Hampshire Woman Caught Up In Catalonia Chaos

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Reporting by Richard Hazelgrove

From Kerry Meyerhoff, a 24 year old office worker, writer and business graduate, a lifelong resident of Hampshire now working in Barcelona.

‘As a foreigner in Catalonia, the last few weeks have been somewhat tense.

Everywhere you look, red and yellow striped flags adorn balconies, windows and public buildings. “Sí democracia” is painted onto the roads and strung between lampposts. Posters are put up on every available space, torn down, and pasted back up in an endless cycle. People cheer and chant everywhere you go; the metro, the supermarket, even outside the window when you’re at work.

As a non-Catalan, even though you have the right to vote with just a registration in the city, you feel like really, you shouldn’t get involved. It’s their business and this entire thing is about Catalan pride. On the other hand, with propaganda and civil unrest at every turn, it’s very difficult to turn a blind eye to it all. Particularly when it concerns your future too – as a part of Spain, or not.

‘Difficult situation’

The situation is difficult because the vote was unconstitutional. The Spanish government told everyone to stay at home and that the vote was illegal, so many law-abiding citizens, and almost the entire ‘No’ camp, remained at home on polling day as per the instructions, as well as those who didn’t want to get involved in the unrest going on all over. We were all warned that the police would be involved and that if we didn’t comply with what they said, that we would be moved out of polling stations by force.

This meant that naturally, any result that came out of Sunday would be overwhelmingly biased towards ‘Yes’, because only those people who wanted to risk getting injured or arrested would go out to vote. Those with an agenda.

It’s very difficult right now to be here. Many Catalans feel as if they have had their voices stolen – first by Mariano Rajoy’s government who told them not to vote, and then by Carles Puigdemont’s independence movement who claim that the result is binding and ‘Catalonia wants independence’. We will never know if it really does, because the silent majority did not participate, as per the rule of law. Many other Catalans are celebrating in the streets, believing true independence is right around the corner, when realistically, it’s probably not.

‘Tense general strike’

The next few weeks will be very tense again. We had all hoped that on October 1, one way or the other, the situation would be resolved. Unfortunately it seems we are in for another long wait. As I sit writing this today, I have been excused from work because of a general strike across the state taking out most of the transport network. There is talk of Spain seizing our banks, our internet and even possibly our electricity.

We have stocked up on food, cash, water and candles, and now await the political fallout. There is no way of knowing what is going to happen here, and we have to be prepared for anything.

‘Steets no longer entirely safe’

The streets are no longer entirely safe, as people continue to protest against the police, and the anger that Puigdemont has stirred up in the vocal Catalans is frightening to those who disagree. Catalonia has always been, for us, a very peaceful place, somewhere you don’t feel unsafe walking the city at 4am, and it’s unnerving and strange to see it in this new light.

All we can hope is that the governments come to an agreement. As a believer in a whole and complete Spain, it’s going to be a long road ahead, particularly because of the manner in which this whole drama has come to a head. However, the best we can do is keep our heads down, live as normally as possible, and wait to see.’

 

Originally posted 2017-10-03 13:22:11.