What is Tabarnia and why does it want independence from Catalonia? After trending on social media on December 26, just two days ahead of Spain's national prank day, many wondered if it was a joke or a serious proposal.
The fictional region of Tabarnia has become a new independence movement that seeks to have Tarrgona and Barcelona secede from Catalonia to remain in Spain.
After months of turbulence due to the Catalan independence challenge and subsequent elections, many on social media wondered whether Tabarnia was a joke or, indeed, a grassroots movement.
'Tabarnia must be respected'—and other tweets
“If Tabarnia is a joke, it is a very serious joke: it provides an ironic resource that could end up being literal, it neutralizes the logic of independence with its own theoretical tools and subverts its symbols. Bravo.”
One tweeter wrote about what he called the evolution of unionist support: “Unionist speech evolution:
-Say that they are few
-They're a “soufflé”.
-Saying it's not legal
-You won't be able to vote
-These ballot boxes were worthless
-You are coup plotters
-We'll beat you at the polls
-Tabarnia must be respected”
Another user wrote: "Tabarnia, a big threat for separatism."
The reality is that there is a petition on the website Change.org that has got close to 50,000 signatures, in which Tabarnia is defined as "a region that differs in many aspects from the rest of the region to which it belongs".
In the text that accompanies the petition, Tabarnia is delimited as the historical region that once formed the County of Barcelona and that ideologically is characterized by being "constitutionalist and a supporter of continuing within Spain unconditionally".
Another Twitter account, that claims to be the official page of region, says "Tabarnia is a reality no matter how much the separatist media hides it. Tabarnia is different and votes differently. Referendum of autonomy for Tabarnia YA! #Tabarnexit #Barcelona #Ciutadans #Bcn #Tarragona #Bcnisnotcat"
"We have as an example the region of Madrid", say its promoters. "This was part of Castile and is currently one of the economic engines of Spain”.
The citizen platform behind this movement, Barcelona is not Catalonia, says that the "inhabitants of Tabarnia" are "bilingual, cosmopolitan, prosperous, densely populated, mostly non-separatist and open-minded".
“And what has Catalonia done to seduce Tabarnia? To send out our businesses, to discriminate against our vote, to cut our roads, to attack our tourists, to fine our businesses, to plunder our coffers, to destroy our prestige…”
Euronews has reported on the existence of a citizen collective that worked for an independent Barcelona of Catalonia. But is it viable? “It is possible", the spokesman of Barcelona Via Fora answered in the report. “If independence wins the elections on 21 December, the petition will make more sense"
In the Catalan regional elections, the anti-independence party Ciudadanos obtained its best results in Barcelona and Tarragona, while the pro-independence parties led in Girona and Lleida.
“Right now we are trending topic worldwide. Are you going to keep ignoring us @KRLS @marianorajoy @InesArrimadas? The Tabarnese people have the right to decide. We want ballot boxes, shall we sit down and talk now? Political problems are solved by political solutions. #Tabarnia #HelpTabarnia," read a tweet from the pro-Tabarnia group on December 26.
After the great media success of its launch,"tabarnismo" has set itself a series of short and medium-term objectives, including making flags and founding the Association of Municipalities for Tabarnia’s Autonomy.
Now, it is still too early to tell whether Tabarnia will go from the viral anecdote to a concrete political proposal. The truth is that the platform behind the idea has enabled a Paypal account to raise funds.
The political debate, for now, has not taken the leap beyond Twitter.
Albert Rivera, leader of Ciudadanos said: "If nationalists claim the non-existent right to divide, anyone can do so. I prefer diversity and unity."
Inés Arrimadas, leader of Ciudadanos in Catalonia wrote on Twitter: "Tabarnia is an occurrence that puts independence in the mirror of its own contradictions and the fragility of its arguments. It is very significant how nervous some have become?"