On Sunday 166 municipalities in Cataluña held a referendum on whether the region should become independent of Spain. It was unofficial but 94.71 per cent of those who voted wanted Cataluña independence but 70 per cent of those eligible to go to the polling station stayed at home instead.
Of course the pro-independence lobby points to the 94.71 per cent vote. Those who oppose the splitting up of the Spanish nation will instead look to the high abstention rate. The pros will say ah – but it was just a mock vote and the antis will say yes but many high profile people campaigned for a yes but were ignored.
Certainly the yes vote was sufficient for the organisers to call for a legal referendum on the same question. Carles Mora, the mayor of Arenys de Munt, who is a spokesperson for the independence movement, proclaimed it as a victory for the sovereignty cause. He added that the Catalan parliament would now be asked to stage a referendum throughout the region on April 25. Mora said the voice of the people had been heard "they have decided that they want independence and they want it now."
It is estimated that 700,024 people were eligible to vote in Sunday’s poll and around 200,000 opted to do so. The vote was not only unofficial but young people aged between 16 and 17 along with immigrants were urged to add their voice.
This is an intriguing factor in Cataluña’s freedom fight for although the region has a strong identity all that is required to be a Catalan is for a person to live there. Immigration levels from other parts of Spain as well as overseas are so high that a third of all residents were not born in Cataluña so all are deemed to be equal. So I would be equally Catalan as Barcelona’s famous tenor José Carrerras or Josep as he is there.
Of course Barcelona football club is the ultimate symbol of the region’s pride and during the repression of the Franco years kept the spirit of the Catalans burning bright. Hence it is no coincidence that the president of the soccer club - the current European Champions, Joan Laporte, campaigned openly for a yes vote.
Laporte stated: "When we say Barca is ‘more than just a club’, we mean it represents the rights and freedoms of the Catalan nation – it did so during the time of Franco and it continues to do so today." He added: "The Spanish state doesn’t serve our social, economic or cultural needs – we’d be better off if we broke away and developed our own path."