Recent allegations have tried to paint the broad Catalan pro-independence movement as one with racist and xenophobic undertones, comparing it with far-right populist movements that remind us of a different era.
Thankfully, in Catalonia, this kind of identity politics was overcome decades ago by those in favour of building the .
Catalonia has historically been and still is to this day, a land where different cultures have met, mixed, and lived together. Catalan citizens are a reflection of the different peoples that in the past have come through this stretch of land and called it home.
It is surprising therefore to hear the Catalan pro-independence movement being described as racist when for instance, through its political parties as well as civic movements, it has unanimously supported the largest European demonstration in favour of opening borders to refugees.
More surprising still when one discovers that the government in Catalonia actually asked the Spanish central government to adhere to its European compromises and help facilitate the arrival of refugees to Catalan cities and towns, and sent a letter to migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos showing our willingness to receive more refugees.
Sadly, even though Catalan society and national as well as local institutions were ready, those that had the power to help did nothing. Perhaps those that make these outlandish accusations have not yet found out that Catalan pro-independence parties unanimously supported the right to universal health care – including for immigrants without papers – in the Catalan Parliament.
This took place despite opposition from part of the unionist parties and the Spanish central government who blocked the move. It’s even more astounding to hear that the Catalan movement reflects the worst kind of xenophobia when, in fact, Catalan pro-independence parties have regularly been represented by deputies and senators from a wide variety of origins (whilst it is really difficult to find such variety amongst unionist representatives).
Senator Ana Surra, a refugee from Uruguay, senator Robert Masih, who was born in India, and deputy Najat Driouech, who became the first Muslim woman in the Catalan Parliament and the first deputy to wear a veil, are examples of Catalan citizens representing the inclusive, diverse and free society we want to build.
The government created by newly elected president Quim Torra has also become a mirror of modern Catalan society, with the nomination of Chakir el Homrani, with Moroccan origins, as minister of social affairs, welfare and families. The recent attacks against the Catalan pro-independence movement sometimes focus on an apparent hate against peoples from other parts of Spain.
Whilst some political movements benefit from dividing societies along ethnic or linguistic lines, the idea of an independent Catalan Republic has actually become mainstream by accepting every citizen, regardless of their origin.
Civil society organisations such as Sumate, who represent pro-independence citizens with Spanish backgrounds and have members in several pro-independence political parties, have been instrumental in making the independentist movement, which was once marginal, a mainstream force.
This is due to the fact that support for independence has grown especially among those whose parents’ origin is to be found in other parts of Spain, Catalans that have migrated to their new home from other parts of the peninsula, and those that do not have Catalan as their native language.
The Catalan pro-independence movement now represents the most heterogeneous sectors of society.
No increase of xenophobia
Migrants, whatever their origin, have always been the foundation of Catalonia, and this still remains the case today. In the last 15 years, the population has grown over 1.5 million people thanks mainly to the newest wave of immigration.
This has happened without an increase of xenophobic attitudes or parties unlike other parts of Europe. Catalonia is a land that hosts a diverse array of citizens with different origins who have shaped who we have become.
We are proud to be represented by this diversity. In times where civil and political rights in Spain are in regression, with politicians and musicians in prison and exile, one of the main reasons to peacefully and democratically pursue the creation of a new Catalan Republic is to ensure a better future, not only for all those citizens who are currently living in Catalonia regardless of where they come from, but also for those that will live here in the future, regardless of their origin.
Supporting a new kind of country, one placed on an equal footing with other nations, is not determined by one’s historical, linguistic, or cultural background.
Instead, it is determined by the willingness to create and share a better future.
To make this happen we need to build a Republic that looks out for everyone, and we can only move forward as one and make it happen if we include every citizen in this process. You can hardly call that a supremacist project, but rather a civic and inclusive one.
Jordi Sole, from the Republican Left party in Catalonia, is a member of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance in the European Parliament.