He has spent the last year in prison. As usual, I get a warm greeting from Jordi Cuixart; the chatterbox is looking as thin as ever and is always up for a laugh. He is looking all stylish in black espadrilles and dark socks. For a second we are able to forget that the conversation is taking place in a prison and that when we part our ways he will be going back to his cell. He is very determined and aware of the significance of the smallest gesture and —from what I hear— he acts as a mediator inside Lledoners prison, as well.
THE PRISON. "This is all about people", Cuixart announces, as if he doesn’t want anyone to forget it. He tells me that the first two months in the Soto del Real facility, near Madrid, were the worst: "I was fully aware of the power of the State". He recalls the helicopters flying overhead every day and concludes: "You know what? They can cast a shadow on you, but your happiness depends on your own self-control". Cuixart was fully aware that he could end up in jail and soon realised that it would be a long journey and that it would be necessary to resist strategically, out of conviction, "because the last thing they want is for us to remain strong".
"Prison is one of humanity’s failures", he says, and sees it as a victory when he decided, together with partner Txell Bonet and the Òmnium team, that they would not be afraid, that they would "start to take action". He recalls how he told his parents: "Dad, don’t worry, but I refuse to say something that I don’t believe just to get out of jail". He imagines what he must have said to his mother: "That’s just the way our lad is, Mari”[in Spanish]. Today, his father and his one-and-a-half-year-old son are both "a source of courage", and he gets emotional when he’s speaking to his mother on the phone and hears his father in the background calling out "dignity, Jordi, dignity!" He concludes: "The well of dignity is inexhaustible" and "My parents might not appreciate fancy footwork, but they understand dignity alright".
MEMORIES OF 1-O. "It was an individual and collective expression of self-determination with consequences that remain unclear". He tells me that when he went to the Industrial School of Sabadell, where he once did vocational training, "a working-class space where the middle classes had traditionally shown solidarity with the working classes", people lined up to applaud him. The police had just raided his polling station nearby, and "there was an air of tension, self-respect, with no sign of hatred, ethnic tension, or totalitarianism". It made a big impact on him: "I was keenly aware of the fact that October 1st represented a turning point", because the electorate “had known what they were up against since 11 am and they chose to go to the polling stations without a stone in their pocket". "They decided to exercise their individual self-determination".
ÒMNIUM CULTURAL. "Òmnium works to achieve a great consensus for Catalonia", with "shared struggles", and Cuixart calls on political actors not to let the existence of those in prison dictate their actions, since "something that might be good for the prisoners in the short-term, may not be good for Catalonia".
Cuixart forthrightly declares that, "today I would act in the exact same way… I don’t regret anything I did". He states that, "The fight for democracy is more important than our freedom", and he insists that keeping united front is the priority, while lamenting the fact that, "we’ve never managed to leave behind partisan factionalism". Cuixart only becomes tense when he mentions that there is much room for improvement in this area and he specifically refers to the difficulties in reaching agreements with regard to the suspension of the jailed MPs. He rejects any controversy and demands "responsibility and consensus, and the realisation that there is a greater interest at stake than that of the political parties".
THE TRIAL. "The fact that we’re still in prison today is a nuisance for the PSOE", Cuixart claims, but he clearly thinks it unlikely that [the new socialist administration in Madrid] will behave any differently: "they didn’t beat us up [on October 1] because we represented 48% of the people, but because of Rajoy's "I can’t and I refuse to”, which is more widespread than we tend to realise".
The president of Òmnium believes the prison sentences will have to be dealt with and it will also be necessary to "deal with the state’s stalemate against the legitimate representatives of the Catalan Parliament and the legitimate representatives of civil society, because they will be putting the people of Catalonia on trial". Specifically, "Their right to demonstrate, their right to the freedom of expression".
UNILATERAL DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. Cuixart wrote four letters on 27 October last year. One to Txell Bonet, another to his son, and one each for Pol and Oriol, the children of a previous partner, who see him like a father. Emotion shows in his voice when he talks about it: "To little Pol I said: ‘Daddy’s fine. Today the Republic of Catalonia has been declared’" and asked him to go and find president Macià's speech. "I felt very proud, with a great deal of self-respect, I felt we were as prepared as we could be... little Pol, today the Republic has been declared, go into the dining room and read the picture where Macià's words are. I knew that it would not stand... they declared independence without seeing it through...". Cuixart doesn’t feel as if anyone is to blame, but he has one request: "Whatever we do, we must do whatever it takes, with determination and consistently, fully aware that we are doing what we believe in and are ready to face all the consequences".
THE SON. His mother saves up all "first times" for the father behind bars. The other day their toddler ate chocolate during a prison visit for the first time in his life.