A reply to Alex Salmond

If we follow Salmond's advice and 'calm souch' until Spain gets around to behaving democratically and allowing a negotiated referendum, there won't be anything left of Catalonia to self-determin

Ever since I've known what Catalonia is, I've tried to explain it to as many people as I could find. "How's life in Spain?" friends would ask when I went home to the US for a visit. "Uhh, well, it's not exactly Spain," I would begin, and depending on how much their eyes glazed over, I would add more or fewer details. At first, it was a personal thing; I wanted people to understand my new life. But after a while it became political: I was frustrated with the treatment Catalonia got from Spain and wanted it to change.

And something more. Spain keeps Catalonia invisible in order to limit Catalan power and influence. If you don't exist, if you are simply a "wealthy region in northeastern Spain", it's much more difficult to assert any claims over controlling your own destiny. That's why Spain kept Catalan parents from naming their children with Catalan names, has prohibited the Catalan language repeatedly and brutally, continues to refuse to allow Catalan to be an official language in the EU or indeed the Spanish Congress, barely teaches it in its own universities, tries to pick away at Catalan immersion schooling, openly suggests that Catalan school kids should be 'Spanishized', and insists over and over again that Catalonia is Spain, or more often Catalonia is Spain's, and that Catalans, whether they like it or not, will 'die Spanish'.

This is why any campaign for Catalonia's independence, and indeed for Catalonia's survival, depends integrally on explaining just what Catalonia is, and why in fact it is not Spain, and it has a right to exist on its own. In other words, this is why so many people, myself included, spend so much time trying to explain Catalonia to the world, its history, its culture, its language, its food, its customs, its self-identification as a people and as a nation. And we have been wildly successful. That 'northeast region' now has a name that everyone knows, and its future is being discussed in Parliaments around the world.

But after listening to Alex Salmond's weekend interview on Catalan TV3 over the weekend, it occurred to me that all this attention to what the international community knows about Catalonia might be being misconstrued. Make no mistake: we're not asking for advice, and we're certainly not asking for permission. And I'm not sure if it was the fault of the interviewer or the interviewee, but what I gleaned from listening was that Salmond understands perfectly well Catalonia's right to self-determination, but still insists that we ask to be allowed to hold a referendum. But it is clear he does not understand Catalonia's current context in a state whose understanding of democracy is so limited that it has absolutely refused to allow even an unofficial, certainly non-binding poll on Catalan independence and has charged the president and two ministers in court over their insistence on holding one.

Spain, as Salmond is fond of saying, is not the UK. There is no long history of democracy here, no transparency, and only nominally and occasionally a free press. In short, if we follow Salmond's advice and 'calm souch' until Spain gets around to behaving democratically and allowing a negotiated referendum, there won't be anything left of Catalonia to self-determine. And not to be cruel, but we have to remember one more thing: Salmond lost.

Instead, the Catalan people have moved forward on our own feet. We have massively mobilized, we have clearly stated our intentions, we have voted with the highest turnout in our history, and we have won.

Our next steps—forming a government, declaring the commencement of the separation with Spain, creating state structures, and legislating an interim catch-all law—are our own. That is what self-determination means. We need not follow Salmond's or anyone else's advice. We need not continue to pretend that if we ask especially nicely, Spain will relent and recognize the need for a referendum. We need only follow the voice of the Catalan people. And that message was made crystal clear last September 27 when 48% of the electorate said yes to independence in contrast with 39% who said no. The job of Salmond and the rest of the world is simply to listen.

More content