A contested vote for independence. A president living in self-inflicted exile. A nation divided as it tries to figure out what comes next. When the autonomous community of Catalonia in Northeast Spain held a referendum, and called for independence on Oct. 1, 2017, the country was thrown into turmoil. Fourth months later, the uncertainty of the situation still quite literally hits home for two Harding athletes.
Junior tennis player Adria Abella is from Lleida, Catalonia. Senior golf player Juan Sanchez was born and raised in Barcelona, the capital city of Catalonia. Both said they have been deeply affected by the dramatic situation unfolding in home country.
“It’s just something that really touches my life, my family,” Sanchez said. “All my life is there.”
According to CNN, Spain was thrown into chaos after Catalonia announced that with a 90 percent majority, the region had voted for independence in a dramatic referendum. The Spanish government declared it an illegal referendum and sent police to deter voters from casting ballots. Violence erupted and over 800 people were injured throughout the night. Quickly after Catalonia’s announcement of independence, the Spanish senate approved Madrid’s government to dismiss and imprison the current Catalan leaders. Catalan president Carles Puigdemont fled to Brussels, Belgium, as the other leaders of the party were placed in prison.
The situation has not gotten any less complicated in the following months, CNN reported. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy declared a new election for Catalonia on Dec. 21, and in a shocking result, a combination of pro-independence parties maintained control of the Parliament with the exiled Puigdemont as probable president.
Abella is pro-independence. He believes Catalonia should be allowed to declare independence because of the majority vote in the referendum. Abella said the disregard for a referendum is reminiscent of the years Spain spent under a dictatorship.
“This is a complicated situation. I thought I was living in a democracy, but not anymore,” Abella said. “I think they should start accepting the results and let democracy be.”
Sanchez said he is against Catalan independence. He believes independence would be detrimental to both Catalonia and Spain.
“I really think the pro-independence party (has) done a lot of damage to Spain and especially to Catalonia,” Sanchez said. “They have hurt our economy quite a bit, especially after that illegal proclamation of independence. Businesses don’t really know what to do — invest in Catalonia or not.”
Both students traveled home during the Christmas break and voted in the Dec. 21 election. They both feel the effects of being away from home during such a crucial time and hope a peaceful resolution can soon be reached.