Catalan Farmers Bring Tractors into Barcelona to Demonstrate in Favour of Referendum
This is another in my series of articles using video footage to look back on the events surrounding the referendum and the subsequent declaration of independence. A lot of the thoughts and ideas are quite random but this is an interesting record of what was going through my head at the time I think.
On September 29th, the Friday before the referendum, I was on my way back home after doing some errands on the other side of Passeig de Sant Joan. I had heard that farmers would be bringing their tractors into Barcelona to demonstrate in favour of the referendum outside the Spanish Government Delegation office but as I turned from La Diagonal into Carrer Mallorca, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The street was lined with hundreds of tractors.
This was another in a string of popular demonstrations and showed what a grassroots people’s movement Catalan independence is. There had been a massive demonstration the previous day where hundreds of Catalan firemen had climbed up on the roof of the Museu d’Història de Catalunya and unfurled flags. It had been a powerful image.
The sheer number of tractors lined up along a major street in Barcelona was just as powerful if not more so. From the posters on many of the tractors, which read “Votem per ser lliures!” (We are voting to be free!), it was clear that these people wanted independence for Catalonia. The first step in achieving freedom was for the Spanish government to allow the referendum to be held, hence the demonstration.
There were plenty of television crews covering the tractor demo. Some of the farmers began shouting “Votarem!” (We will vote!) and I responded with “Visca Catalunya Lliure!” (Long Live Free Catalonia!).
When I see things like the tractor demonstrations, I’m reminded of why I feel so passionate about the Catalan people and their culture. They are firmly ground in the land, in the territory and in tradition. The solid ideas of “seny”, which is a Catalan concept that roughly translates as common sense, is embodied by the farmers and is something that has to be preserved.
The tractor rally was just another example of the strength of feeling there was in support of the referendum. When a people want something this badly surely it has to be allowed. The Spanish government may claim that the referendum was unconstitutional and therefore illegal but this wouldn’t change people’s hearts and minds. The law has to adapt itself to the needs of the people. If the Constitution doesn’t allow people to vote on their political future, surely it was time to change the Constitution.
The strength of feeling was clear not only from the farmers’ rally but also from the demonstrations by the firemen and the fact that students had occupied buildings on the city centre campus of the University of Barcelona. When the students occupied Plaça de la Universitat, they disrupted the traffic so much that my wife arrived home from work two hours late. Most of this wasn’t being reported on by the media.
Before the video ended, I started joking with a group of farmers, who were sitting on their tractors eating baguettes with fuet, a particularly tasty Catalan cured meat.
In the second part of the video, I’m at the rally, which was held by the farmers’ union, the Unió de Pagesos, at the junction of Carrer Mallorca and Carrer Bruc, The speeches centred around farming issues with the argument being that the only way to have a decent agricultural policy was if Catalonia was independent because the farming industry was different in Catalonia from other parts of Spain and Spanish central government tended to favour regions such as Andalusia, which it considered more “Spanish”.
The slogan was “Jo lluito per la dignitat de la pageia” (I’m fighting for the dignity of farmers). When people visit the modern vibrant city of Barcelona and focus on Catalonia’s strong industrial and service base along with its high-tech companies, they tend to forget that a large part of its economy is still based on agriculture. The rootedness of country people and the fact that they are strongly attached to the land is one of the great strengths of the Catalans.
My commitment to the Catalan cause has completely changed my way of thinking and made me focus on the importance of belonging. It is inevitably conservative because it makes you focus on the importance of conserving tradition and preserving `practices, such as farming, which despite modernisation, are firmly rooted in the land.
The Catalans had to be given the chance to vote on October 1st because the essence of Catalan culture and tradition is always under attack from Spain.