Catalunya: 'Only the People Save the People'
Against the Current vol. 192

Ostrach, Bayla

Publisher:  Against the Current
Date Written:  01/01/2018
Year Published:  2018  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX23278




The Spanish government ordered shock troops to beat nearly 900 Catalan citizens attempting to peacefully vote. They prevented an estimated 770,000 people from voting, or stole their ballots. Amid all of that, one of Arnold's most poignant posts revealed that his grandfather fought with the revolutionary left POUM (Party of Marxist Unity) in the 1930s, rising to become a highly ranked party official. He disclosed his family's role in that historic defense against Spanish fascist violence, with the simple explanation that he "needed to show his children he would not risk their future."

Arnold is not otherwise one of the most radical of the more than a hundred castellers (human tower builders, a traditional Catalan community activity increasingly open to immigrants and refugees) among whom I've conducted ongoing ethnography. This included marching in anti-gentrification rallies, attending feminist protocol trainings, and observing day-to-day life during stretches of fieldwork over the past two years.

Nor is he as politically outspoken as the many Catalans and immigrants to Catalunya among whom I spent time in 2012-2013, and periodically since, doing ethnographic research about the publicly funded health system. But something about the preparation for and day of the referendum, Spain's violence in reaction to it, and the escalating coup since elected leaders of Catalunya declared a fully separate Republic of Catalunya in October, provokes more overt expressions of independentist feeling than I’d seen among my friends, comrades and research participants.


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