Special to WorldTribune.com
By Allan Wall
There’s trouble across the pond, in la madre patria, and Mexico cannot escape being pulled into it.
I refer to the constitutional crisis facing Spain, in which the northeastern region of Catalonia may secede from the kingdom.
First, a bit of history. Modern Spain was formed as a result of a royal marriage. Isabel of Castilla married Fernando of Aragón, bringing about the eventual union of the two realms into the Kingdom of Spain.
(If, on the other hand, Isabel had married Alfonso of Portugal, then maybe Portugal and Castilla would have united and left Aragón on its own. But the young princess chose Fernando and thus things turned out as they did.)
Remember that it was Isabel and Fernando who sponsored the voyages of Cristóbal Colón, known to Anglos as Christopher Columbus, who brought the Old World and the New World together and began the process of creating all the Spanish speaking countries in the New World, including Mexico.
Carlos V (who now appears on a Mexican chocolate bar) was grandson to Fernando and Isabel, and he ruled Spain (1516-1556) when Hernan Cortes conquered the Aztecs and laid the foundation of modern Mexico.
Catalonia, in northeastern Spain, was part of the Kingdom of Aragón, and that’s why it’s part of Spain.
Nowadays though, many Catalans (in English, that’s what they call the people of Catalonia) don’t feel they are really Spaniards. After all, they do have their own language. The Catalan language is also spoken in the Balearic Islands, Andorra, and in Valencia, where they call it “Valencian.” Catalan is a fellow Latin-based language with Spanish, but still distinct.
Catalonia is a comunidad autónoma, a division that is larger than a province.
Sidebar, Catalonia’s government banned bullfighting a few years ago. It’s hard to imagine that occurring in Andalusia (another autonomous community, this one in southern Spain).
The Catalans complain that they pay more into Spain than they get out of it. And Carles Puigdemont (pronounced Pootch-da-mon), the President of Catalonia, wants independence from Spain. Puigdemont is the first president of the comunidad autónoma to refuse to swear allegiance to the Spanish Constitution and Monarch upon taking office.
From the point of view of the Spanish government, Spain cannot be divided.
Obviously, they don’t want to lose the Catalonian tax base.
And they might fear that, if Catalonia secedes, other minority groups may also want to do so. Certainly the Basques in northern Spain, who have a longstanding independence movement which in the recent past had a violent terrorist wing, might secede.
And who knows, maybe the Galicians or the Asturians, even the Andalusians? Once Spain starts to fall apart, anything could follow. I think that’s how they see it.
Nor do all Catalans want to secede. Roughly half the population wishes to remain in Spain. But the day they had the referendum (October 1st) it was mostly the pro-independence Catalans who showed up at the polls.
So what will occur next? If the Catalonian government really tries to secede, what will the Spanish government do? How much force would Spain’s leaders be willing to use?
The pro-independence Catalans think they can join the European Union (EU) after seceding. But that might not work, as entrance to the EU requires the consent of every single member nation, and Spain might just veto Catalonia’s membership.
No national government publicly supports Catalan independence. France doesn’t, which would be Catalonia’s neighbor.
The Mexican government is against Catalan independence. Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray announced that if Catalonia declared independence unilaterally, the Mexican government “will not recognize Catalonia as an independent state.”
There are many links binding Spain and Mexico, links of history, culture, language and blood (including Mexicans of Catalonian ancestry).
There are also many economic ties between Spain and Mexico.
Spain is a big investor in Mexico (second-biggest after the U.S.) and Mexico also has investment in Spain.
According to Spain’s EL PAÍS newspaper, the Mexican Grupo Bimbo (the world’s biggest baking company) is moving its Spanish headquarters out of Catalonia to Madrid, where it already has its headquarters for Europe, Asia and Africa. According to the company, the goal is legal security to continue normal operation. (Bimbo employs 6,000 workers in Spain.)
Bimbo is not the only company moving due to uncertainty. As of October 13th, EL PAÍS reported that 540 businesses had abandoned Catalonia since the October 1st referendum. Whether “abandoning” means totally leaving Catalonia, or just moving a headquarters as Bimbo did, it’s still a problem for Catalonia.