Is there anything similar to Òmnium in any other country? I’d say that the circumstances aren’t quite the same in Catalonia as in any other country. A nation that exists within a democratic state, that’s not a colony, and that has difficulty in fully expressing its language and culture is rather unusual. That’s why we have to explain our situation so often. Spain is a democracy but one of its imperfections, like other democracies, is that rejects diversity and this means that there’s the special situation we find in Catalonia that calls for an organization like Òmnium. We’ve looked for similar entities abroad but we haven’t found any. Oddly enough we have found them in other Catalan-speaking territories inside Spain, such as Valencia and the Balearic Islands, but not outside.
In an independent Catalonia we’d never harm someone’s identity as we know what it’s like to suffer and how unfair such discrimination is The national transition process that Catalonia is experiencing has the majority support of the Parliament of Catalonia, having its origins in civil society and, specifically, in organizations such as Òmnium and the Assemblea Nacional Catalana [Catalan National Assembly*]. Do you see it that way, do you feel somehow responsible? Yes, for sure. Òmnium does what it does because it’s the will of its forty thousand members, but that’s not all. There’s also an enormous number of volunteers and contributors which together go to make up an expression of Catalan society which is calling for political change and a turning point in our history. What Òmnium does is provide the tools and help out with the resources it has at its disposal in order to make it a reality. We often ask ourselves how it’s possible that Catalonia still exists after three centuries of political, social and cultural repression. Well, we’re here because we’re a society that has always been tenacious and stubborn, that has always been clear that it wants to survive. A people who haven’t had a state is much better equipped for civic life than political life. But this isn’t good because politics is necessary. The 48
best thing about what’s happening at the moment is that civism and politics now go hand in hand. That’s why now it’s for real: the people want it to happen, it’s coming from the grassroots, and political power goes along with it and wants to make it a reality. The communion between the political world and civil society makes this national transition process unstoppable. How do you explain the fact that this process is led by organized civil society in a country where 70% of the population or their parents weren’t born in Catalonia? This is a bonus. Catalan society has flaws like any other society around the world but it has the virtue of being tenacious and stubborn, while being very receptive and open to other cultures and other languages. We’re a hybrid. We all have someone in our family who doesn’t speak Catalan. A large number of Catalan families speak a mixture of languages, especially Spanish, but other languages as well. The fact that we haven’t been able to experience our diversity with normality has made us very respectful towards the diversity of others. A lot of things might happen in an independent Catalonia but I’m convinced that what will never happen is that someone will suffer for having a different identity. We’d never harm someone’s identity as we know what it’s like to suffer and how unfair such discrimination is. Òmnium has always had a pretty clear position on the merits and the success of linguistic immersion. Attacks on this system by the Spanish government and the Spanish judiciary have ultimately led to rulings that could seriously affect it. What’s your opinion of the situation? It’s true that immersion is under threat. But in Catalonia there’s also a high degree of agreement between the politicians and civil society organizations, making the threat ineffective. Supporters of homogeneity, the Spanish nationalists, who want a homogenous Spanish nation, who want to keep Catalonia within this state, know that to do so they need to bring an end to the use of Catalan in society. In schools, the mechanism of linguistic immersion has maintained and guaranteed equal opportunities for our young because it facilitates the learning of Spanish and Catalan. That’s why the Spanish authorities are trying to break this
Catalan International View
Special Issue • 17 • Spring 2014