• Spain's news in English

Catalan independence debate splits families ahead of regional election

AFP · 25 Sep 2015, 09:15

Published: 25 Sep 2015 09:15 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

After a lifetime of hard work in Catalonia, Rafael Corpus was looking forward to a quiet retirement tending his garden.

But his golden years have been clouded by a family problem -- his son is part of the growing number of Catalans who want their wealthy northeastern region to break away from the rest of Spain.

"My roots and my feelings are from Andalucia. I respect separatists but I can't understand that my son is one. I am even ashamed," said Corpus, 66, who comes from a small town near Cordoba in the heart of Andalucia in the south.

Tensions over the issue have risen in the lead up to a regional election in Catalonia on Sunday, framed by the separatists as an indirect vote on independence.

Nationalist leaders in Catalonia have vowed to declare independence within 18 months if they win the polls.

The independence debate has triggered a bitter stand-off between the national government in Madrid and the regional government of Catalonia, as well as dividing families like Rafael's.

"It is not a problem of roots. When we are independent, I will keep visiting Andalucia and will eat gazpacho and jamon," said his 45-year-old son, who is also named Rafael.

Father and son sit around a wooden table with the mother, Procesa Fernandez, and Sonia, their daughter, under a porch of their home in Sant Fost de Campsentelles, a village some 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Barcelona.

'Divided people'

The parents migrated to Catalonia a half-century ago from the southern region of Andalucia in search of a better life.

The older Rafael worked three jobs at one point, sleeping just four hours per night, until he saved enough to buy a restaurant.

He keeps a weaving machine that belonged to his mother in the living room along with a family photo taken in their native Andalucia.

In the porch an image of the Virgin of Macarena, who is venerated in Andalucia, sits alongside a painting of the picturesque Catalan fishing port of Cadaques.

A Spanish and Catalan flag decorate the entrance to the home.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative Popular Party repeatedly argues that the separatist debate is tearing Catalan society apart.

Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz, who used to live in Catalonia, said in January that some Catalan families did not get together over Christmas because they were divided over the independence issue.

The independence project is turning Catalonia, which is home to some 7.5 million people, into a "divided people", he said.

"Catalonia is going to tear apart and it is tearing apart each day a little bit more," former Popular Party Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar warned earlier this month.

'End up shouting'

However sociologists say they see little evidence of deep divisions in Catalan society over the issue.

"It is in the interest of some to show a dramatic panorama of the situation in Catalonia, but it is not like that," said Jordi Guiu, a sociologist at Barcelona's Pompeu Fabra University.

"There is no sociological indicator of a social divide," he said, before adding that the situation in Catalonia is not comparable to that in Spain's Basque Country, which also has a strong independence movement, or in Northern Ireland.

Many families are united in their position either in favour or against independence. Others just avoid the topic altogether to keep the peace.    

For Ignasi Sitges, a 29-year-old consultant at a communications agency the independence issue is never far away at family gatherings.

Story continues below…

"We talk about independence very often," he said, adding that  he and his younger brothers and parents were split on the issue.

"Sometimes we end up shouting, but we have never fallen out. The atmosphere becomes heated and then it calms down and that's it. In my partner's family for example it is a totally taboo subject."

Procesa Fernandez, 64, said the independence debate made her "hysterical".   

"If there is independence, I will flee!" she said before quickly acknowledging that she would not abandon everything she had built in Catalonia.

"Nothing to worry about, there are also disputes like those between a Real Madrid and a Barcelona supporter," her son Rafael said.

"We are not going to stop talking to each other," added her husband.  

"Politics is one thing, family is another," said her daughter Sonia.

By Daniel Bosque and Anna Cuenca

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Spain's Rajoy says king has tasked him with forming govt
Photo: AFP

Spain's king on Tuesday tasked Mariano Rajoy with forming a government, taking the acting conservative prime minister a step closer to power again after a 10-month political deadlock.

Two imams arrested in Ibiza resort over 'Isis support'
The men were arrested in the resort of Sant Antoni de Portmany. Photo: Jose A / Flickr

Two Moroccan imams at a mosque on the Spanish resort island of Ibiza were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of backing the Islamic State group and inciting jihad.

Balearic Islands choose to keep summertime forever
The islands will have longer evenings during winter. Photo: AFP

The Balearic Islands want to keep summertime when the rest of Spain turns the clocks back on Sunday.

  Brazilian had 'uncontrollable desire to kill': Spain police
Francois Patrick Nogueira Gouveia has been charged with murdering his uncle, his wife and their two children. Photo: Guardia Civil.

A Brazilian teenager accused of dismembering his uncle and aunt and killing their two young sons in a grisly crime that shocked Spain had an "uncontrollable desire to kill", police said on Monday.

Man rescued from bin after climbing in to find old clothes
Photo: Policía Local Murcia

Police were called after passersby reported hearing a man calling for help from within a rubbish bin in the Vistabella neighbourhood of Murcia, southern Spain.

Spain faces crucial week as conservatives re-take power
Mariano Rajoy hopes to form a government this week. Photo: AFP

Spain entered a crucial week as acting conservative PM Mariano Rajoy prepared to re-take power, ending ten rollercoaster months without government marked by hope and disillusion.

Eight very creepy Halloween costumes ideas from Spain
Photo: Pan's Labyrinth

Forget flamenco dancers and bullfighters, The Local counts down the freakiest alternative costume ideas to dress up in this Halloween.

Man attacked by racist thug in UK street for talking Spanish

Tomas Gil, 27, from Valencia in eastern Spain was talking to his girlfriend in their native language after a night out in the British seaside town of Poole when he was set upon by a racist thug.

Malaga: Police probe bizarre 'sex death' of homeless Brit
The man was found near Malaga airport. Photo: Dennis Howlett / Flickr

A British homeless man was found dead tied to a bench near Malaga airport with his trousers down and his genitals in a can of tuna.

Clock ticking as Spain races to avoid third elections
Third elections could now be avoided. Photo: AFP

Spain's Socialists voted on Sunday to allow the conservatives to take power, likely averting a third election for Spaniards tired of going to the polls.

Analysis & Opinion
Out of the dark: Five years on from Eta ceasefire
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Spanish 'La Mafia' restaurants banned after Italian complaint
Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Hunt launched for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Napflix: Spaniards launch very boring TV channel for siestas
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
jobs available