How Did Things Get So Bad in Catalonia?

Gradually, Then Suddenly

Unless concrete measures are taken to calm tensions between Madrid and Catalonia, one of Spain’s richest, safest and most visited regions could soon be plunged into chaos. With neither side willing for now to take even a small step back from the brink, the hopes of any kind of negotiated settlement being reached are virtually nil, especially with the European Commission refusing to mediate.

Since Sunday the Spanish government has even ruled out dealing with Catalonia’s president, Carles Puigdemont, and its vice president, Oriol Junqueras. In other words, the communication breakdown between Madrid and Barcelona is now complete.

But how did things get so bad in Catalonia?

The answer, to borrow from Ernest Hemmingway’s The Sun Also Rises, is “gradually, then suddenly.” While the standoff between Madrid and Barcelona has been on the cards for years, it’s been brewing so slowly that many people were caught off guard when riot units of Spain’s National Police and the Civil Guard began using brutal violence to prevent people from voting in Catalonia’s banned referendum.

Now, what we have on our hands is a full-frontal clash between two diametrically opposed nationalisms that has roots dating back centuries

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