Catalonia: ‘To keep friends and family close it’s best not to talk politics’

Catalonia: 'To keep friends and family close it's best not to talk politics'
People tie yellow ribbons and bang pots in protest at jailing of Catalan politicians. Photo: AFP
A year after Catalans went to the polls on October 1st, 2017, to vote in a highly controversial - and illegal - referendum on whether the region should be granted independence from Spain, Adrián Lizanda Herrera, hit the streets of Barcelona to find out the mood among the locals after a tumultuous 12 month.

The vision of Catalonia differs enormously in citizens who support independence and those who reject it. But one thing remains constant. And that's uncertainty. 

Pro-independence Catalans feel excited about the political situation, while unionists consider it to be discouraging.

The Catalans who spoke to The Local disagree on how politics are affecting relationships between families and friends.

Again, unionists expressed that tension is in the air, sometimes straining friendships and relationships because of the strong difference of opinion.

Pro-independence Catalans, however, argue that such tension is not as palpable as others claim.

READ MORE: A year after referendum, Catalan separatists rudderless

One issue that remains at the top of the agenda, even on the streets, is the fate of those Catalan politicians who are languishing behind bars, while others, including Carles Puigdemont, the former regional President and instigator of the declaration of independence on October 27th remain in exile. 

Across Catalonia, tied on lampposts, railings, trees and motorway bridges are yellows ribbons, the symbol representing the campaign to free the “political prisoners”. Posters with the faces of those imprisoned adorn posters plastered on walls and hung from balconies across the region.

“Politicians must be set free before any solution is reached”, insists Júlia Santamaría, a 27-year-old waitress who has lived in Catalonia for just over a year.

Santamaría is originally from Cantabria, a region north of Spain. There, she claims, she cannot talk about Catalans. While she considers that a referendum like the Scottish would be a solution to the Catalan problem, many on her family back home are not so understanding.

“There is a lot of manipulation on national television,” she said. “It seems like we are killing each other here.”

Some others say the tension is real.

Photo: Adrián Lizanda Herrera

Antonia García, a 59-year-old shopkeeper (pictured above), admits that being against independence has caused her trouble. In 2010 her two sons went out to celebrate Spain’s victory in the World Cup. After that, she claims, people in her neighbourhood became hostile and started stalking her shop.

“They peed, spit and threw cans of beer at my door”, García said.

For David Borén, 55, a manager who says he supports independence, insists no problem exists with those who have a difference of opinion on the matter.  In fact, he explains that a man from his working place votes Ciudadanos, a unionist party that won the most seats (but not a majority) in the last election, and that there are no hard feelings between them. “We do avoid talking about politics though”, Borén admits.

Victor Rodero, 48, who works at Barcelona’s airport, thinks that it is pointless to talk politics with some people as they are “hyperventilated”.

“The situation has worsened since the October 1st,” he said.

Jordi Casabó disagrees strongly with both statements. 

The 66-year-old university teacher claims to be more motivated than ever after the failed referendum -which was met with violence at the polls after police tried to disrupt the vote, which overwhelming saw people vote 

He insists that there is no problem when talking about politics. “Families are not divided, that is a lie made up by unionists parties”, Casabó said. 

Photo: Adrián Lizanda Herrera

Others now feel unwelcome in Catalonia. Ana Gómez, 55, who owns a shop selling Galician produce in the El Carmel neighbourhood in Barcelona.

Gómez admits that she and her husband, who is from the northwestern region of Galicia, are considering leaving Catalonia. “If you do not think like them you are evil”, she said when approached while walking her dog (pictured above).

Photo: Adrián Lizanda Herrera

Dani Fortuño, a 27-year-old athlete (pictured above), considers that the independence movement has taken over the spotlight and overshadowed important issues such as corruption scandals in Catalan politics.

Asked about the future of the independence movement, he does not think that anything will be accomplished.

“Something else will come up that will keep people distracted”, he sighed.Others are equally discouraged by the state of Catalan politics.  

Photo: Adrián Lizanda Herrera

Carlos Cereijo, 47, is a barman that does not feel represented by politicians (pictured above). “Society was stirred up around the vote last year, now it feels like the calm after the storm.”

Gorka Samaniego, a 21-year-old student (pictured below), does see the existence of discord Catalan society. In fact, he claims to have lost friends because of the current situation.

“I've learned that to keep friends and family close it's best not to talk politics”

Samaniego thinks that new politicians are needed to solve the problem, and he compares the current situation with Bill Murray’s ‘Groundhog Day’.

“We're stuck in the same cycle,” he said. “It feels like nothing will change.”

Photo: Adrián Lizanda Herrera

READ ALSO: Pro-independence protesters in Catalonia block roads and railway line