It was September 11th 2012, we stood together in the centre of Placa Catalunya, strangers who had only met 24 hours before.
Your children took my hands, welcoming me as part of the family on our big city day out.
Each took turn of tying their flag around their shoulders, a red and yellow cape with its independent star.
“I, Inde, Independencia!” the crowd cheered.
I had never been to Barcelona before and I found myself sharing the city streets with over 2 million others that day. All wearing their capes. All flying their flags high.
Drums were pounded, songs were sung. People laughed and danced and chanted. We marched, a sightseeing tour like I could never imagine.
When the little feet couldn’t march anymore we huddled in a doorway to watch the rest of the procession. The streets were packed with people – protesting? The word protest, as I understood it, didn’t fit here.
Babies, kids, mamas, papas, grannies, grandpas.
You told me the story of Catalonia that day. I never forgot it.
We went home to our quiet little seaside town, the sleepy superheroes still caped in their flags napping all the way.
As time went on I began to notice the every day little injustices.
I remember when we protested outside the town hall when they tried to stop the children learning Catalan in school. The older generation could still remember when they were not allowed to speak their native tongue.
I learned to always say, “moltes gracies,” instead of “muchas gracias.” As a foreigner, speaking Catalan made more people smile.
I went to school, I learned Catalan. Yes, I was the only one in those classes who could not speak Spanish. I am likely still the only Scottish girl who speaks Catalan but not Spanish, guess it says a lot about my politics.
I left my happy Catalan home with a different view of Spain.
I may have left Catalonia, but I never left my Catalan family.
We joked about who would have their own passport first, a Scottish or a Catalan. I always told you the Catalans deserved it first.
We grieved together after the Scottish referendum. I knew how much it would have meant to Catalonia if it had gone the other way.
Spain told you a referendum was illegal, but you did it anyway on the 9th November 2014. It may not have been legally binding but we were there that day at 6am to make sure the police didn’t stop the vote from taking place.
The votes may not have counted but I saw what it meant when people dropped their papers in the box. I saw the elderly lady crying. I saw the couples with their children imagining a future free from the restraints of Spanish rule.
After my Catalan life, I spent my time with those fleeing war. Those victimized by their religion, their nationality, their ethnicity.
My Catalan babies made a stall and sold their old toys to send me money to make more sandwiches for refugees.
I saw persecution on a greater scale, from a different perspective.
I see the actions of Spain and I begin to draw comparisons in a situation I never believed held any comparisons.
I remember the sign above the river in Girona, “Catalans want to vote.”
This week the National Theatre of Catalunya released a statement that their board members had been imprisoned because they supported a referendum.
Comparisons are consistently drawn between the Scottish referendum and the Catalan independence movement. What happened in Scotland cannot be compared.
Catalans want to vote – but legally they cannot.
A friend once told me, “The people of Catalonia are like the sand on their beaches. The sand here sticks to you and you will keep finding those little grains throughout your life, where you least expect it, like the people, no matter where you go, they will always be with you.”
The Catalan spirit never left me, Catalonia is a home to me, Catalans are my family.
The people of Catalonia deserve to have a say in their future.
Even if independence is not the result, the people of the region should have a voice and a vote.
Catalunya, I am with you.
I could write a more academic explanation of why Catalans should have the right to vote for independence, referencing their history, politics, economics but what the Catalans showed me most was love, and this is why I choose to share this story of love in return.