During the days leading up to the much discussed referendum on Sunday last, the people of Barcelona took to their terraces and balconies in order to bang their pots and pans.
Catalonia is one of Spain’s richest regions and recently attempted to will Madrid by holding a symbolic vote to gauge whether or not the region should cut ties with Spain and break away in order to become an independent state.
All this despite fierce opposition from the powers that be in Madrid. The Catalan government has stuck by their plan in an unprecedented constitutional standoff unseen since Franco’s regime.
The region of Catalonia is passionate about and proud of its distinctive language (don’t call it a dialect) and idiosyncratic culture. And with a population of 7.5 million and counting, the region accounts for almost a fifth of Spain’s entire economy.
Many people in the region have been lobbying for complete autonomy for years, but this latest bid, backed by the regional president Artur Mas, has pushed the issue farther than ever.
With the recent economic crisis that has greatly affected Spain, mass unemployment and hardship throughout the region has amplified its debts. In 2012, Spanish PM (since 2011) Mariano Rajoy rejected Mas’s call for greater powers for Catalonia, which led to Mas’s vow to hold an official (non-binding) vote for or against independence. However, the Spanish government were against this and he was forced to dilute this request.
Results of the referendum
The polls that took place on 9th November were staffed entirely by volunteers and over five million Catalan residents were eligible to vote. Voters were asked two questions: “Do you want Catalonia to be a state?” and if so, “Do you want that state to be independent?”
For the week prior to the referendum, citizens could be heard all across the city banging pots and pans on their terraces between 10pm and 10:15pm in an act of rebellion against Madrid and to demonstrate that their voice – as a region – should be heard.
The results of the referendum were that 80 per cent of the voters voted in favour of independence and regional president Mas declared the referendum a great success, and hopes that this result will lead to an official referendum.