MADRID — For years, people considered him a right-wing extremist for wearing the Spanish flag on a bracelet, explained Angel Muñoz, a 62-year-old chauffeur, standing in central Madrid.
But not anymore, he said, pointing out dozens of Spanish flags outside the apartments around him. Most of them have appeared in recent weeks.
“Now with this thing happening in Catalonia, perhaps they feel a bit prouder to show the flag,” Mr. Muñoz said, referring to the northeastern region’s push for a separate state. That is what the Catalans “have achieved with this referendum,” he added. “Somehow now the rest of Spain feels more united.”
Nationalism has always been a tricky thing for Spain. The dictator Gen. Francisco Franco died in 1975. Only three years afterward did the country embrace a democratic Constitution.
But nationalism is still associated with Franco, whose authoritarian rule centralized Spain after a bloody civil war that was one of the defining ideological conflicts in 20th-century Europe.
Today, as Europe approaches the third decade of a new millennium, nationalism is back, for better or worse — with its warm cloak of identity as well as its concomitant dangers.
Whether this wave of nationalism will awaken old demons in Spain is an open question, and one that has suddenly become more urgent with Catalonia’s push for independence.
Equally dangerous, in the eyes of many Spaniards, is Catalonia’s threat to tear apart a country that is a composite of regional identities and languages — including Basque and Galician as well as Catalan — a reality the government and the country have never truly found a comfortable way to digest.
“In America people are proud to be patriots, whereas in Spain if you say that you’re proud of your country, they say you’re a fascist,” said Carlotta Carro, a 24-year-old lawyer who supported the Spanish police crackdown on the Catalan referendum. “But now people have a reason to go out into the streets to proudly show their flag.”
Indeed, the Spanish flag has become more visible in Madrid and other cities, as people have responded to the conservative government’s call to stop Catalan separatism in its tracks with their own displays of flag-waving.
“It’s finally a symbol for everyone,” said Lucrecia Fernández, a 50-year-old business administrator, who hung 11 Spanish flags from her apartment three days before the referendum on Sunday.
But the clashes between Catalans and the Spanish national police have lent the nationalist resurgence — on both sides — a suddenly volatile dimension.Read More...
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