Tabarnia: the hoax independence movement trending now in Spain
Old demand for Barcelona and Tarragona to split from rest of Catalonia revived on social media
“Freedom for Tabarnia. Catalonia robs Tabarnia. Catalonia has never done anything to win Tabarnia over. The corruption of Catalan politicians has left Tabarnia in misery. That’s why the citizens of Tabarnia have the right to decide their future. The people of Tabarnia just want to vote. Tabarnia is not pro-independence, Tabarnia is pro-democracy. If Tabarnia declared itself independent, it would be assured its place in the European Union. Tabarnia, Catalonia’s Crimea.”
Tabarnia is a hypothetical union of parts of the provinces of Tarragona and Barcelona. It does not exist: it is a myth. It’s really just a joke – an impossible idea that has emerged again in the wake of the snap regional elections held last week in Catalonia, called by the Madrid central government using emergency constitutional powers in response to the recent independence push in the region.
But the Tabarnia story has flourished over the holidays, stepping into the void left by the politicians’ unusual silence.
Its plausibility is all thanks to the separatists themselves – all the above sound bites have been used to bombard the people of Catalonia for years – just substitute the name Tabarnia for Catalonia.
Now social media enthusiasts have turned the sound bites on the separatists. The same economic, cultural, demographic and ethnic arguments are being used to defend the splitting of Barcelona and Tarragona from a supposedly independent Catalonia and its return to Spain as an autonomous region.
The proposal is not in fact new. The Bcnisnotcat.es website created in September 2015 on the Barcelona is not Catalonia platform reads: “Catalonia is composed of two areas clearly differentiated from an economic, linguistic, identity, demographic and social point of view. One side is pro-independence and the other, among other things, constitutionalist (Tabarnia).”
In May 2017, a website called El Magacín interviewed the supposed president of the Barcelona is not Catalonia platform, Carla Arrufat who said: “Each time there are elections, it shows that the vote from the majority of the population in the metropolitan area of Barcelona and all Tabarnia goes to the non-separatist political parties.”
Arrufat, who has little online presence, was shown to be right. In the elections on December 21, the parties supporting the constitution – Cuidadanos, PSC and PP – had a clear majority in the area between La Selva in the north and Baix Camp in the south, with Barcelona and Tarragona included. It was in this area that Cuidadanos consolidated its position as the most-voted party in Catalonia.
Now, the brains behind Tabarnia have made the most of these five days of respite to air the new flag on social networks. The posts include Tabarnia’s census of 6 million people, its proposals for the future and even the date for an imaginary referendum to split from rural Catalonia and the interior – October 2019. Yesterday, Tabarnia was trending.
Faced with this reflection of their own demands, the separatists seem paralyzed, though Repubican Left politician Gabriel Rufián managed a jocular remark. Otherwise, the discomfort was palpable. Aleix Sarri, assistant to pro-independence Eurodeputy Ramón Tremosa, was moved to criticize the idea of Tabarnia without a hint of irony, comparing it to Italy’s Lega Nord with its “invented borders, ethnic nationalism and economic populism based on imaginary grievances”.
The leaders of Ciudadanos were keen on Tuesday to keep the prank going. “Tabarnia is a merciless mirror for the nationalists; it’s the reflection of their lack of solidarity and clumsiness,” said Juan Carlos Girauta. The leader of the party in Catalonia, Inés Arrimadas, meanwhile had this to say: “Nationalism champions a homogeneous Catalonia and stumbles easily over its own contradictions.” And finally, Albert Rivera weighed in with, “If the nationalists claim an inexistent right to split, anyone can.”
For some, Tabernia has turned into something close to reality – on Tuesday a petition to Spanish Congress was drawn up to demand that Tabarnia “be a new autonomous region within Spain and independent from Catalonia”. It contained 25,000 signatures.