It was interesting to be in Catalonia just before historic vote
It was interesting to be in Catalonia less than a week before that Spanish state’s vote to become independent from Spain.
Our visit was peaceful and quiet but the signs of the impending vote were all over the place. Catalonian flags hung from people’s apartment balconies. Banners with just the word “Si!” were all over the place, Si meaning yes! And there were sheets pasted everywhere to encourage people to vote.
Catalons were seeking their separation from Spain to gain more autonomy for financial and cultural reasons. Catalonia has it own distinct language. In fact a Spanish teacher on our trip said she could not understand Catalan. There are also some cultural differences, but they were not apparent to us.
We were told at the time that polls showed that people were about 60 percent to 40 percent against separating from Spain. Then the Spanish government came in and confiscated all the ballots prior to the Oct. 1 vote.
So the separatists printed new ballots and went along with the election anyway. The result was that 90 percent said they wanted to be independent of Spain.
The problem was that just 43 percent of the people voted.
There could be some good reasons for that. With the Spanish military in town looking out for Spain I suspect some didn’t want to get on the government’s bad person list. And I suspect that some who were opposed figured the government wouldn’t let it happen anyway so a vote was not necessary.
That didn’t stop separatist supporters from deciding to declare Catalonia independent on October 9. However, on October 7 and 8, hundreds of thousands of people filled the streets of Barcelona wanting not to separate but for there to be some negotiations with Madrid about a role for Catalonia that offered a little independence short of total separation. And that’s where things seem to stand as of this writing.
While we were there, just days before the vote, we noticed no army presence. There was a strong police presence, but I think that was in reaction to a terrorist event earlier in the month.
On popular public walkways, such as La Rambla, the ends of the walkways were guarded by armed police officers and a couple of police cars at either end and part ways down the walkway. We noticed that in other locations as well.
As of this writing talks between Catalonia and Spain were taking place.
Europe as a whole has had a number of terrorist events over the past year. We noticed at the Louvre in Paris one day that police were standing around with automatic weapons near where vehicles enter the square that is in the middle of the Louvre grounds. But the next day, when we went to go into the Louvre, the presence was much less prominent.
The same was true at the Eiffel Tower, men in uniform with automatic weapons stood guard at entry points. All bags and backpacks were searched as one entered the grounds of the tower.
But that is not much different than places in the United States, more and more of which have metal detectors and check purses, bags and backpacks of those entering the structure.
Our concern about security has changed over the years. As a 12-year-old I can remember walking up the front steps and right into the U.S. Capitol. There was a police officer standing around but no checks. And nobody was concerned about some nut or terrorist heading into a building to do harm.
Now when you are in Washington, D.C., you will go through metal detectors in most buildings along with bag checks. If you pay attention you will notice Capitol Police up to several blocks away from the Capitol, all to make sure no threats are heading to the Capitol.
It is a sad commentary on the time in which we live.