‘We don’t know how good we have it here’: Many Catalans don’t want a break with Spain
But just out of view of the camera lenses was the majority of Spanish citizens in this stylish, peaceful and prosperous region in the heart of Europe — those who did not vote in the disputed referendum for an independent Catalonia.
At least 6 in 10 registered voters stayed home, suggesting deep division and opposition to the split with Spain sought by the separatists.
Who are they? What do they want?
Many here are now calling themselves “the silent majority.”
They range from old-school socialists to old-family capitalists, who say the Catalan independence referendum was either a bad idea or just done so badly.
Catalan business leaders worry it does not make sense, financially, to break from Spain. After a week of chaos, two Spanish banks — Banco Sabadell and Caixabank — announced plans to move their headquarters out of Catalonia to other cities in Spain.
A Spanish freelancer, who has lived in Barcelona for the last seven years, wondered aloud if she and her Scottish boyfriend belong in Catalonia anymore. “We’re open individuals, citizens of the world,” said Maribel Villalba. “We just want to live peacefully. You can’t put half the population against the other half.”
Though some defended and even applauded the harsh police tactics, many of the 58 percent who did not vote decried the use of truncheons and rubber bullets — but still say the referendum is invalid.
The regional president, Carles Puigdemont, declared — just as the first handful of votes were announced — that Catalonia had earned the “right to independence.”
The Catalan authorities say that more than 2 million people voted in Sunday’s independence referendum, with 90 percent casting a ballot for independence.
But the vote was marred by violence, low turnout and lack of traditional transparency.
Just 42 percent voted.
Activists, alongside Spanish journalists, pointed out that some people voted multiple times.
As the showdown between the secessionist leadership in Catalonia and the central government in Madrid hurtles onward, many who abstained from the vote say they have been muzzled or ignored.
“I will confess I feel a little afraid,” said Marta Gimenez, a recent law school graduate who works for a major Spanish bank.
“I’ve been called a fascist whore” on social media, she said.
During an interview with The Washington Post on Thursday, she was wearing a T-shirt that read in English, “Afraid of Nothing!”
Gimenez belongs to the youth wing of the People’s Party, the conservative Christian democrats who are the governing power in the central government in Madrid.
“Of course I didn’t vote, because the vote was declared illegal by the Constitutional Court,” Gimenez said.
She said she wants to remain a part of Europe — and believes in a united Spain.
She said that the secessionists keep talking about how Catalonia is oppressed.