happens—whether we will have the first new independent country since the Starving State of South Sudan or whether this will end in utter and abject failure. All I know is, as a Poli Sci grad myself, it has never taken me longer than one night and performance-enhancing drugs to pull off any of my assignments, so I don't know what Catalunya's excuse is.
Bareesh Hasan Chowdhury is a recent Political Science graduate.