Catalonia is a society that welcomes outsiders and possesses a great capacity to integrate newcomers. This is shown by the fact that between 2000 and 2008 a million immigrants arrived here, bringing Catalonia’s population to seven million, without any serious consequences. Likewise, in the 1960s and 1970s a million immigrants moved to Catalonia from other parts of Spain, in particular from Andalusia and Extremadura, as before the war others had come from Murcia, Aragon and Valencia. In the vast majority of cases they decided to put down roots here, meaning that today they are as Catalan as anyone. In fact, Catalan society was built by Catalans from all over the world. From 2006 to 2010 the president of Catalonia was Andalusia-born José Montilla. This makes last Sunday’s words by the president of Andalusia, José Manuel Moreno Bonilla, all the more infuriating. Speaking at a rally in Terrassa (Barcelona), Moreno Bonilla accused the Catalan government of wishing to "marginalize Catalans who have Andalusian roots".
Moreno Bonilla visited Catalonia on the occasion of Andalusia Day, and rather than paying a courtesy visit to his Catalan counterpart, he chose to attack the Catalan government and differentiate between Catalans of Andalusian origin and the rest. Can you imagine what would have happened if it had been the other way around? Speaking in a similar vein, Ciudadanos’ Parliamentary spokesperson, Carlos Carrizosa, accused the pro-independence parties of treating Catalans born in Andalusia as "colonists". Why are they so keen on dividing Catalans according to their place of birth? Why are they so keen on pitching Catalans against each other? The answer is obvious: the PP and Ciudadanos (Cs) are hoping for electoral gain from having created a debate based on ethnicity, which denies the Andalusians who moved here, including their children, the right to fully integrate themselves into the host society. Furthermore, Moreno Bonilla's paternalism, like Susana Díaz's and many others before him, is upsetting since it ignores the dramatic circumstances in which the wave of immigration took place in the 1960s and 1970s.
Both the PP and Ciudadanos often highlight the part played by immigration in present day Catalonia, with good reason, but they avoid speaking about the circumstances which forced tens of thousands of families to leave their home to embark on the uncertain adventure of migration; in other words, abject misery and the prospects of a bleak future. Most of them were able to build a new life in Catalonia, one that was denied to them in their place of birth, doing so thanks to their hard work and solidarity. They built entire neighbourhoods, fought for improvements in infrastructure and most of them joined forces with political Catalanism. They helped build Catalonia as it is today. And no one, absolutely no one, has the right to speak in their name since only they know what it cost them to fight for their dreams. Attempting to use the origins of the Catalan people for electioneering purposes, and to pitch one group against another is not only incredibly irresponsible: it is disgraceful. And it is doomed to end in failure.
The problem is that some have decided that creating a rift in Catalan society is the only way to put a stop to a Catalan republic, a goal which is not free from criticism, but which at least is inclusive and open to all. As Catalanism has always been. And as Catalonia has always been.