Ibiza Bubble but Barcelona Trouble Underlines an Uncertain Future

The Catalan independence troubles have brought home just how fickle and polarising the world is at the moment. Extreme views being met with extreme measures is the recurring theme and Spain and it’s autonomous regions is no different.

As far as Ibiza and the Balearics is concerned we were all riding along on the crest of a wave, living in the bubble that mass tourism on a small island provides. An island by definition tends to be more removed from the mainland but in Spain you’re never too far from a political scandal with corruption at the heart. This has been a way of life since General Franco ruled with an iron fist so knowing the right people has always been a valuable commodity.

For those that live in Ibiza, Barcelona tends to be your big city option. Some prefer Palma or Madrid but for the majority it’s Barcelona that’s the Mecca when you require a big city fix. That’s why when terrorists committed mass murder on 17 August 2017 it was too close for comfort for those who know the Catalan capital intimately and especially those who have young family at college in the vicinity.

Terrorist attacks are hard to stop due to small cells of extremists plotting together so after that atrocity there was very much a stiff upper lip ‘business as usual’ feeling even though it was a tragic world event. Then 01-O happened.

01-O stands for 01 October, the date the Catalans voted overwhelmingly to create an independent republic and is now etched in the Spanish psyche much as is 11-M (11 March 2004 Madrid bombings) and 11-S (Sep 11 attacks). The vote had already been ruled unconstitutional and illegal by the highest court in the land and there was only a 40% turnout, boycotted by an opposition that viewed it as unlawful activity. The lack of independent observers at the voting stations is also a concern.

In terms of world events this is a massive test for Spain which has reverberations all through the Kingdom with many other autonomous regions looking on with interest. Even King Felipe has been dragged into the argument making an unscheduled TV address calling for unity but not even mentioning the violence from his own security forces. Pictures of heavy handed policing being beamed all over the planet hasn’t done anything for Madrid’s public relations or Spain’s reputation however for those that live in the country and have seen first hand how police forces, such as the Guardia Civil, operate it came as no real surprise.

The knock on effect for Ibiza is minimal at the moment but shouldn’t be underestimated either. The polarising views of the Spanish electorate has been laid bare for all to see in recent times and this issue pours more fuel on the fire however Ibiza doesn’t view itself as Catalan so even though the local debates have been vociferous they have also been in the 3rd person so far.

Ibiza and Barcelona may share a similar DNA, history, language and culture but the native ‘Ibicenco’ population view themselves very differently to the Catalans. In many ways the similarities underpin the differences and if you mention Catalunya in general conversation you are usually met with rolled eyes and a ‘they are a different breed’ reply, which isn’t surprising seeing as Catalans view themselves as a different race.

What the Barcelona problems have done is create more uncertainty and pessimism in an already fractured market. Even though Ibiza is having a boom there are many businesses who are struggling due to the polarising nature of the current marketplace.

For Ibiza there are plenty of issues that are of more pressing concern. A diminishing middle market, an over proliferation of half empty 4 and 5 star hotels, a moratorium on tourist places, the high cost of living, talk of limiting tourism in certain areas, a building ban holding back regeneration and growth and a housing crisis that means that many public service workers can’t even afford to live on the island. These and many more are all genuine concerns that are only exasperated by the self inflicted troubles going on across the water. This isn’t a terrorist attack per se, it’s political terrorism from both sides reigniting feuds and opening old wounds.

Like the Basque problem before it the Catalan question is now front page news across the world. As usual there are 3 sides to every story but an illegal election called for by self serving politicians and a heavy handed response by a hated historical enemy has only served to highlight the differences that exist and this doesn’t sit well with Ibiza, a well known liberal and hippy island that likes to bring people together, not force them apart.

Author: Martin Makepeace

Englishman living and working in Ibiza since 1991. Entrepreneur with a passion for villas, boats, sunsets and San Antonio. Read my blogs, listen to my podcasts and catch me on Radio One Mallorca every Tuesday morning.

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