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VOICES: What Catalans really think about the vote for independence

As Catalonia prepares to go to the polls on Sunday in a referendum blocked by Spain, The Local spoke to some young people in Barcelona about what it means to be Catalan, whether they support independence from Spain and how they view the vote on October 1st.

VOICES: What Catalans really think about the vote for independence
Young women draped in Estelladas in Barcelona. Photo: AFP

Benoît Garcia, 24, Musician

I support the vote, but I don’t know what I will vote. I don’t know if we will have the opportunity. Instead I think there will be a social revolution against a state that oppresses all Spanish citizens.

My whole family feels the same oppression as me, but I don’t think the sentiment we feel is related to independence but to free ourselves from the politics of the central government. Rajoy’s reaction, arresting people, ordering raids, is what makes all of us want to go out and vote, that is what makes us gather all the power we need to go out there and have no fear of the policemen and violent raids. If they’re trying to convince us not to vote, it is just making it worse. 

The independence movement has gained momentum in the past few years. In fact now, what back then was predominantly a fight for the lefty parties has become an independence feeling. But in my opinion what’s gaining much power nowadays is the dissatisfaction with the central government.

The relationship between Spain and Catalonia is as weak as can be, even tense. What scares me the most is the fascism I perceive in most of the Spaniards, that is, whatever has created this idea that Catalans hate Spaniards; that is not true, there has always been hatred from Spaniards towards Catalans since the 18th century. To me it seems the deepest feelings of the population have come to light: the feelings of love but especially the feelings of hate.

Andrea Ponce, 30, office worker.

Banners calling for a No vote for independence. Photo: AFP (Ponce preferred to only give her name and age, not her picture or job title as she feels that being anti the referendum will cause her trouble)

I do not support a referendum under current conditions. If a legal referendum had been negotiated long ago or if it is negotiated in the future, I would vote and vote no.

I am Catalan and therefore Spanish. It is the same.

My mother was born in Madrid, but she grew up here and feels the same as me. As Catalan as Spanish. She thinks independence is absurd, it seems pathetic that the independence movement wants to make Catalonia something 'smaller' at a time of globization.

My father has never had a feeling for independence but for years he has been very disappointed with how the PP leads the country and that has made him think about independence.

I believe that the Catalan government, together with a well-designed media campaign, have succeeded in gaining an independence spirit under constant manipulation. Public television has been talking about 'l'estad espanyol' for a decade and the country referring to Catalonia. That is to say that a TV that we all pay for, not of one party or another, but all, has been lying systematically for a decade.

In the previous vote for independence, they lost with 47.74 percent. Independence does not have the popular majority. But for two years I have not ceased to hear 'la volunta del poble' and 'procès'. And now 'volem be lliures'. I also want to be free but without this pantomime of democracy and their dirty games.

The remaining 50.62 percent are not free to carry flags of their country(Spain) – if they wanted to – because they are called a fascist, or if they take a Spanish flag to the Barça stadium that is ‘provoking'.

I think there are revolutions that drive change. I followed and supported with enthusiasm the movement of the indignados but this is neither democracy nor oppression. It is a separatist movement going for yes at all costs and disguising it with words like oppression and fascism.

The relationship between Spain and Catalonia is broken forever. When I think of Catalonia I think of Marx's phrase 'Nationalism is an invention of the bourgeoisie to divide the proletariat'. 

Carla Comadran Casas, 27, Student.

I think of the Spanish State as an Imperialist State, therefore I will vote, and I believe in the right to decide. Catalonia has for centuries been systematically imposed with a culture that isn't its own and it has been forced to be represented by homogeneous and centralist laws that can not include the differences between different cultures inside the Spanish peninsula. The independence movement has grown, I would say since 2006, when the Estatut that had been voted for by 73 percent of the Catalan people was taken down by the Constitutional Court.

Obviously the actions of the Spanish government recently have had an effect on the people’s attitude towards the vote – a nation that isn’t oppressed and is autonomous doesn’t have reasons to rebel. Sadly, the Spanish State has always exerted a commanding role towards Catalonia and the other Peninsular nations. Catalonia and Spain are siblings, nations that have common roots and historical bonds that nobody can deny, but there’s no way that that means one can rule above the other. I believe in Catalonia there is a mixed attitude towards Independence. Everyone wants to vote, though.

Bernat Tresserras, 27, Political Scientist.

I would want a Referendum that is agreed upon by both parts, nevertheless I’m happy about this Referendum and will vote on Sunday. I want Catalonia to be an independent country. I think the way the Spanish parties are acting is to protect their own votes, but not in the general interest. The Catalan parties, they’re trying to implement, first in an agreed fashion but if they can’t, unilaterally, the duties that the voters have asked of them, namely that 80 percet of the Catalan people want to be asked and to vote. This means that they are using any means necessary to do so. 

The independence movement has been growing because, although Catalonia has always felt that they have their own identity and are a sovereign nation, traditionally they used that feeling to try to improve the Spanish State. 

However since the 2007 abolishment of the Catalan Estatut this changed. The Estatut has to be approved by the Spanish Parliament and then by Referendum by the Catalan people, so all the parts have a say and they both have to agree upon it. But after having agreed upon it, the Constitutional Court made that invalid and applied an Estatut that nobody had voted for, so this will to transform Spain was delegitimised.

This Sunday, the Spanish State will do anything for the people not to vote, including the use of the force. The Catalan people will be in the streets, either voting or demonstrating. And afterwards, there will be a political crisis. In the case that we can vote and the result is a Yes, the Catalan Government will declare Catalonia as an Independent country, but there will be no legitimacy for us by the Spanish government. We will have to negotiate.

If we don’t vote, the State will begin to collapse, since it would mean that a Coup d’Etat has happened, and a new era of demonstrations and rebellion will begin.

I think the only way that the two parts can understand each other is if a third part is there to mediate. Someone from the outside, from the EU or the UN.

By Daisy Bata and Dan Setien in Barcelona

Bata writes for VICE on politics, workers rights and sex. Follow her here. Setien is a writer and student of Psychology.

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14 Barcelona life hacks that will make you feel like a local

Barcelona is a popular city for foreign residents in Spain thanks to its coastal location, many international companies and great lifestyle. However, navigating life here can take some getting used to, so here are our top Barcelona life hacks to help make things easier for you.

14 Barcelona life hacks that will make you feel like a local
Barcelona life hacks. Image: Michal Jarmoluk / Pixabay

Invest in a good water filter

Barcelona tap water doesn’t taste the best, particularly in the areas around the Old Town such as El Born, the Gothic Quarter, Barceloneta and Raval. The water is also very hard, meaning that it leaves limescale on appliances such as your kettle.

Using a good water filter can improve the taste and make sure that limescale doesn’t build up. It’s also much more economical and healthier than buying bottled water every time you want a drink.

Use the Rodalies trains to get across the city faster

Many people when they first move to Barcelona just use the metro and don’t bother using the Rodalies trains. While it’s not always necessary, for certain journeys it can make getting across the city much faster.

For example, if you need to get from Sant Andreu or Clot to Sants to connect to one of the intercity trains, it’s only two or three stops on the Rodalies, as opposed to more than 10 on the metro, as well as changing to different lines.

Don’t try and get anything important done in August

This is probably true of most of Spain, but if you need to get anything important done, whether official paperwork or renovations on your apartment, don’t try and get them done in August.

The whole city goes on holiday for the month of August, including office personnel, builders and handypeople. If you need to get any of this done, it’s best to get it done before the holidays or to wait until September.  

Don’t buy drinks from sellers on the beach or in the park

You’ll find many people selling drinks on the city’s beaches and in the main Ciutadella Park. While it can be tempting to buy these, especially when it’s so hot, you need to be aware that these cans of drinks are often stored inside drains or under manhole covers, meaning that they’re not the cleanest.

A few years ago, El País took the mojitos sold by hawkers on the beaches to a local lab. The results came back a few days later to show that they contained high levels of fecal matter and bacteria in them.

Barcelona’s Chinese supermarkets are a great source of ingredients

Although you can now find many more foreign ingredients in local supermarkets than you could just a few years ago, there are still many that you may miss from back home, particularly South East Asian and Indian ingredients.

Barcelona has several excellent Chinese supermarkets, where you can find a range of ingredients, everything from sesame oil and Thai curry paste to Indian spices and affordable peanut butter.

Don’t take valuables out with you to certain areas, particularly at night

Unfortunately, bag snatchings and pickpockets are still commonplace in Barcelona. While the thieves mainly target tourists, foreign residents often find that they are targets too.

The trick is to blend in like a local, look like you know where you’re going and don’t take valuables with you to areas such as the Gothic Quarter, Raval or the Rambla, especially at night. Bag snatchings in El Born have also increased in recent years, so keep your wits about you around there too. 

Find your favourite beach outside of the city

Barcelona’s beaches may have been one of your prime reasons for moving here, but you’ll find that you actually prefer the beaches outside of the city.

Overcrowded, dangerous and a lot dirtier than other beaches in the area, the beaches in Barcelona are unfortunately not all that they’re cracked up to be. You’ll often find that after you’ve been for a swim, your valuables will not still be on the sand where you left them. Head just 15 to 20 minutes outside of the city however and you’ll find the beaches are far nicer and safer.

Find a beach outside of the city centre to go to. Photo: makunin /Pixabay

Try to join several different clubs or groups

Barcelona is a very transient city, meaning that people are moving here and leaving all the time. As a result, you’ll often find that most of the friends you made when first moving here have now moved away and you’ll constantly need to make more. If you join several clubs and groups, you’ll find that making new friends all the time is a lot easier. 

Don’t buy a single transport ticket

It’s never really worth buying a single transport ticket in Barcelona, because you’ll end up spending much more money per journey than you would if you bought the T-Casual (10 journeys) or the monthly T-Usual metro card instead.

You can also buy 10-journey bono tickets for the Rodalies trains, which will also save a lot of money if you’re making regular journeys out of the city. 

Try and avoid shopping at Port del Angel on Saturdays

Port del Angel is Barcelona’s main pedestrianised shopping street. While it’s great and has all the high-street fashion shops you want, it can be a nightmare shopping here on Saturdays.

If you do need to shop on a Saturday, try Rambla Catalunya or one of the shopping malls instead, which won’t be so crowded.

Be prepared for festivals and events

Barcelona holds so many festivals and events that it can be hard to keep up. In normal (non-Covid) years, there is one every other week.

Because of this tickets sell out quickly and there are many fun cultural events that you might miss out on. Keep your calendar up to date, so you know what’s going on, and make sure to book tickets for anything you want to see, well in advance. 

Tipping isn’t necessary at all bars and restaurants

Tipping isn’t all that common in Barcelona, unless perhaps if it’s a particularly nice restaurant or if there’s a large group of you that the waiter has had to look after.

You’ll find that it’s not expected either, except maybe at some of the city’s very touristy restaurants.  

READ ALSO: Why do Catalans have a reputation for being stingy?

Do lots of research before renting an apartment and if it sounds too good to be true, then it is

Unfortunately, there are lots of property scams in Barcelona, so try and do as much research as you can beforehand. Never pay money upfront before you’ve seen the property and received the keys.

Also, be aware that many landlords will not return your deposit at the end of your stay.

Many people get around this by not paying the last month’s rent, but this can also make things difficult for the good landlords who may genuinely need to deduct something for damages, so speak with your estate agency on the best thing to do in this situation.

READ ALSO: What you should know about renting an apartment in Barcelona

Hire a gestor or lawyer to help with immigration and tax issues

You’ll save yourself a lot of time and hassle with immigration and tax issues if you hire a professional to help you in Barcelona, where getting a cita previa (appointment) for official matters can often be difficult, in part because these law firms often bulk book them.

However, there are certain processes that you won’t need an immigration lawyer for such as getting a residency certificate if you’re from an EU country or exchanging your green residency certificate for a TIE if you are British and moved here before the end of 2020.

READ ALSO: BREXIT: How to apply for a TIE residency card in Spain

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