Program started off in Spain, but could have ended in Catalonia
The Santa Clara
January 18, 2018
When Santa Clara students embarked on their Barcelona study abroad, they expected a lively art scene and siesta culture.
Instead, they found themselves in the midst of Spain’s political crisis—the Catalan secession movement.
Centuries in the making, the Catalan independence movement manifested in an illegal independence referendum on Oct. 1.
According to “The New York Times” over 750 civilians were injured from altercations with the police. The Spanish government later took control of the Catalonia region.
The political situation remains unpredictable as the pro-independence coalition maintains the majority of seats after the legal elections of Dec. 21.
Last week, separatists agreed that their ex-leader Carlos Puigdemont—currently in Belgium after fleeing arrest—could lead Catalonia via video conference. On Monday, Rajoy threatened to retake control of Catalonia’s government if they appoint Puigdemont as the president of Catalonia.
Junior Jessica Ramirez understood that Catalan culture was prevalent in Barcelona before her program began. However, she did not expect the Oct. 1 referendum.
Ramirez’s study abroad program, IES, was located in the heart of Barcelona. She said that they were given days off if there were protests or public transportation strikes that prevented students from arriving to classes.
Ramirez stayed with a host family, an older couple strongly in support of Catalan independence. She said that the host parents would commonly attend protests and jokingly said that if they did not show up to dinner, then they got arrested.
According to Ramirez, protests in Barcelona were family events. She said they were peaceful and did not involve any marching. A common recurring protest occurred at ten o’clock every night, during which independentists would bang pots and pans.
During her time abroad, Ramirez talked about the independence movement in her homestay and within her classes. However, as a foreigner she did not feel entitled to express support for either side.
“I didn’t feel like I was entitled to an opinion because I’m just a guest in this country,” Ramirez said. “(Secession) has no effect on me because I was there for four months and then I left. I tried to understand it … but I can’t say that I gained an opinion because I didn’t feel like I should have one.”
Senior Bernice Ruiz initially felt overwhelmed by the political disunity because she was not up-to-date on the independence movement. However, she now appreciates its impact on her study abroad experience. She enjoyed class discussions on it and comparing the protests to American ones.
Based on media coverage of referendum day, Ruiz believed global media sources manipulated information to shock people. Rather than focus on peaceful protesters singing Catalan songs, Ruiz said they paired articles with images of angry protesters.
As a temporary foreigner, Ruiz feels as though it is inappropriate for her to express support or disapproval of Catalan secession. However, Ruiz criticizes the police violence during the referendum.
“Even if an act of voting is illegal, no acting institution, like a federal police task force, should… behave with such violence that was presented at the voting stations,” Ruiz said.
Junior Jawala Johns studied in Barcelona and lived with a host family who did not support secession. He recognizes the emotional appeal to Catalan independence, as Catalan culture was suppressed under Franco’s dictatorship. However, he believes negative economic repercussions would arise in the process.
“The argument for secession is very emotional instead of factual. Seceding from the EU would probably be horrible for the economy,” Johns said. “The (Catalan government) would have to create their own currency and lay a lot of economic groundwork which they realistically don’t have the money or time for.”
Contact Bella Rios at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.