On Sunday, the people of Catalonia and Catalans in major cities around the world cast votes on whether the northeastern Spanish region should secede and become a nation in its own right. In Tokyo too, Japan’s Catalan community (and those able to make the trip from China after the polling place in Shanghai was reportedly barred from opening) also had the chance to vote.

The referendum asked two questions: Would you like to see Catalonia become 1) a state within Spain, and/or 2) an independent state? The vote had been ruled unconstitutional by the Spanish judiciary, but Mark Buckton found a partisan crowd at the polling station in Kamiya-cho ready to vote anyway in defiance of Madrid.

Carmina Munte Geli
Catalan Assembly member, 42
I voted yes-yes, first and foremost for sentimental reasons, as I was educated a Catalan. Also, the yes-yes vote is the only way for Catalonia to survive, as we have our own culture and language. Recently the Spanish government banned our vote and requested that Spanish be the language used in education in Catalonia, looking to block us using our own language. If we want to survive, we need independence.

Daniel Lopez
IT engineer, 35
I voted yes-yes. I think smaller countries are more democratic than larger ones and work better, as the governments are closer to the people. I also don’t like Spanish politics, and how people in power tend to be connected to the time of the dictatorship. Also, there’s the fact that some politicians in Spain need to show a kind of phobia of Catalonia in order to get votes — much like some Japanese politicians use Korea and China.

Raquel Vila
Teacher, 40
I want independence because I feel we can do better, so I voted yes-yes. But my concerns are largely cultural, as our language and culture are not respected as they should be. As an example, the Spanish government is trying to reintroduce Spanish in the education system. In Catalonia now we teach using Catalan, but if just one child in a class requests that the class be taught in Spanish, then the whole class must be taught in Spanish.

Just Castillo Iglesias
Visiting researcher, 31
I voted yes-yes as I have felt Catalonia should be independent for as long as I can recall. It is a way to make our language, culture and sense of identity respected. All Spanish attempts to accommodate Catalans have failed, and trends toward recentralization by Spain have been behind this, such as when a move toward autonomy was passed by the Catalans but then all meaningful parts were cut out by the Madrid government.

Julia Gutierrez Peris
Student, 25
I opted for a yes-no vote, unlike most, because while I think that Catalonia needs more autonomy that will enable it to behave like a government state and decide its own way forward in its own right, I also believe it should not be an independent nation outside of Spain. I think the best thing for everyone would be a degree of federalism for Catalonia, and in my opinion this is best expressed in a yes-no vote.

Interested in collecting vox pops in your local area? Email community@japantimes.co.jp.

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