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Hi again everyone! Hope everyone is well and has fully recovered from the Thanksgiving gluttony! This week was a big week here in Barcelona so I will recap the political situation post-election with some things that I have noticed.

But first, last Thursday was Thanksgiving in the US and I spent the end of last week explaining to coworkers and friends that Thanksgiving doesn't have any commercial significance (aside from buying extra food and Black Friday, which actually happens over here too even though Thursday isn't a holiday... Tells you something about how American commercialism has permeated through the world). Then, on Saturday, I was invited to a friend's house about a half hour outside of Barcelona for his annual Thanksgiving dinner. Each guest was asked to bring something, and we used an online pot-luck database to announce what we would bring (yes those exist, to my surprise). I originally signed up for apple and grape juice, but saw that no one had signed up to bring green beans. As they are a staple in my family's Thanksgiving dinner, I signed up to bring them. Saturday morning, after spending the week stressing about how to cook such a vegetable, I surprised myself by steaming up some decently tasty garlic parsley green beans.

Pleased, I arrived at the friend's house with my bowl of green beans, only to see two other huge bowls of green beans on the counter. Apparently people had the same thought as me but didn't bother to look at the Pot Luck website. So the majority of the beans went uneaten (I had bought 3 lbs), and I found myself bringing them home. Dinner was great, by the way. I was the only 20 something in the group of 11 kids between 2 & 7 and 11 adults from the US and all over Europe (Spain, France, Poland, Sweden), and it was the first time that I talked with the adults more than rolled around in the dirt outside with the kids. Not my choice, but the kids wanted nothing to do with me. Ugh I must be growing up. A strange feeling. But dinner was great and everyone had fascinating stories about how they came to be sitting eating Thanksgiving dinner two days after Thanksgiving in Bellaterra Spain.

Now, previously, a friend from work had invited me to a party the night after Thanksgiving. I will say right away that in hind sight, this was a silly idea. But in my blind disbelief over the lack of interest in my beans at the previous party, my brain wasn't operating at 100%. This coworker had mentioned to bring something to share with everyone, and I had just brought home 2.5 lbs of green beans!!!! Envisioning plates of salads and meats and small forks, I decided to bring the beans instead of resigning myself to them for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next week. In case you weren't catching the foreshadowing, I'll give it to you straight. I was the life of the party. In every way I didn't want to be- the food that people brought included tortillas, chips, cheese and bread and pizza. All finger food, no vegetables. To say that my green beans stood out would be the understatement of the year. I kid you not when I say that people were taking pictures of the container of beans with their phones. And posing with them like they were cigarettes. Incredible. Once I got over the embarrassment, I found them to be a great introduction line. "So you know the beans, yeah I brought those". Proceed to explain why I'm not the strange American who usually takes cold green beans to the party. It was so successful that I'm already planning out how to bring a new batch to the next party this weekend. (PS, I think it safe to say that I will NEVER forget how to say 'green beans' in Spanish: judías verde.)

OK! Now that we have gotten that triviality out of the way, I'll see if I can salvage the intelligence of this post. If you ever frequent the large international news websites in the US (CNN, MSNBC) you are aware that there has been quite a bit of international exposure on the Catalonian election. I will recap and then add some of my own amateur analysis:

First, the structure of the governing body in Catalonia functions as 165 delegates. At election time, you vote for the party that you believe will do the best job. The delegates to this governing body are allocated to the parties based on proportions of votes received, and the leader of the Catalonian government comes from the party with the most delegates. In order to get major things done, a simple majority in the congress is necessary, which is the reason for calling this vote early in the first place. The leaders decided in September that by having this election (2 years) early that they could garner this simple majority by taking advantage of the groundswell of support for succession (20% of Catalonia's population came out for the pro-independence rally in September).

Unfortunately it was not to be; with six parties, getting 50% of the votes in one party is difficult to begin with, and the CiU (Convergence and Union) wasn't the only party pushing independence. In fact the CiU ended up retaining their overall lead in seats, (so the Catalonian leader remains the same) but lost seats overall and could not gain the simple majority. Meanwhile, another separatist party, called the ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia) actually doubled their delegate count. Now, simple math after looking at the delegate count shows that if the pro-separatist parties join forces, they have a 2/3 majority. Hecho y hecho (done and done) right? No- the only reason the CiU picked up the independence flag in the first place is because of the popularity of the idea. In fact, they are almost complete ideological opposites to the ERC, so it remains to be seen whether the two parties can come to an agreement about how to work together to move forward.

Now, even if they did, the type of referendum they propose is actually illegal in Spain, according to the national constitution. So any approach to the central government will likely be rebuffed immediately. Eventually, Catalonia would have to either appeal to the overarching European organization and present their case for a referendum and independence (unlikely), or just try to break away and survive without the blessing of Spain and the EU (even more unlikely). Therefore, the time frame on any more action about this issue is years, not months.

What has been interesting, though, is the response by American journalism (CNN mostly). They either are pandering to the need for reader excitement or are being mislead, since they are certainly presenting this issue with the slant that action in Catalonia is imminent and could result in succession or a strong (possibly military?) response from Madrid. This, from what I can tell here, is a complete overreaction. The people I work with here seem to be inured with the talk of succession at this point. When I ask how likely I am to see action while I am here, the most common answer I get is an eye-roll and scoff. At this point I think, to some degree, this struggle will simply be used as a bargaining chip in Madrid to push for more respect for Catalonia. As in "if you can't ease the national burden on Catalonia we will push harder for independence. See how many people want it?" At any rate, I don't expect to hear much of this issue for a long time, if at all again this year. Fascinating couple of weeks, though!

Phew, another long entry, and without pictures this time... Sorry! I'll do better next time. Until then, take care!

Hasta Luego!

Posted by dclift 00:19 Archived in Spain

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