Barcelona's Lluís Companys Stadium, the venue for the 1992 Olympics, for the European Athletics Championships, for great and massive concerts held in the city, drew a different type of crowd this Saturday evening, and for a different reason. It was not an evening of celebration, but one of remembrance. It was not an evening for nostalgia, but rather one to fight against indifference. It was an evening of defending freedoms and rallying against the continued detention of political prisoners. And in the location of the concert, there was a huge paradox: it took an authentic political battle, waged by the public, to officially change the name of the stadium so that it paid homage to Lluís Companys, the 1930s Catalan president who was jailed, and later shot by a Francoist firing squad in the castle not far from the stadium. At the end of the eighties, the name of Companys was still regarded as difficult in many of the city's political circles. Almost three decades after the inauguration of the stadium, who would have thought that it would be used for a concert in defence of the political prisoners being held in the Madrid prisons of Estremera, Alcalá Meco and Soto del Real, and of president Puigdemont and his ministers exiled in Brussels?
Catalonia in black and white and in the format of article 155 has taken over the country's politics. Nothing has been normal since the imprisonments started, first of the two civic leaders, Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart, and then of Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras and seven members of the Catalan government, who on Saturday completed a full month deprived of their liberty. In which European city is it normal for tens of thousands of people to fill a stadium demanding that members of their government be set free? In no city. In which European country should we expect to see leading singers get up on stage in an act of solidarity and political commitment, in the form of a concert, to remind the Spanish state that in Catalonia there is a widening absence of freedoms, which has led to political prisoners being held in a democracy? Which European country has created a popular solidarity fund to pay fines and bail demands for the members of its government or parliament?
Because of all this, it was neither a normal concert, nor a normal evening. As a matter of fact, nothing has been normal for some time, in a Catalonia that has lost its institutions of self-government and where the Spanish government has set itself up as lord and master of the matter, even claiming for itself the authority to call elections for the country on the 21st of this month. Elections that will be decisive and of tremendous importance for the coming years. It is no exaggeration to say that the disappearance of Catalonia is in play. Not the physical disappearance, of course, but that the vitality of the country that has made it a world leader in many disciplines will be in the hands of those who want it to be simply a region of Spain. To favour this is a legitimate opinion and it is evident that its adherents are now much more visible, but it would entail a change of the historical direction of several centuries, if we discount the periods of the dictatorships.
Catalanism, in its different manifestations, has been the engine of progress, the defender of the language and culture and the foundation on which the Catalan nation has been built. Spain feels strong enough to put an end to all this, and different unionist parties have accepted the proposition of putting a true change of direction at stake. Because of that, in the elections of 21st December there are so many things in play. Many more than there seem to be at face value.