(A translation of the article written by Victor Alexandre 19th July 2012)
Only 2 years left for 11th September 2014, the emblematical date that will mark the difference between before and after in the history of Catalonia. Right now it is highly probable that many Catalan people only perceive this date as a commemorative festivity; but it will be 300 years anniversary since 1714, when Catalonia lost its freedom and was invaded by the Spanish army. For many people it has been not more than a celebration. And if you come to think about it, I understand it because for many years the National Day of Catalonia has been more an official commemoration than a revolutionary day. Nonetheless, the change is coming, and this amazing change will come true in 2014. The evolution experienced nowadays by Catalan society into maturity is being so impressive: we can realize now dreams that seemed impossible in the past, what yesterday was unusual, today has become an obvious reality. We must only look a bit backwards, not much, just to see how much things have changed lately. Maybe things have not changed enough yet, but the situation is better than before, though there are some who wished for less.
We should all do a very useful exercise in order to become aware of this evolution: let’s start, for example, counting how many books have been written in regards the independence of Catalonia; this topic was a total taboo some years ago, even after Franco died. Let’s recall how many books have been published talking about the Catalan nation from all of its points of view, but mostly from cultural and linguistic perspectives. So many books! And those books can be categorized under a common genre. There were books like “Plantem-nos!” (Stand up!- Proa, 2000), written by Lluís M.Xirinacs and Lluís Busquets i Grabulosa; “Raons i topics” ( Reasons and clichés- La Campana-2001) by Josep Maria Terricabras; “Espanyols per força”(Forced to be Spanish-Proa 2002) of Mossèn Josep Dalmau; “La independència i la realitat” (Independence and reality- Moll -2004) written by Héctor López Bofill; “Catalunya sota Espanya”(Catalonia under Spain-Dèria, 2007) from Alfons López Tena; “Crònica de la independència” (Independence chronicles-Columna.-2009) of Patrícia Gabancho; or “Tenim pressa, molta pressa”(We are on a rush-Dèria-2012) written by Heribert Barrera.
In spite of this, there are still many Catalan people that are convinced we have not got very far, since we still do not have our own state. However, I disagree with them. Maybe we have not got far enough yet, and we won’t until we are an independent country. But the psychological evolution of our people in these regards is not only obvious but has advanced considerably. And to convince those doubtful people I will explain a personal anecdote that I have never shared with anybody: on the 11th September 1999 when I published the book “Jo no sóc espanyol” (I am not Spanish), 3 of the 20 people quoted in the book got very scared when they saw the final title, and they put their hands on their heads and told me “This is too much!”. They were suffering the most common Catalan fear: they were fearful to call things by its name and suffer a horrible punishment. One thing was to talk about independence in petit comité, but it was much different to say things publicly. And saying something like “ I am not Spanish” loud and clear in the socio-political context we had in 1999, included to take a compromise to Catalonia that not everybody was ready for. However, I believe the three persons mentioned above should have widen their horizons and realize that political context was about to finish. They should have foreseen important things are about to happen to Catalonia. Like it happened when we promoted to have the un-official referendum for our independence in the past 3 years, which supposed a key sociologic effect in our people that we will be able to study in the coming years from a historical perspective.
Along these last years, though, I have met people who have asked me why I use a negative sentence in the title instead of an affirmative one. So to say, why I titled the book “I am not Spanish”, instead of “I am Catalan”, which seems apparently more logical, prejudiced-free and assertive, right? But the truth is that saying “I am Catalan” was not prejudiced-free or assertive nor in 1999 neither now, simply because nobody has ever denied we are Catalan. This is something everybody admitted, however, always within the frame of the Spanish state, like people with a “patria chica “–little homeland- and a madre patria -mother country- (Spain). Like a person from Extremadura would say: “I am from Extremadura, therefore I am Spanish”.
Consequently, on 1999 assertiveness and lack of inhibition consisted in not falling in the little homeland trap and denying the fact that being Catalan meant we were Spanish. Statistics explain very well the social impact that a simple sentence like “I am not Spanish” could cause then: during the first two months after being published, the average sales of my book was one copy every 10 minutes. Other writers and critics catalogued it as the most relevant work within the Catalan independence movement. I think it was more than a book; it was a declaration that took us to a road with no way back. So I am pretty convinced that if I would publish it now it would not have such an impact as it did then. Who says this country has not changed? Who says that Catalonia in 2012 is the same than in 1999?
And since we are deliberating, let’s ask ourselves how come in 1999 we were totally unable of saying “I don’t want to pay” in the highway toll? Who stopped us then of doing the same we are doing today? What were we afraid of? Nobody knows…but the point here is that we did not even dare thinking about doing such a thing then, and though we felt disgusted about it, we accepted the robbery docilely. We were all the portrait of the “good” Catalan people. There are some people left who still think that way, but a lot less than 13 years ago. The awareness of the Spanish plundering has grown so significantly among our population and independence is a hot topic everywhere now. In summary, the desire for independence has spread within all Catalan speaking regions remarkably and it has become a more natural feeling, willing to decide for ourselves, be free and stop the plundering of our resources. It may be true the Catalan nation has been a “sleeping beauty” that needed to wake up from this 3-century-nightmare: now we are finally waking up.