Exclusive: Like many separatist movements, the push for Catalonian independence from Spain results from a mix of historic grievances, cultural pride and economic challenges, as war correspondent Don North describes.
By Don North
Before embarking for a visit to Barcelona, the hotbed of Catalonian independence, I was disappointed to find little historical analysis about the enigma of Catalan independence in the major U.S. news media. The U.S. news agencies that I follow presented little more than a daily chronicle of street demonstrations and the conflict between the supporters of Catalonian independence and the political leadership in the Spanish capital of Madrid. If there was much else, I missed it.
So, as a journalist interested in the history of both political and armed conflicts, I had to dig deeper into the complex dynamics of this secessionist movement as well as the broader dynamics of why regions within otherwise successful nation states seek to shatter those unions.
For Americans, there were the events that led up to the Southern secession of the Civil War. Having grown up in Canada, I had experienced two votes for the separation of French-speaking Quebec from the Dominion of Canada. Still, the reasons why separatist movements had such strong appeal – even when they ultimately failed – always mystified and intrigued me.
Looking for answers, I reread George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, which presented a first-hand view of the Spanish civil war of the late 1930s. It still left me as confused as Orwell seemed to be about the factions involved in the struggle.
Walking in the streets of Barcelona today it’s easy to forget the great political passions that once played out here in Orwell’s time. It was here in Barcelona on July 19, 1936, that the opening shots of the Spanish Civil war were heard. It was Barcelona’s revolutionary fervor that helped inspire volunteers from 50 countries across Europe and the Americas to join International Brigades to fight against Gen. Francisco Franco. There were an…