Spain is infamous for its regionalisms. Each autonomous community (and even within each autonomous community) has its own cuisine, way of life, values, reputation, and often, linguistic background.
As an Argentine friend in Ibiza put it directly, “These people all hate each other.” You might think that seems bit exaggerated, but once you start discussing topics of independence, the “laziness” of Andalusia and the supposed coldness of the Basque, you get a sense that to some, none of these people really mesh together well.
Spanish is the official language, but six other regions – Catalonia, Valencian Community, Balearic Islands, Galicia, and Basque Country – have other official languages. You may have heard the most recent movement in Catalonia for independence or the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), the Basque separatist movement known for its terror tactics.
What you may not have heard about on the Anglo-Saxon media (or Spanish media for that matter) was the separatist movement of León, a province in northern Spain that forms part of the autonomous Community of Castilla y León. Not only does Spain have independence movements of autonomous communities, but intra-autonomous community movements.
Walking through this province, we began to see several signs with phrases such as “País Llionés Llibre” or “León without Castilla.”
The French route of the Camino de Santiago passes through many autonomous regions in Spain: Navarra, La Rioja, Castilla y León, and Galicia. León was the only place that from the paths or highways that pilgrims walk on, vandalism, or protest via graffiti in favor of separatist movements could be seen.
These signs came as a surprise. I had never heard of a separatist movement in León. In fact, it had never occurred to me that a province within an autonomous community might want to be independent.
I commented that I had seen graffiti for independence to another pilgrim from Madrid. He simply scuffed and responded, “I can’t believe this, it’s ridiculous. What do these people want, borders from the 1700s?”
(It is to be noted that AGORA, one of the organizations in León in favor of independence claims that Madrid unfairly centralizes and dominates politics)
Still intrigued, when I returned to the U.S., I did some light investigating, and found a few interesting points about the independence movement of León.
Digging for this information wasn’t simple, but it wasn’t entirely difficult. Unsurprisingly, the only English-language information I found were on Wikipedia (the ever helpful), and most newspaper articles were published locally in the region. Youtube had some informative videos, and great news! You can also purchase your very own leftist/anarchist/anti-capitalist/anti-U.S. T-shirt in support of a separatist movement (you pick the region!) courtesy of LaTostadora.com (some of the shirts are hilarious and clever. But the irony of consumerism… Like people who wear Che Guevara shirts).
And can’t fail to mention Twitter, wonderful Twitter. It was a buzz with separatist articles, a wealth of information and a candy store for an amateur investigator. I saw hashtags- #LeonNoEsCastilla and #Llionnunyecastiella – and apparently those who support León independence have a soft spot for Andalusian political strife as evidenced by the hashtag #GranadaNoEsAndalucia (Granada is not Andalusia).
Here are a few take-aways from what I learned:
- Who: Separatists from provinces of Leon, Zamora, and Salamanca
- What: Separatists are fighting for an independent autonomous region for Leon, Zamora, and Salamanca (separate from Castilla y León, hence the photos below “León Solo”)
- What organizations are involved? AGORA Pais Lliones and Leoneisist Youth, formerly known as Conceyu Xoven, the youth wing of the Leonese People’s Union.
- What political parties support independence? Leonese People’s Union (UPL), Grupo Autonomico Leones, Union of the Salamancan People, Regionalist Party of the Leonese Country. Podemos and Ciudadanos (at least in the last election). Local parties in Castilla y León such as Ganemos and En Comun are of “little certainty” but could potential support the cause.
- What are the goals of the movement? Besides of course, independence, important topics include:
- Linguistic recognition (claims that Castilla y León have not upheld the requirements set forth by the Council of Europe of protection of minority languages. Read more about the Leonese language in Spanish here).
- Worker’s rights and topics of professional training, unemployment and cutbacks.
- Environment: AGORA reports that “Capitalism produces the using up of natural resources and a progressive process towards the destruction of the planet.”
- What has the movement achieved?
Below, see some of the graffiti I photographed while walking the Camino de Santiago. If you walked the camino, did you see anything intriguing? Do you have more information on the separatist movement? Tweet at me @yasminesoyyo!