On Monday September 11th, 2017 Catalonia celebrated the National Day known locally as La Diada Nacional de Catalunya.
Like hundreds of thousands of Catalans, I decided to join the National Day party, wearing my yellow T-Shirt, disguising myself as a supporter of independence, walking through Barcelona and taking some photos. The main celebration was in the centre of the city around Borne and in the corner of Aragó and Passeig de Gracia where the big pro-independence demonstration took place. Because the streets were full of action I decided to start my tour early.
TV3 Diada debate
As I was preparing my camera equipment, I watched the Diada debate from TV3. The main message of the national TV channel was that Catalans should have the democratic right to decide about their own future. The journalists interviewed a lot of pro-independence supporters who all stated that the only way to guarantee the democratic rights in Catalonia was to vote “Yes” for the independence.
When the supporters were asked about what happens after October 1st and after the positive election result, the routine answer was: “I’m not sure, but I hope for the best”. The opinions gave me an impression that the democratic right to decide, for or against independence, is far more important than anything else. After watching the debate for 20 minutes I was almost convinced that anybody who is against the independence referendum is on the wrong track and undemocratic.
What about EU citizens democratic rights?
As a foreigner living in Barcelona for the last 10 years I could not help but wonder about my own democratic rights. Like hundreds of thousands of foreigners in Catalonia, I can vote in the municipal elections and in the EU elections. But still all the EU citizens are left out from participating in the unilateral independence referendum in Catalonia.
In the Scottish referendum all the EU citizens living and registered in Scotland were allowed to vote, as the commonwealth migrants from 54 states including India, Pakistan and Nigeria. According to some strange legal madness, the Catalan independence referendum is not considered as a national referendum or a municipal referendum. It is something in the between. Only the Spanish citizens registered in Catalonia can vote, and the foreign EU citizens registered in Catalonia are left out.
I also thought that the Catalan government is making moves that can change my own democratic rights. There is a threat that if Catalonia gets independent and if Catalonia gets separated from the European Union, I would lose my right to vote in the EU parliamentary elections here in Catalonia. I would have to vote for a candidate from the election lists of the country where my passport was issued and not a candidate from the place where I live, work and pay taxes.
Walk through Passeig de Gràcia
As I was walking through the district of Gràcia to Diagonal, I observed many bigger and smaller groups of people wearing yellow T-Shirts and waving Catalan flags. They were walking like little chickens towards the Passeig de Gracia. When I approached Diagonal metro station the streets were starting to fill up. There were loudspeakers stationed everywhere and they were playing the same English song over and over. The song was something about building a tower.
I took some photos and continued down to the corner of Aragó and Passeig de Gràcia. Just almost one hour before the main act there were still surprisingly few people. The most people were among 30 to 60-year-old. There were also lots of families with children. Everything was well organized. The left side of Passeig de Gràcia was let open so that people could move freely up and down the street. On the other side the people were mostly sitting in circles and waiting for the action.
I felt like an outsider
When I reached Plaza Catalunya I already felt like an outsider. Most of the thousands of people gathering in the demonstration were naturally Catalans. The only foreigners that I saw were people from Asia or Africa selling big and small Catalan flags and yellow T-shirts.
I also felt a bit strange because of my yellow T-shirt. People treated me like an insider but I felt totally the opposite. I felt more like a citizen belonging to a multicultural and an international society of Barcelona and not as a member of pro-independent Catalan society.
Walk to the Arc de Triomf
Because I didn’t want to get stuck for hours inside a pro-independence demonstration. I decided to continue my walk to the Arc de Triomf. There was a big celebration going on. I found a concentration of local NGOs and a huge music stage. Also I saw less yellow shirts as in the center of the city. Many of the NGOs were represented by immigrants and refugees.
As I passed by the different groups of foreigners I thought that maybe the immigrants and the refugees coming outside of European Union are supporting the independence because of the promises of a better future. The Catalan government has promised to give a fast track nationality for all foreigners registered in Catalonia before the independence referendum.
The Parliament of Catalunya
With the rhythm of Catalan music, I continued my walk down to the Parliament of Catalunya. After queuing half an hour, I entered inside the Session Chamber of the Palace. When the friendly security guard took a picture of me standing behind the speaker’s booth, I raised my fist up to the ceiling and made a secret and selfish wish. I hoped that Catalonia stays as an autonomous community of Spain.