A trip for freedom: Redwood parents fly to Catalonia for referendum

Amanda Morse

For years, the people of Catalonia, a small region in northeastern Spain, have been united by the same desire: independence for the region they call home. With a different flag, culture and language, many Catalans believe they should not be associated with Spain.

On Oct. 1, 2.25 million people filed into polling stations, awaiting their chance to vote for the freedom of Catalonia, the result being 90 percent of the population voting in favor of their independence according to officials.

Despite the Spanish government’s attempts to shut down the referendum by deeming it an illegal practice, the unified people have continued to fight for their country of Catalonia. To stop the rebellious action, the Spanish government sent police troops into the region to subdue voters.

Junior Lia Gubau is the daughter of Catalans Marta Llibre and Pep Gubau who were both born and raised in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia. After years of living in Catalonia, the Gubau family decided to move to California when Lia was in fifth grade. 

Standing outside their house Lia Gubau's (middle) parents, Marta (left) Pep (right), prepare to leave for Spain to vote.
Standing outside their house Lia Gubau’s (middle) parents, Marta (left) Pep (right), prepare to leave for Spain to vote.

With the majority of their family still living in Spain, it is difficult for the Tiburon family to witness the devastation occurring in the country from a distance, especially with the fast progression of the situation.

“Our parents have been fighting for our culture for years, which was forbidden and persecuted. Our grandpas fought in the civil war and died. [Fighting for Catalan independence] is something that is ingrained in our DNA,” Pep said.

Due to their Catalan background and pride for the culture, Pep and Marta decided that it was important for them to fly out to Catalonia, for voting day on Oct. 1, for this opportunity. Although it was difficult leaving their four kids at home, they were willing to make it work if it meant they were able to fight for their region’s freedom.

“We feel that our country requires all the citizens to fight for it so we are proud of this and we feel that we have to. It’s a national feeling, a cultural feeling; we feel the weight of the history on us and we feel that we owe that to our country,” Pep said.

Although there have been past referendums,the most recent one being in 2014, that the family has traveled back to vote for, they have all been unsuccessful. The severity of the current situation had become increasingly tense in terms of the extremity of the police forces and government actions.

While working at one of the polling stations, Marta received notices that the police were on their way to shut down the voting. The environment quickly switched from one of excitement to one of fear.

Placing her vote, Marta stands next to the ballot box.
Placing her vote, Marta stands next to the ballot box.

“People were standing there, no fighting at all. Quiet, silent, no flags, but they (the Spanish police) were just coming and beating everybody, trying to show that they are stronger and bigger… it was really scary,” Marta said.

This time around, the government did not allow ballots to be sent in through mail and they have also blocked any online websites that include information about the referendum for the people in Catalonia.

“Everyone should have a right to democracy and voting for what they want and all we are asking for is a right to vote,” Lia said.

After being able to experience the voting first-hand, both Pep and Marta were excited by the amount of people who voted “yes” for Catalonia’s independence.

Although there were many people who participated in the ballots, Marta was shocked by the amount of violence that occurred between the voters and the Spanish police officers. Marta explained how she felt that the government was trying to scare people as a way to keep them from voting.

“It wasn’t about the independence, it was more about having the freedom to vote. It doesn’t matter if people were trying to vote yes or no,” Marta said.

With the vast majority of voters in favor of independence, these results clearly expressed the anticipation of the people awaiting the moment that Catalonia declares independence.

“We feel we are culturally and historically different and we want to follow our path. Americans decided not to be English. We’re not Spanish, we were forced to be Spanish. At the end it’s ‘we the people,’” Pep said.