Basques and the Catalans are two groups that help form the nation of Spain and are variously described as ethnic factions, nationalities, or autonomous communities. Both the Basques and Catalans have long histories pre-dating the formation of Spain as a unified country. Although they differ in various aspects both cultural and otherwise, the primary similarity between them is a striking conviction to expressing themselves as completely autonomous entities. Nationalist fervor grips the populace of both the Basque and Catalan communities and currently remains the focus of attention on each.
The Basques and the Catalans are often spoken of together as if they shared a number of features. The reason for this is because both have strong national identities forged by somewhat analogous historical context. When assimilating ethnic groups into the mainstream, it is imperative that the linguistic differences of the group being assimilated is repressed, and both Basques and Catalans have at various times had to rebel against attempts to destroy their identity through destroying their language. This shared experienced was an integral part of the two groups’ distinctly similar experiences with the suppression of cultural identity during the fascistic Franco regime.
Of course, this also points to a striking difference between the two groups. While the Catalan language is not considered to be a Spanish dialect per se, it is close enough that it facilitates a bilingual communication. On the other hand, the historically based Basque language bears no little or no similarity at all to Spanish. This impediment to communication has been greatly reduced, however, by the pervasive influence of Spanish into the Basque community to the point where only 25% of the population of the Basques still speak in their native tongue.
Nationalist pride is certainly a common thread that ties the Basque and the Catalan communities together, but it is also, paradoxically, a key distinction between them. Both the Basques and the Catalans have long sought a more independent nature in their relationship with Spain, and both have certainly produced their share of violent-some would use the term terrorist-actions in pursuit of that independence. However, unlike the infamous Basque terrorist faction, the ETA, the Catalan movement for autonomy has remained mostly lawful and, in fact, has steadily moved away from the struggle for independence and identity that marks the Basque movement to a more politically-oriented desire for a stronger voice in Spain’s political and economic policymaking decisions. This striking division between methods of achieving similar goals may rest in the underlying roots of the strong nationalist feelings of the two groups. While the Basques’ yearning for identity is rooted in deep-seated class and economic differences from the Spanish majority, the Catalans are motivated by the concerns of a stronger and more integrated middle class desire for fair political representation and the economic benefits provided by the Spanish political policies from which they feel excluded.
Both the Basques and the Catalans share a fair amount of historical construction of their present-day identity. Both have found themselves outside the mainstream of Spanish governmental policy which has led to a contemporary desire to solidify their identities. The response to these desires has been shaped by cultural and economic differences that can also be traced back through history.