A tale of two Spains
These days there’s a debate on which companies will use Barcelona’s airport new terminal. Lots of political buzz and fuss around it. Catalonia distrusts the Spanish government. What should be an economic decision, or at least a rational one, provokes all kind of passionate speeches. Seems like the Catalan society as a whole needs to fight against an imposed solution but, how can that be if the decision has not even been made? Why does everyone here assume that the outcome will be the worst possible for Catalonia and Barcelona?
Seen from outside it’s difficult to understand why the catalans are so wary about things like that. Why should they be?
Distrust in the Spanish state, or Kingdom of Spain as the official name states, is something congenital in Catalan people. Two forces have always strived in spain: uniformity and diversity. Their force, unmatched by reason, have spilt so many Spanish blood. Sixty five years ago that war ended with uniformish Spain prevailing over the other, repressing it for more than forty years.
The silent and diverse spain couldn’t speak their language. Castilian Spanish was imposed over Catalan, Basque and Galician languages that accounted more than 30% of the Spanish population. All historical evidence of their existence was simply erased: books destroyed, libraries burned, public files taken away, students reeducated, teachers purged.
Democracy arrived twenty five years ago. Fortunately it came with no bloodshed, but, on the other hand, it also came with a great dose of amnesia. The two Spains were walking together by the hand, but one was hurt and humiliated, the other was not.
What democracy didn’t change was the rationale of the uniformist and centralist decisions from Spain’s central government. Specially under José Maria Aznar rule -yes, that person that was close to Bush and Blair in Açores photographs before the Iraq war- the priority of the central government was to concentrate everything in Madrid, spending the more the better in the capital’s infrastructures and forgetting about the rest of Spain.
And the other Spain? The other Spain managed to decentralise part of that power, using autonomous communities, recognised in the 1978 Spanish Consitution. Autonomous communities made their own Statutes -sort of local Constitutions- and began asking for political and economic power. Some of them were brand anew, some of them recovered historical rights and sovereignity that had existed for centuries.
First decentralisation wasn’t enough for that second Spain. And amnesia couldn’t last forever. Right now the second Spain is recovering their dead, still buried anonimously beside communal roads, where “red” spaniards were shot and forgot. Right now those autonomous communities are renewing their Statues and claiming for more power.
And all this with a bipartisan system that identifies one political party with centralism and uniformity, and the other one sometimes with centralism, sometimes not. New Statue for Catalonia approved in 2006 by popular plebiscite has been at the center of the political fight. For the Popular Party -that never assumed their defeat against the Socialist Party- sees in this confrontation a way to return to power.
A way to return to power based in the old tale of the two Spains. The political calculation states that supporting the centralist Spain they can get a lot of votes in many Spanish regions, while loosing support in others. They say they do that for love of Spain -that is the centralist Spain-.
But the question is, will both Spains be closer together this way?