The Catalan Referendum: a viewpoint from a foreigner in Madrid.

It is Sunday morning, and as every week, it is one of the most important days to have a quality time with my family before another busy week starts. Today we woke up early and we managed to go for delicious “crepes”. We had a fried banana & chocolate crepe and a smoked salmon & cheese crepe, plus the mandatory “cañita” (a 250 ml beer glass). However, this particular Sunday was also one of the most important days for Catalunya.

Today, thousands (if not millions) of catalans went out on the streets to exercise their right for democracy and in this case, a peculiar one: whether to become independent from Spain or not.  But before I continue with this post, I want to let you know where I come from.

I am a Mexican living in Spain for the past 9 months. My wife is Catalan, although herself is half catalan, half spanish. Therefore, our adorable son is half mexican, a quarter spanish and a quarter catalan. Before coming to Spain we both were living together overseas and we never cared about the political and social situations of our respective countries. Before I even visited Spain for holidays, I was completely oblivious to the fact that in Barcelona people spoke catalan and not spanish, and to the fact that they have been lobbing to become independent for some years.

My wife knows that I am against this “independence” sentiment. We had our arguments and we try not to mix politics and religion in family gatherings. I visited Catalonia several times before and every time I go there I am mistreated for speaking Spanish (or maybe because I am confused with Moroccans since I have a brown skin, who knows?), except when I am with her family whom always care about me. Nevertheless, since we have been together and whenever we discuss this “catalan independence” sentiment, I have been the first to go against it. They always argue that they are taxed higher than other provinces in Spain, that in Madrid (the capital city) people enjoy more government aids, and that drinks are cheaper and come with free tapas because they can afford it from the taxes paid by catalunya; because people in Madrid can afford a better life, because in catalunya they are suppressed and can’t manage, because this and that…

After living in Spain, I realised that yes, in Madrid life is much better than Barcelona in economic terms. But that is because of pure economics that regular people in Catalunya don’t understand: Barcelona is way more popular than Madrid in terms of tourism and has more industrial output than the rest of the country, and therefore wages and raw products (products bought directly from suppliers) are capped at a higher price. Catalunya is not the only state suffering from this.. Every state in the World that produces more and that has a higher income, no matter the country (like California in the US), has to pay higher taxes.  I am from Veracruz, in Mexico, a state that has one of the highest taxes in my country, but that is only because we are able to get a higher wage and we are one of the oil producing states. But we are not fighting for independence, that is pure economics and sentiment, and even people who speak another language in Mexico wouldn’t try to become independent.

Notwithstanding the condition of my state, and my country, I am able to express whatever I want to say. People are even able to say to our president that he is a “dumbass” and make it public or even criticise the government without retaliation (except retaliation from those related to drugdealers) . I have freedom of speech: it is America! (I don’t mean only the US, but the entire “American continent” as it is known in Latinamerica, except the freedom of speech in Venezuela these days of course).

However, as a foreigner against an independence that will go contrary to what the European Union stands for, and moreover, after seeing how the referendum has been unfolding and the response from the Spanish government, I can say that Rajoy’s government has lost international credibility.

Today was a day of infamy from the Spanish government!! Even someone pro-Spain as I am, I condemn the actions from the central government (the Spanish government) and the shut down of websites, internet access, TV channels and other media. I wouldn’t imagine that an European country in the late 2017, would be capable to do such a thing. Today, the Spanish government showed a lack of consideration of the ‘freedom of speech’, the freedom to gather in a democratic civil act and the freedom to a referendum. Instead of supporting the voices of thousands, they decided to voice the ideas of a few. The government should have supported the referendum and show that democracy still works in Spain. People just wanted voice out their right to whether say yes or no in the referendum, something that the Spanish government aggravated, turning those in the “No” side, into the yes side.

Moreover, today the Spanish government infringed 2 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

“Article 19.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.”

Today I thank that, although my country is plagued by corruption and crime, there is one fundamental law that has not been broken, and that is “the right of freedom of opinion, the freedom of assembly and association”. The Spanish government still has a lot to learn in this regard, and the European Union should condemn the actions taken by the Spanish government and seek a prompt solution to the problem. In the meantime, as an outsider and in my personal opinion, Rajoy should quit to his post.

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