This week Joan Baez performed in Barcelona and sang in Catalan. Apparently in a previous visit in the 70s, when asked to do it, she felt that this would be encouraging an “unhealthy nationalism”. This time round her long-time fan Liz Castro who, among other things, has edited What’s up with Catalonia, had taken the time to explain the nature of the Catalan pro-independence movement. You can read her very moving blog post, and watch the video of Joan Baez’s performance of Lluis Llach’s “Més Lluny” here.
Most country borders have been drawn by war. Catalans lost their independence as a result of war 300 years ago and are now trying to regain it using peaceful and democratic means. While nationalism has often been associated with conflict and violence, in our case to perpetuate the current situation is to allow consequences of war to continue to prevail. Perhaps it is time that well-meaning international observers and institutions encourage the peaceful and democratic resolution of the tensions that have remained for so long. Who knows, perhaps, when finally able to vote properly, the Catalans may say no to independence, like Scotland did. But we should have that chance.
There is still a long way to go, to get the world, or even our European neighbours to understand why so many Catalans want independence from Spain, democratically and peacefully. But there is also a huge determination to achieve this. So much so, that Catalans are inviting the world to visit them for “the Catalan Weekend“. It’s a real invitation: on the weekend of the 25th to the 28th of June 2015 Catalan households will host anyone who wishes to come and find out more about Catalonia. It seems to me that, by literally opening their doors to the world, the Catalans are demonstrating that the pro-independence movement is not about putting up barriers.
As a Catalan abroad, who has so often encountered this suspicion of unhealthy nationalism, I salute Liz Castro, and I salute all the people who are getting ready to open their houses to the world, offering their hospitality in the hope of being understood. If the Catalans do obtain independence, it will be a triumph of peaceful civil movements.
I end this post with a picture of the great cellist Pau Casals, who was also an ardent pacifist and bravely spoke about Catalonia’s peaceful aspirations at the UN in 1971.