Houses of many Nations: Identities in Catalonia and the Basque Country
This chapter explores the issue of national identity in Catalonia and Basque Country. Catalan identity was constructed in opposition to Castile, a region considered backward, oppressive, and responsible for hampering the progress of Catalonia. Yet, far from promoting secession, Catalanism advocated political autonomy while demanding Spanish protection of Catalan industry from foreign competition. Basque nationalism emerged in Bilbao in the 1890s as a reaction against modernization. Unlike Catalanism, Basque nationalism sought independence from Spain from the beginning. Since the early 1980s, Catalan and Basque nationalism began to compete with the state using the agencies of their regional governments. In some key aspects, such as the consolidation of a national historical narrative and a set of myths and symbols, regional nationalists have proved far more effective that their Spanish counterparts, strengthening their citizens' identification with Catalonia and the Basque Country. Yet contrary to their expectations, the process of nation-building did not create exclusive identities. Instead, it fostered the rise of dual identities. Devolution and nation-building policies did not undermine Spanish identity in Catalonia and the Basque Country. Instead, exclusive Spanish identities gave way to more complex levels of identification with the autonomous communities. Many of those Catalans and Basques who did not identify with their region during the transition have gradually come to do so. Thus, Spanish identity has been reinvented not just as modern and democratic but also as a dual identity, especially in Catalonia.
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