Dillon Lindsay said Catalans would “light up” if he ever talked to them in Catalán during his LDS mission to Barcelona.
“I never picked up anything more than, ‘Hi,’ ‘How are you,’ and ‘We’re missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,’… but that’s all that I had to learn, and the second that I threw that out to people, they would light up,” Lindsay said. “They would physically wake up.”
Catalán is the native language of Catalonia, Spain’s northeastern region that includes Barcelona. The region is currently home to about 7.5 million people, with its own unique language, culture and a historically strong thirst for independence.
Why independence now?
Catalonia received international attention after Catalans held an independence referendum vote from Spain on Oct. 1. The Spanish government subsequently took control of the Catalan parliament, arresting some Catalan leaders and announcing new elections for the autonomous region held Dec. 21.
The Catalonia region currently accounts for about one-fifth of Spain’s GDP, and Lindsay said economics as well as culture have influenced the current independence movement.
According to Lindsay, one concern many people expressed to him is that Catalonia’s government takes in a lot in taxes, which is then given to the Spanish government and redistributed equally to all the other Spanish regions.
“Since Catalonia is so wealthy, they’re giving a lot more money than they’re getting back,” Lindsay said.
The referendum vote received major media coverage as violent videos of Spanish police trying to stop voters surfaced on the internet and as distressed Catalans called for the freedom of Catalan leaders both jailed in Spain and exiled abroad.
Mireia Coll was one of them.
A native Catalan, Coll was in charge of the voting process at her neighborhood elementary school. She recently traveled to Brussels to protest with thousands of other Catalans for the freedom of Carles Puigdemont, the Catalán leader currently exiled in Belgium, as well as for the freedom of other Catalan leaders.
“The situation is very critical right now because we don’t have a Catalan government and it’s the Spanish government who has assumed the (government’s) functions,” Coll said. “We have part of the government (officials) in prison and part in exile. The Spanish government is using this situation to suspend Catalan laws, and our only hope lies in elections with little guarantees of democracy (because) we fear that the Spanish government will manipulate the results.”
Effects on Europe
Europe is made up of nearly 750 million people in 50 countries who speak around 80 languages. Unsurprisingly, Catalonia isn’t the only regional or cultural group in Europe to seek independence or more autonomy. In fact, some have even expressed support for Catalonia.
However, most of these groups don’t wish to have full independence like Catalonia, and some have even been purposeful about differentiating themselves from the Catalonia movement.
Faustino López lives in Madrid and teaches LDS institute classes to BYU students studying abroad in Spain. López said the situation in Catalonia has been blown out of proportion by the media.
“Many foreign journalists are mistaken when they write about Catalan independence, saying that Catalonia is oppressed by the Spanish government. All of that is false,” López said. “Propaganda from Catalan politicians (seeking) independence tricks foreign journalists so that they don’t check to make sure what’s actually happening.”
López cited Spain’s wavering economy since the secessionist movement and accounts of conflict between pro- and against-independence Catalans as examples of how the movement is truly affecting Spain as a whole.
Information for this map was gathered from The Guardian as well as the links included in the map descriptions.
Effects on the LDS Church
The LDS Church has a strong presence in Spain, with over 55,000 members and almost 150 congregations.
Lindsay said he doesn’t foresee the current events of Catalonia dividing church members in Spain unless there are attacks on Catalan language or culture.
“I could see, if given the opportunity, (church) members wanting to have Catalan branches or a Catalan ward, but I don’t think that it is to the point where members would disagree with each other,” Lindsay said.
While he hasn’t talked to any church members in Catalonia, López said he believes there will be no issue overcoming any differences created from the Catalonia vote.
“I believe that (church members in Catalonia) all strive so that there aren’t any divisions among them and that they don’t harm the church,” López said. “In these cases, the gospel helps overcome the differences because there are many more things that unite us than separate us.”
Editor’s note: Interviews for Mireia Coll and Faustino López were translated from Spanish to English for this article.