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Shortly before its final dissolution, the Basque armed separatist movement ETA issued an apology pledging “to put out definitively the flames of Guernica.” In truth, the flames of Guernica were put out long ago. Picasso’s famous painting denouncing that tragedy has been hanging in a Madrid museum for decades. Even the flames of ETA were extinguished years ago. As for the group’s vision of an independent Basque Country, the paradox is that ETA has made that goal less, not more, feasible.
When thinking about Catalonia seeking independence, we circle back to metaphors. Romantic breakup or severed-limb mutilation, the language of feelings or the language of the body. What they all have in common is that in most cases breakups are irreparable and painful. In that, the other Catalans and Spaniards are right, too. At his point, nobody knows whether Catalonia will finally secede from Spain, but, if it comes to that, it will feel like the loss of a limb. And for many, the hurt will be unbearable.