Immigrants Have Helped Set Catalonia Apart in Spain

Raphael Minder, New York Times, October 30, 2012

Catalonia’s gathering drive to separate from Spain has been a mixed blessing for Enrique Shen.

It has been good for business. Last month, before a giant rally in neighboring Barcelona to support independence, Mr. Shen ran out of the Catalan flags he sells as a wholesaler because customers had snapped up about 10,000 of them in just a week.

But as an immigrant who moved here from Shanghai 20 years ago, he is worried by the way separatists advance their case for nationhood with claims to a distinct Catalan national culture, language and identity that set it apart from Spain. “It’s always best to be part of a larger country, just like having a bigger family to help you,” Mr. Shen said.

Immigrants like Mr. Shen illustrate the complexities of identity in Catalonia, where they have helped make the economy both the largest among Spain’s regions and the most diverse, alongside Madrid, with sizable populations of Muslims, Sikhs, Chinese and others.

As Catalonia prepares for a regional election on Nov. 25 that could become an unofficial referendum on independence, as many as 1.5 million residents of the region, out of a total population of 7.5 million, will not be eligible to vote because they are not Spanish citizens.

{snip} With annual output of about $260 billion in goods and services, an independent Catalonia’s economy would be larger than a dozen of the union’s 27 members.

Cities like Badalona, just northeast of Barcelona on the Mediterranean coast, illustrate the social and economic challenges that Catalonia faces, whatever the outcome of the separatist drive.

Last year, Badalona, with a population of 220,000, elected a hard-line conservative mayor, Xavier García Albiol, “in part due to his polemical views linking immigrants from Romania and other countries to crime and promising a tougher stance on illegal immigration,” the United States Department of State said in its most recent human rights report on Spain.

Mr. García Albiol is one of only a few politicians from the governing Popular Party of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to win office in Catalonia. In step with his conservative colleagues, Mr. García Albiol opposes separation, and he has cast a large shadow over Badalona’s immigrants, to the point that he has been sued based on accusations of inciting hatred against the local Roma population.

“One reason I got elected is because people could see that I was ready to identify a problem and take action to resolve it,” Mr. García Albiol said in an interview.

Asked to explain the problem, Mr. García Albiol said, “A large part of the migrants came here to work, but a small part also arrived with the sole intention of becoming delinquents, stealing and making life generally impossible for all their neighbors.” For this minority, he concluded, “the only solution is police pressure, efficient judicial action, and if possible, send them back to their countries.”

This year, Mr. García Albiol tried unsuccessfully to block the opening of a new mosque in Badalona. {snip}

Still, Mr. Latifi I Boussalem, who left his native Casablanca, Morocco, 22 years ago, said the municipality struggled to accept the Moroccans and Pakistanis who form the bulk of the city’s Muslim population even before the city elected Mr. García Albiol.


Mr. Latifi I Boussalem contended that recent immigrants should have a say in any independence referendum. “We’re not here to dilute Catalan identity, and are ready to work hard to understand the place in which we live, especially since Catalonia has always been a land of welcome and refuge.”


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  • IstvanIN

    Why would a country that spent half the 20th century in political turmoil, the entire century mired in poverty and only the last 25 years of the century with any semblance of democracy, need immigrants?

  • Puggg

    But as an immigrant who moved here from Shanghai 20 years ago, he is
    worried by the way separatists advance their case for nationhood with
    claims to a distinct Catalan national culture, language and identity
    that set it apart from Spain. “It’s always best to be part of a larger
    country, just like having a bigger family to help you,” Mr. Shen said.

    What does he think a nation and nationhood is, but a really big family to help you if you’re part of it?

    • JDInSanDiego

      And why didn’t he stay with his much bigger family in China?

  • The last AmRen Article about the growing secessionist movements in Europe garnered a lot of sympathy for the Separatists including Catalonia for many AmReners.

    However, it’s important to remember not all forms of Separatism are Equal.

    Catalonia is not the American South. It’s not exactly full of Conservative reactionaries who resent the policies of the Centralized Government.

    While Catalonia does have the largest GDP in Spain , it also has the most debt by region in Spain, not to mention that it hosts largest population, outside of the Madrid metro area, many of whom are third world immigrants.

    Catalonian Nationalism isn’t the “Ethnopolitics” that we AmReners are thinking of, but rather a form a of Left-Wing Cultural Nationalism that revolves around defiance by “sticking it to the establishment.”

    Many of these “Secessionists” are are Left-Wingers who go through great lengths to differentiate themselves from the rest of Spain and protest being in a union with their racial brethren, yet remain reticent about the millions Third Worlders occupying their ancestral homelands.

    Here’s a few links AmReners should enjoy,

    Catalan Secessionists recruiting members in Mosques in Barcelona


    An Ecuadorian Migrant claiming priding in being Ecuadorian and a Catalan, but will never accept being a Spaniard.


    • Puggg

      That means it’s kinda like Quebec, a secession movement from the multiracialist left.

    •  Interesting article/comments.  Surprising the way the worm turns on this one.

      It would seem that America has the “propositional nation” idea, … and all that garbage from the neoconservatives … to give window-dressing to the idea of throngs of recent 3rd world immigrants as somehow magically Americans.

      But in Spain, that doesnt work.  Spaniard means nothing unless you and your ancestors have  lived that history of the last 100 … or 1000 years. 

      Thus a migrant “claiming pride in being [fill in the blank] and a Catalan, but will never accept being a Spaniard.”
      p.s. Mr. Albiol, the anti-separatist sounds like my kind of gentleman: “One reason I got elected is because people could see that I was ready
      to identify a problem and take action to resolve it.”

    •  Yes I mentioned in the article you’re referring to that the secessionist movement in Catalonia is being fueled by multiculty leftists.  It’s the same story with Scotland and Quebec.  The rest of Spain voted for the center-right.  If they secede then I say good riddance.  I’m of Castilian and Galician ancestry mostly anyway.

  • StillModerated

    One and a half million ineligible voters out of 8 million? That’s 18% plus! What on Earth is happening to Spain? Too many immigrants is seemingly the best way to bankrupt a post-Christian nation.

  • Uncontrolled immigration and falling birth rates of natural citizens destroyed the Roman Empire, and I don’t see how modern Europe will fare any different. Social cohesion is imperative for a nation to survive stresses like famine and war. Perhaps this is why democracies don’t survive long.

  • Ulick

    Wait, this article makes no sense. I’ve always been told by media men and countless educators that multiculturalism is great for a nation’s cohesion, and that diversity is a nation’s strength. But here diversity and multiculturalism are leading to Spain splintering apart. Who would have thunk it?

  • It makes the whole point of Catalonian independence a bit pointless if they’re going to welcome millions of African and muslim immigrants thus making Catalans a minority in their own country.

    It took 700 years for Spain to finally kick  out the muslims in 1492. Just think, that was all for nothing. 

    •  I keep banging by head over that one.  Pelagius, El Cid, Ferdinand and Isabella and the rest of the brave men and women who resisted must be turning in their graves.

      • eunometic

        It’s amazing White people even made it this far, millions of our forefathers and mothers, dying as endless assaults against Europe persisted. We had an amazing technical lead from 1700 onwards but before that we were fighting for our lives.

  • KenelmDigby

    Along with the UK, Spain is a text-book example of the consequences of letting a lot of dumb politicians sneak in ‘liberal’ immigration laws whilst the public was looking the other way.
     Spain endured absolutely ridiculous levels of immigration in the last 20 years – it was all politically driven by elitists, who thought of themselves as ‘smart’ and ‘liberal’ by doing this treachery and mischief. The Spanish thought they were doing well and equalling the northern Europeans they so envy by basing a mirage of an ‘economic boom’ on money borrowed from foreigners.
     Anyhow, the Spanish economy collapsed, bigtime, and now you’ve got the absurd situation in which there are 6 million recent immigrants and 6 million unemployed in Spain.
         Saying all that, none of these immigrants to Catalonia have any right to pass judgement on the rights or wrongs of Catalonian independence.

  • KenelmDigby

    Whenever I read of a European city or country, any European city or counntry having a ‘Pakistani community’, a feeling of acute physical sickness comes over me.

    • rightrightright

      Usually referred to as “the” community, along with “the” sharia and “the” prophet (and “the” religion of peace, of course).  

  • jeffaral

    Thank you for informing us that Hebraic Literature belongs to our heritage.    Until now I thought it was semitic, middleastern stuff.   

  • I spent some time in Barcelona a few years ago and found it very civilized- but at the same time- the Catalans seemed self-absorbed and standoffish.  Everyone just seems to mind their own business.  They don’t even like “immigrants” from other parts of Spain- so what makes anyone think they would open their arms for non-Europeans?  Every time I spoke to someone in Castilian- they retorted in Catalan- as though Catalan were some kind of International language like Castilian, Russian, English or French.

  • CourtneyfromAlabama

    The media always portrays China as a gift to the world after the white man supposedly destroyed it. But yet, as this article portrays, we have Chinese immigrants coming to one of the “poorest” European countries for a better life?