The Local. Most Catalans just want to get out of Spain. 20.06.2013
Matthew Tree, a prizewinning author of books in both Catalan and English who has lived in Catalonia since the 1970s, speaks to The Local about why the region is unique, what’s driving the independence debate there and how he sees the future for its relationship with the rest of Spain.
How would you describe Catalonia to foreigners?
It’s Scotland next to the Mediterranean.
By that I mean it’s a country that before the 18th century was an independent entity – it had its own diplomatic corps, its own army, its own administration, its own taxation – and which by hook or by crook, in this case by armed violence, was made a part of an emerging nation state.
The Scots made a kind of skewed deal with the English who bribed a lot of the Scottish landowners to sign the Act of Union, but the Catalans were simply defeated in a war and that’s why they now form part of the modern Spanish state.
What sets Catalonia apart from the other autonomous regions of Spain?
Historically, it has been in Spain against its will.
In the present it seems that it is still in Spain against its will, and it has been the butt of the most extraordinary amount of intra-state prejudice for the last 200 years. Catalans are treated as foreigners within the Spanish state.
They’ve been insulted and reviled; their language is not seen as an addition to Spain but as something treacherous, ugly and threatening to Spanish national identity.
Do you believe that the attitude of Spain towards Catalonia is inclusive or colonialist?
I would say it’s almost worse than colonial.
When the Spanish were fighting the colonies they were fighting people who spoke their own language.
When they lost them they were losing countries that had been Hispanicized, and the problem for them with Catalonia is that it’s supposed to be a part of Spain and yet it’s less Spanish in many ways than many Latin American countries.
That makes it an object of rejection and, often, hatred.
It simply doesn’t fit into the Spanish scheme of things so the only way to try to make it fit is to Hispanicize the Catalans.
This is, of course, exactly what the current administration is trying to do by limiting the use of Catalan in schools, by interfering in all sorts of ways with the Catalan administration.
Read the rest of the interview here.