I travelled to Brussels this week to experience, document and show solidarity with the characteristically well-organised and good-natured Catalan #OmplimBrussel·les mobilisation to fill the streets of the administrative capital of the European Union. They aimed to place the democratic crisis faced by Catalonia front and centre before the gaze of EU states and their citizens.
The numbers exceeded expectations with an incredible 45,000 or more Catalans making the trip by all means of transport, with nearly everyone sporting bright yellow scarfs or coats to show solidarity with those charged with sedition and those in prison. Many banners presented the message that this is a political conflict which requires dialogue and political solutions, not further state repression, police brutality or judicial pursuit of rather twisted sedition and rebellion charges.
As I arrived at the Parc du Cinquantenaire there was a carnival atmosphere despite the bitter cold and light but persistent rain. Chatting to some women (pictured), one of them presented me with a letter in an envelope. At first I thought it was related to the political prisoners, but when I opened it later, it revealed a personal statement from the woman written in Catalan and English, expressing how she grew up feeling both Spanish and Catalan, but has now reached a point, at which she no longer feels Spanish. She had a bundle of these letters to hand out to people in Belgium – a very touching old school form of social media. Her personal statement for Catalan independence is reproduced below.
I’m Gertrudis: I’m 67 years old. Since I was a child I always said that I am “Catalan”, not for that reason I stopped being Spanish. For some years now, this feeling has changed and right now I do not feel Spanish at all. It is because of the contempt that they have had for our language and our traditions.
I was educated at a Religious School where the language spoken and taught was Spanish. At that time, it never seemed to me that it was a painful situation, it was “normal”, but it did not make me think differently about my Catalan language, which I’ve always loved.
I want to say that I am now a pro-independence because I believe that we deserve to be able to govern ourselves and not those who have always forgotten us.