Catalonia at the Crossroads
During his official visit to the United States, President Artur Mas held a conference on Wednesday at Columbia University to explain the political circumstances in which Catalonia currently finds itself. The President, who was introduced by the university’s J. and M. Grossman Professor of Economics, Xavier Sala-i-Martín, explained the Catalan political, social and democratic reality in a symposium entitled “Catalonia at the Crossroads”. The Chief Executive also discussed Catalonia’s next steps in the wake of the 2014 9N vote, as well as the historical events that led to the current political climate.
In this regard, President Mas made reference to the importance and conviction Americans give to ‘the people’, which is reflected in the United States Constitution as it begins with the words “We the people”. In a similar way, Artur Mas also referred to the protest song “We shall overcome”, a key anthem of the African-American Civil Rights Movement, as well as the famous slogan used by Barack Obama during his presidential campaign: “Yes we can”.
The Chief Executive presented Catalonia as a country which has “survived and obtained strength through our creativity and our capacity to work hard” during the difficult times of its long history, such as the siege in Barcelona in 1714 or during the repression of Francoist Spain.
“Catalonia is a centuries old nation whose citizens have every right to create, if the citizens of our country so democratically choose, a different social construct, with different institutions and different priorities than their current state”, affirmed the President as he explained the motives that have brought the country to choose their own path, hence the title of the conference “Catalonia at the Crossroads”.
The President also noted that Spanish Court’s decision to “put an end to any speculation regarding the possibility of Catalonia progressing within Spain”, along with “the stripping of Catalan autonomous powers” were factors that led to the demonstration in July 2010 which involved a million people protesting against the central government with the slogan “We are a nation. We decide.” This unchained a series of “massive peaceful demonstrations organized by Catalan civil society groups […] representing different social classes, ages and ideologies”.
With this present, Artur Mas assured the more than 350 attendees that the movement “started spontaneously at the grassroots level”. “Unlike what some have claimed, it was not the idea of a radical politician or an irresponsible political party. This process has come from the bottom up, and as the movement grew the political parties realized that they had an obligation to fulfil the people’s will to have a vote on their political future” affirmed the 129th President of the Generalitat.