My family, like many Catalan families, is a hybrid, and my grandparents came from other parts of Spain. Catalonia has always been a place of passage, a mongrel – but with its own identity.
When I was born in 1961, my relatives lost the battle to name me Jordi because, as a Catalan name, it wasn’t legal – so I had to be Jorge, the Spanish version. I couldn’t learn my language, or hear it spoken in public. I wasn’t allowed my own identity, or at best I was looked upon as some sort of fairground attraction. “Say something in Catalan,” people would ask. “Ah, what a cute little boy!”
Catalan referendum: ‘Police threw us aside … and more vanloads arrived’
When I was young I had a romantic notion of Catalonia, which I got from my grandfather and my uncle, who fought against totalitarianism and who was a rebel and a sentimental secessionist, as my son is now. I can still see my boy’s face on Sunday, when the police dragged him out of his school in Barcelona as he offered them a carnation. He’s just 17.
When I was young, I didn’t believe that fighting in the street was the way forward – and nor did most Catalans. Even now, when we’re hemmed in by a Spanish government that doesn’t want to negotiate, we still believe that dialogue is the only option. Respect for individuals comes above everything. There is no such thing as acceptable violence – never.
Peaceful protest is another matter. I joined yesterday’s general strike because I couldn’t remain silent in the face of the flagrant abuse of my civil rights.
When Spain joined the EU I imagined that it was becoming like the rest of its European neighbours. I believed in modernity and defended Catalonia as part of Spain, and I believed our politicians would involve themselves in change. As an executive in the chemical industry, I did my bit professionally to modernise the country.
I did this along with many others, believing one should contribute to the common good, and I forgot about independence. Then at the start of the 21st century and an economic bonanza, it seemed that the primitive Spain that I thought had disappeared was still here. Bit by bit, the veil slipped and disappointment set in.
I feel that Spain has betrayed me as a citizen, using violence against my freedom of thought and expression. I should not have to justify being Catalan, or speaking my language. This is not a question of folklore, or of benefiting an elite.
Many solutions to the Catalan issue have been put forward over the past 10 years; all have been rejected by the Popular party with the connivance of the Socialists, or by a Socialist majority with the connivance of the PP. I’ve reached the conclusion that to build a new country you have to start from zero. The only valid option is civil disobedience.
Even in the worst Franco years I don’t remember violence as bad as that meted out by the police on Sunday. If your government annuls your basic democratic rights and cuts off your freedom of expression, if it distracts and confuses public opinion with incendiary messages, what can you do but confront it? That’s why for me the time is up for Catalonia belonging to Spain. We must insist on a binding referendum to decide our future.