At the dawn of a new country, with that determined spirit to live and coexist that all of our people display, encouraging, hopeful, courageous, today we will walk the streets once again to make our voices heard, the voices of those who thirst for justice and hunger for freedom. We will do so with a smile on our face, with our children, on the side of the educational community, and we will do it as many times as necessary, knowing that we will have to until we have a country that prioritizes the public interest, that works in favor of social welfare and banishes this obsession with identity that is so characteristic of every Spanish government.
And despite the adversities, we have managed to pull through for centuries. If all the energy that Spain has dedicated to kicking us down had been put towards the service of citizens and a productive economy, we would all have come out as winners. Who wants a country that creates problems instead of resolving them? That is why it is so important for us to build our own State and to do it well. We have a unique opportunity and we must not miss it.
Today we will be thousands upon thousands, with smiles on our lips, knowing that what we defend, we defend for all; that we do not go against anyone but, rather, advocate for the interests of the majority, who want a good education for our children and for them to learn and master as many languages as possible. And today that can only be guaranteed through Catalan-medium language immersion schooling, a system that has won awards and recognition from Europe and that has shown remarkable results throughout the years. Just one note on this point, which is not just any anecdote: today Catalan schoolchildren -any one of them, actually- speak more languages that any of the presidents that Spain has elected since the Transition, who only happened to speak one language: Spanish.
Obviously, it is essential to increase the resources dedicated to education -and also to healthcare- because they are the two pillars of the Welfare State. On Thursday Catalan Minister of Finance Mas-Colell put Catalonia's financial deficit at €15bn. Imagine for a moment what could be done with all that money, invested in education, in healthcare, in service of a productive economy, in the infrastructures that we so lack to be a well-balanced, modern, advanced country. It is easy to imagine, and thus painful to realize that, year in and year out, all the resources that our country generates vanish only to later reappear as sumptuous investments in airports without planes, high-speed trains without passengers and highways with barely any cars. Not to mention when those resources are used to eliminate tolls on the roads surrounding Madrid, when they are intended to compensate projects like Castor (1) or they go to building luxurious embassies, consulates and residences overseas. Meanwhile, here at home, the Spanish government denies aid to families with dependents and leaves so many of them helpless.
The demonstration called by Som Escola isn't just another rally. It never is when the education of our children is at stake. It isn't just another demonstration when what is at risk is the future of a generation on which the PP wants to impose an educational model that clashes with what parents associations, the educational community and the vast majority of political representatives know is right. Now is also the time to remember our compatriots on the Balearic Islands and their exemplary mobilization in defense of Catalan as a common language and medium of instruction, admirable in their tenacity to bring about a strike that became a show of dignity. And I'll take advantage of this opportunity to extend a fraternal hug to Jaume Sastre, who will soon reach forty days in his hunger strike protesting against a regional government whose only policy is to torpedo the education system in the Balearic and Pityusic Islands. And I will also not forget the Valencian schools and the thousands of Valencian students who are denied the chance to study in Catalan despite the good results of the groups schooled in our language. Or of our neighbors in the western strip for whom the PP has even invented a new language (2) in yet another show of mockery towards Catalan speakers throughout the linguistic domain.
We have a thousand reasons to go out into the streets and make ourselves heard, from now until 9 November, when everyone must go out into the streets in force to vote, to exercise the most basic political right: suffrage. And today as tomorrow, civically, with firmness and determination, convinced that we are doing what we can to assure a better future, a future in which we will be protagonists, a future that we crave because we want to do things better and because we want that future to be truly ours. Come on then!
Oriol Junqueras is President of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya
1 The author refers to a natural gas extraction project that has recently been halted as a safety precaution.
2 The Western Strip is the Catalan-speaking area in Aragon. Aragon’s regional parliament passed a Language Act where the Catalan language was referred to as LAPAO. This acronym was yet another attempt by Spain’s institutions to legislate that Catalan is only spoken in Catalonia, whereas the undisputed scientific view of linguists and academics worldwide is that Catalan is also spoken in the Balearics, Valencia, Andorra, southern France and, indeed, Eastern Aragon.