In Spain, Catalans Are Divided Over Independence Vote As Referendum Approaches : Parallels Catalonia's independence referendum is scheduled for Oct. 1, but polls show as many as half of Catalans don't favor it. "For business owners, independence is a loaded issue," says a Catalan winemaker.
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In Spain, Catalans Are Divided Over Independence Vote As Referendum Approaches

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In Spain, Catalans Are Divided Over Independence Vote As Referendum Approaches

In Spain, Catalans Are Divided Over Independence Vote As Referendum Approaches

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

For the past week, the streets of Barcelona have sounded like this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTORS: (Chanting in Spanish).

SIEGEL: Separatists are rallying for independence from Spain. They plan to hold a secession vote this Sunday even though the Spanish government says that's illegal. Polls show the separatists don't have a clear majority among Catalans. Lauren Frayer went to visit one village in Catalonia where the mayor opposes independence. And he's not alone.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: The village of Batea, nestled in vineyards west of Barcelona, has more tractors than cars. There's so much farm work, Batea has almost full employment, and it's bustling.

JOAQUIM PALADELLA: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: Mayor Joaquim Paladella shows me where voting usually takes place in the town hall but not this coming Sunday. He refuses to allow Catalonia's independence vote to be held on public property.

PALADELLA: (Through interpreter) I don't see how independence would help my village. When our leaders wave the flag and lobby for independence, they're not doing the real work of government. I am a Catalan, but I'm deeply discontented with the direction my region is taking.

FRAYER: He takes me to the local nursing home, which has a long waiting list. Nurse Maria Pilar says she'd rather see the Catalan regional government expand this facility...

MARIA PILAR: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: ...Than spend millions on what she calls silly dreams of independence from Spain. While a majority of Catalans would like to vote on the issue, polls show they're roughly divided over whether to break away and form a new country. Support for staying in Spain had been growing.

BERTA BARBET: I would use the words demobilized majority more than silent majority.

FRAYER: Political scientist Berta Barbet says defenders of the status quo often don't get their voices heard.

BARBET: This referendum won't be recognized by those that have not voted. And if the current government decides to go ahead even with low turnout, they know they'll have problems, like, because they - that's not the way to properly legitimize your decisions.

FRAYER: Spain says Catalans who vote Sunday are committing a crime. Anti-independence parties are telling voters to stay home. It's a dilemma. Vote in a referendum you don't believe in, or skip it, and you're not represented.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing in Spanish).

FRAYER: Catalan folk songs about wine play in the lobby of Batea's town hall. There are 28 wineries here for 2,000 residents. It's an important industry which could suffer if Catalonia gets independence, is forced out of the European Union and faces trade barriers.

JOAN VAQUE: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: That's why winemaker Joan Vaque will not vote Sunday, he says, showing me into his 18th century bodega.

VAQUE: (Through interpreter) We don't know what will happen to commerce. We hear a lot about Brexit, how that change will affect British business. I don't want to risk the same thing here. For business owners, independence is a loaded issue.

FRAYER: As he arranges wine bottles on a shelf, Vaque points to the label.

VAQUE: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: It says product of Spain in big letters. That's at least one thing that would have to change, he says, if his region of Catalonia wins independence. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Batea, Catalonia, Spain.

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