BRUSSELS – First Scotland. Then Brexit. Kurdistan. Now Catalonia. Where next?
A wave of separatist movements stretching from the 2014 referendum to break up Great Britain to Kurdish authorities’ current clash with Iraq are trying rearrange the world?s borders in the name of self-determination.
The efforts have tested American’s knowledge of geography, but have yet to hit home with boosts to similar pushes in the U.S.
Those stateside who have a rooting interest in Catalonia – the semi-autonomous community in northeastern Spain expected to declare independence on Tuesday – say they hope the effort will lead to other global secession success.
“We are witnessing the dawn of the age of secession!” said Louis Marinelli, a leader in the “Calexit” movement for California to become its own country, via Skype from Yekaterinburg, Russia.
His group, as well as the Texas Nationalist Movement that advocates for the Lone Star State to go it alone without the U.S, have cheered news of independence from Spain, with Calexit borrowing language from the Catalans for a proposed ballot measure and Texans recounting meetings with their counterparts in Europe.
Amid a polarized political landscape, both states’ movements to leave the U.S. have received increased attention after the election of President Trump.
Moves for independence in Barcelona, more progressive than much of the rest of Spain, have also come as conservatives hold power in Madrid, with Catalan President Carles Puidgemont facing off against Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of the Popular Party.
Texas Nationalist Movement President Daniel Miller says that Texas has as much right to be independent as a region with its own language.
(Texas Nationalist Movement via Facebook)
Puidgemont is expected to declare his region’s independence in a speech on Tuesday, after the Spanish government’s sometimes violent attempts to stop a referendum earlier this month and a court suspended a Catalan parliament session on Monday.
His declaration will be greeted with cheers by others seeking to shake up global order, such as newly outspoken Catalan independence supporter and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
But Liz Castro, an American-born writer who has become a prominent member of the Catalan National Assembly after moving to Barcelona three decades ago, told the Daily News that her would-be country’s motives run deeper than an ?age of secession? in recent years.
“I think there are sympathy for other movements, but this is about Catalonia,” she said, declining to give an opinion on how she views Calexit or Texas secession.
The recent tension in Catalonia is in fact the latest in a region that has history stretching back for about 1,000 years, before the name California was a twinkle in the eyes of those Spaniards whose ancestors are now dealing with a breakaway state closer to home.
Catalan independence is based not just on current disagreements with Madrid, but a feeling of being ignored by central authorities and an identity that includes its own language and culture. Castro says that while the identity is not centered on being ethnically Catalan and she is accepted as one of them, being able to speak the language plays a role and attempts to “hispanicize” Catalans have led to resentment.
But while the desire for autonomy from central powers is always the centerpiece, whether a separate language and centuries of history is required for an independence movement is up for debate.
Pro-Unity rally marches through Barcelona in response to the disputed referendum.
(Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
“I don’t believe that Catalonia has any more right to secede than Texas does,” Texas National Movement President Daniel Miller told the News, saying that the main criteria is whether those breaking away view themselves as “a separate people.”
Dr. Andrew Dowling, a professor at University of Cardiff in the U.K. and a longtime researcher of Catalan independence, theorizes that the critical mass of people moving for separation now came not from hundreds of years ago, but as a result of the Great Recession of the late 200s and early 2010s. Acknowledging that American separatist movements are “not serious” in the same way as Catalonia or Scotland, he said that major political events can affect people’s feelings of representation in their capitals and added that “the economic crisis accelerated or intensified trends that already existed the normal to and fro of politics.”
Both he and Castro expressed that there is now a belief in the actual possibility of an independent Catalan state that did not exist 20 years ago.
Some see that change, a string of separatist movements as well as the rise of bombastic outsider candidates in the U.S. and elsewhere, as the world spiraling out of control. Angry voters styling themselves as freedom-fighters can strike out beyond the mainstream, made easier by segregating themselves from opposing views.
Even as the U.K. struggles with its Brexit from Europe and the Catalans face businesses moving their headquarters to elsewhere in Spain, the tumult they have started has earned fan thousands of miles away.
“The primary thing holding back independence movements in the United States is inspiration,” Miller said.
Marinelli said that the time since the election has already seen secession interest in the U.S. broaden beyond Texas, but he expects attention around Catalonia to help his cause. “If it happens and it happens successfully it will be the best example for us,” he said.