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A Mock Protest For Fictional “Tabarnia” Drew Tens Of Thousands In Spain

Tens of thousands of protesters from the Catalonia region of Spain gathered in a mock protest calling for the secession of “Tabarnia” from Catalan.

Thousands of protestors in the north-eastern region of Spain, known as Catalonia, sang the fictional national anthem of Tabarnia and marched displaying banners with the slogans, “Tabarnia Free Of Populism” and “The Joke Is Over.”

Tabarnia is a fictional province created to mock Catalonia’s independence from Spain movement. The name comes from Catalonia’s two main provinces: Tarragona and Barcelona, where support for secession from Madrid is lower compared to other regions.

A change.org petition leads to the creation of Tabarnia.

The Tabarnia campaign started last October, but largely went unnoticed. A petition on Change.org calling for a separation from Catalonia went viral, gaining an estimated 281,000 signatures. Social media followed and fueled the hype by creating chants such as “Catalonia robs Tabarnia,” imitating Catalans when they wanted to hold a referendum.

Tabarnia Spain Change.org

A rendering of the fictional region of Tabarnia from the Change.org petition calling for Tabarnia’s independece from Catalonia.

According to police, around 15,000 people gathered to protest for separation from Madrid, with organizers claiming that the numbers actually reached between 75,000 and 200,000. Most protesters brought Spanish and Catalonian flags, as well as Tabarnia’s fictional checkered flag. They marched through Barcelona and the Catalan parliament building.

One of the protesters said that those joining the rally are tired of Catalonia’s push for secession from Spain. 

Catalonia Independence Movement: A flashback.

Catalonia, home to 7.5 million people, is one of the wealthiest provinces in Spain. The province’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) comprises 19 percent of Spain’s economy. Catalonia has its own language and cultural heritage that make its people identify somehwhat as a separate entity from Spain.

Pro-separation loyalists argued that Catalonia receives minimal support from Madrid especially in comparison to what Catalonia contributes to the Spanish administration. The origin for Catalonia’s push for independence goes back 80 years. Catalonia was granted greater autonomy when Spain became a Republic in 1931, but Catalonia’s sovereignty was short-lived once the oppressive regime of General Francisco Franco took hold in 1939. Catalonia’s regional government became active again in 1979, four years after Franco’s death.

Two referendums for Catalonian independence held in 2014 and 2017.

In 2014, Catalans held a non-binding referendum with an estimated turnout of around 37 percent where 80 percent of voters stated they wanted independence. The government treated the vote as a consultation of popular opinion, not a vote that necessitated a real action or response. 

In October 2017, Catalonia held another referendum, which gained significantly more media coverage. Madrid had already declared the vote illegal prior to the day of voting and attempted to suppress people from voting.

Tabarnia, Catalonia Independence Movement

Demonstrators blocking the Spanish police activity aimed at closing polling stations of the Catalan independence referendum, held despite having been declared illegal by the Spanish government. 2017.

The referendum turned violent when Madrid police tried to crack down on voters. The Spanish government was accused of excessive force and photos of people shot with rubber bullets circulated publicly.  Catalonian officials claimed that 90 percent of voters supported independence. Following reports estimated voter turnout at around 43 percent which Catalonians blamed on the government’s fierce attempt to shut down the vote.

In the regional elections that followed two months after the referendum, surveys showed that only 24 percent of respondents supported a movement for Catalonian Independence. The remaining 70+ percent preferred politicians who promised compromising solutions where Catalonia remained a part of Spain.

Catalonian leaders are in exile and in jail, Madrid imposes direct rule.

Carles Puigdemont served as Catalonia’s regional President until the Spanish Prime Minister dismissed the Catalonian regional government and imposed direct rule in the end of 2017. Puigdemont is in exile in Belgium, charged with rebellion. As a result the Catalonian independence movement is somewhat leaderless. His supporters said that their beloved leader could govern remotely, but Spanish authorities rejected the idea of him running the government from Brussels.

King Felipe VI of Spain added fire to the Catalonian issue when he visited Catalonia’s capital, Barcelona, on Feb.23. His visit drew protests and support of both unity and independence. Tension intensified further after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy suggested the use of Spanish in Catalonia’s schools. Catalonian’s speak Catalan which, although similar to Spanish it is not a dialect of Spanish as most believe. Catalan is a language that grew independently out of Latin.

The Catalonian Independence Movement struggles to move forward.

The Catalonian Parliament is set to elect their new regional head next Monday but it’s unsure whether any of the potential candidates would win enough votes. Puigdemont is out of the picture, many others are in exile and another candidate, Jordi Sanchez, is sitting in jail awaiting trials over his involvement in the Catalonian independence movement.

Maybe Tabarnia isn’t such a bad idea after all?

If you were to secede from the U.S. or whatever country you are in, what would you name your imaginary province? Let us now in the comments!



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Yasmeen Rasidi

Yasmeen is a writer and political science graduate of the National University, Jakarta. She covers a variety of topics for Citizen Truth including the Asia and Pacific region, international conflicts and press freedom issues. Yasmeen had worked for Xinhua Indonesia and GeoStrategist previously. She writes from Jakarta, Indonesia.

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