The planned referendum on the independence of Catalonia on 1 October ended with the Spanish state police intervening. There followed a week of protests by both the supporters and the opponents of independence. Alejandro Thérèse Navarro and José Manuel Salvador, who are friends in Wageningen, are on different sides of the conflict. They share a desire for more dialogue, however.
‘The weeks before and since the referendum have been emotionally hard,’ says Alejandro Thérèse Navarro, from Catalonia. ‘On 11 September, Catalonia’s National Day, large-scale protests were held. From that day onward the threats from the national Spanish government increased, and tensions rose as the referendum approached. I was afraid violence would break out and on the day of the referendum I could not do anything but watch the news. I was terrified by the voice messages and movies from friends who were at the voting stations. Luckily the situation became more stable again after a week of protests.’
José: ‘For Spanish citizens who are not from Catalonia, the situation has not been so dramatic, but since the referendum we have been talking about it at every opportunity. International students ask about it, and all Spanish students in Wageningen feel a strong need among to talk about it.’
Where the friends disagree is on the oppression by the national government of the region of Catalonia. Thérèse Navarro: ‘The recent violent interference shows that continuing relations as they have been is no option.’ Manuel Salvador: ‘I fear that the anger against the Spanish national government is turning into a general hatred in Catalonia towards the rest of Spain. Violent interventions by the current administration have occurred in other regions as well, so the Catalans should not take it too personally.’
At least the friends agree on the way forward. They are both fan of the recent #Hablamos?- and #Parlem? movement. This means ‘shall we talk?’ ‘In the past few months there has been a lack of dialogue, but open negotiations at every level are the only way ahead. To get that started, we are now going to have a beer together.’