Posted on by Peter Rettig

Spain and Catalonia – Not Just a Language Conflict...

Spain and Catalonia FlagsDuring our month-long stay in Barcelona and travels though Spain in 2012, we became keenly aware of the brewing conflict between Spain and Catalonia.

This was a conflict we did not understand that well initially.

Is Bilingualism the Answer?

Our previous post, In Barcelona Speaking “Spanish” Is Not Enough..., only touched the tip of the “language iceberg.” We were surprised at the time in Barcelona how many people appeared to be truly bilingual. 

A recent Reuters article: "Catalan language revival fuels backlash in Spain" reminded us of the language issues we had learned about during our stay. The article points to bilingualism as a potential solution, but disagreements remain. With the monarchy's fallen popularity, even the new King Felipe VI, who speaks Catalan, is not given much of a chance to heal the divisions.

More Than a Language Conflict

Our friend in Barcelona, Fabian, recently updated us on the events since our visit: huge demonstrations; a human chain of about 2 million people from southern France to València in 2013; even bigger demonstrations planned for September 2014 and the planned referendum for independence of Catalonia on November 9. 

Fabian also sent us a link to an in-depth and quite balanced review of the situation, written by an English journalist, Gary Gibson: Spain's Secret Conflict, which includes interviews with many players. It is now obvious to us that, while language is an important issue, it is clearly more than that: cultural, historical, economical, emotional, political, and many other aspects are mixed into the disagreement.

We hope that Fabian's ominous statement - “Sadly the Spanish government has the bad habit of bombing Catalonia now and then. We will see!” - is just reflecting historic events, and that democratic processes can avoid violence. Examples exist: in 1905, Sweden agreed to a peaceful dissolution of its union with Norway; and German speaking South-Tyrol is now a multicultural success story after years of conflict.