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Artur Mas did not levitate or grow horns: the brilliant mundanity of the Catalan vote

Por: | 10 de noviembre de 2014


And so the Catalans voted and the heavens didn’t fall, Artur Mas did not levitate above the Palau de la Generalitat, grow horns or perform miracles, Spain didn’t collapse and the Spanish Destroyer allegedly moored just off the Catalan coast did not rain down death and destruction on us all.

In fact, what was maybe most striking about the vote on the 9th of November was how boringly normal it all was, just like any old vote back in Britain.

Our polling station was situated just around the corner from the Palau de la Música in central Barcelona, a helpful reminder of both Catalan architectural ingenuity and - as the centre of a recent financial scandal - the fact that Catalan leaders can disappoint like the worst of them (a useful thing to keep in mind during any political process, I find).

The lead up to the vote had been so long and engrossing that I was expecting fireworks, fights and electoral fury. 

What I got instead was two tables of tired looking volunteers, a photographer and some flimsy paper ballot boxes. My intention of voting secretly went right out the window when I realised there were no booths or even shady corners to retire to. So, in best school child fashion, I screened my piece of paper from infringing eyes by use of some judicious elbows and made my choice.

I’m not going to tell you how I voted. But I will say that the decision wasn’t easy. Nor was it helped by the rather vague question posed.

The ballot asked: a) Do you want Catalonia to become a State? (Yes/No); if you answer yes, there is a second question: b) Do you want this State to be independent? (Yes/No)

I surely can’t be alone in thinking this question is rather rather unhelpful. For what, after all, is a state? There is, apparently, no working legal definition. So Catalonia could, as far as I understand, simply call itself a state with no one able to prove it isn’t.

Maybe this sounds like nitpicking. Maybe it is: a Yes / Yes vote is obviously a vote for an independent Catalonia. A No vote backs the status quo.

But I’m a pedantic Brit and, among all the people I’ve talked to about the Catalan vote, no one has been able to explain exactly what a Yes / No vote - backing a Catalan state that isn’t independent - would mean. A Federal Spain, maybe? Or Catalonia becoming equivalent to Scotland or Wales within the UK - that is a country within a country?

Perhaps this ambiguity is fitting. After all, the whole vote has rather been defined by such uncertainty. Did Catalonia hold a referendum on November 9? A consultation? A poll? A survey? 

I’m still not really sure, with language being batted forward and back between the Catalan and Spanish parliaments like a particularly depressing game of tennis.

As I left the polling station I was struck again by how mundane the whole process had been. And then the thought struck: isn’t that just how it should be?

One of my favourite campaign slogans in the run up to the vote was “Votar és normal” - to vote is normal. It perfectly sums up how many Catalans see the independence movement: not necessarily for or against but eager to exercise their right to decide their own future, as is normal in a democracy.

And this was how the vote felt for me: normal, boring even, with little to raise the heartbeat above a gentle skip. This was just another vote, on another Sunday in another mundane school hall, just like you’ve done before and will do so again.

But isn’t that just the point? Voting on our future is what we do in democratic Europe. That’s not scandal, revelation or impudence. It’s the way things are. Boringly - and wonderfully - enough.


Hay 1 Comentarios

Normal? Yes, in the sense that, other than the "ultres" in Girona who ended up crying, there were no imcidents to speak of. But emotion? There was plenty to go around. I was too late volunteering to man a ballot box (rather than an urn which is what I put my parents' ashes in), but I did man an ANC table at which we were collecting signatures to protest to the UN about the Spanish government's refusal to let us vote. I took a signature from a 92-year old "àvia" who promised to live long enough to be buried in an Independent Catalunya. THAT gave me goose pimples.

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Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check:

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