Anti-separatists in Catalonia march for fictional ‘Tabarnia’ region

Thousands of Catalans opposed to moves to split from Spain took to Barcelona's streets on Sunday, calling for the fictional "Tabarnia" region to cede from Catalonia, in a mocking attempt to undermine the separatist arguments.

Anti-separatists in Catalonia march for fictional 'Tabarnia' region
A man dressed up as Sant Jordi (Saint George, patron of Aragon and Catalonia) attends a pro-unity rally organized by the Tabarnia movement. Photo: AFP

Some 15,000 people according to police — between 75,000 and 200,000 according to organisers — took part in the protest on behalf of “Tabernia” which encompasses the parts of Catalonia most opposed to splitting from Madrid.   

Photo: AFP

The streets were filled with Spanish flags as well as those of the fictive region as the protesters marched through central Barcelona and to the Catalan parliament, where secessionists are in the majority.

“We are here because we are fed up, fed up of the independantist process and that a minority is leading us towards the brink,” said Mari Carmen Guerrero, a 33-year-old protester with a Tabarnia flag round her neck.

Among those joining Sunday's march was Alberto Fernandez Diaz, regional head of Spain's ruling Popular Party and Javier Ortega Smith, head of the ultra-conservative Vox party

Last October Catalonians voted, in a referendum declared illegal by Madrid, for independence from Spain.

Weeks later, separatist lawmakers declared independence on October 27th.    

The Spanish government moved in immediately, stripping Catalonia of its prized autonomy, sacking its separatist government, dissolving its parliament and calling snap elections, which the separatists won.

The name Tabarnia was dreamed up in recent years to turn the separatists' arguments back at them.

READ Tabarnia: The region that wants to leave 'Catalonia'

The word comes from the names of the coastal provinces of  Tarragona and Barcelona.

In January, Catalan author and satirist Albert Boadella, a harsh critic of the region's ruling nationalist CiU party, was chosen as “Tabarnia's president-in-exile', a poke at Catalonia's deposed leader Carles Puigdemont who is wanted for sedition in Spain, and said he was willing to govern Catalonia from Belgium, where he is in self-imposed exile.    

People holds masks depecting actor Albert Boadella, president of the Tabarnia movement,. Photo: AFP

“It's a joke to make the separatists realise that their argument are ridiculous and the entire process absurd,” said Jose Luis Cortes, a 72-year-old retiree who was among the marchers.

“But if they go ahead, maybe it will stop being a joke,” he added, “because if they want to leave Spain and Europe, do it, but we will stay”.   

The supporters of Tabarnia have not only devised their own flag but also have their own anthem and even currency and say they are prepared, if necessary, to begin a legal fight for recognition as a region separate from Catalonia.

Want to understand what Tabernia is all about? Watch this explanatory video:


Why are Barcelona’s beaches disappearing?

Barcelona's much-loved beaches are losing between six and 10 metres of sand per year, but why is this happening?

Why are Barcelona's beaches disappearing?
Barceloneta Beach. Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP

Barcelona may be famed for its beaches and they may be one of its biggest tourist draws, but it hasn’t always been this way.

In fact, Barcelona didn’t used to have any beaches at all, just ports and seaside neighbourhoods. It wasn’t until 1992 when the city held the Olympic Games that these neighbourhoods were demolished and the beaches were created. 

What’s the problem?

Since 2017, the city’s beaches have been losing between six and 10 metres of width per year, according to a recent study by the Área Metropolitana de Barcelona (AMB).

This beach erosion means that every year there is less and less sand for residents and tourists to lie on and enjoy. 

This is not a new problem however and has been going on much longer than four and half years. In 2016, the Barcelona City Council revealed that since 2010 Barceloneta Beach had lost over 15 metres in width, which is equivalent to 28 percent of its surface area.  

In another 2016 report, the regional authorities of Barcelona also showed that its beaches as a whole had lost 17 percent of their total amount of sand during the same time period, the same as five football pitches.

Why is it happening?

The study attributes this to the fact that there have been more storms than normal since 2017, which has prevented the natural recovery of the beaches.

Storm Gloria in January 2020 in particular caused significant damage to the beaches in the area and caused even more sand to be washed away.

In short, most of this is to do with climate change. 

The beaches that have been most affected and have lost the most amount of sand are those in the lower Maresme region and the towns of Masnou and Badalona.

Barcelona beaches being destroyed during a storm. Photo: JOSEP LAGO / AFP

What’s being done about it?

The Barcelona City Council has been continually adding a little sand to its beaches each year and moving it around from areas that have more to areas that have less.

Aitor Rumín, head of the beach management service of the Barcelona Consistory told El Pais last month that “the last major contribution of sand was made by the ministry in 2010. Since then we have only lost sand”.

“It’s survival, but we can’t do much more. The beaches lose 30 cubic meters of sand per year, especially in the southern parts of each of the beaches. The coastline is receding and we have beaches like Mar Bella, Nova Mar Bella and Llevant, where we can’t do anything to regain the sand,” he said.

Badalona Beach. Photo: JOSEP LAGO / AFP

While moving the sand around and adding a little each year may help to cover up the problem in the short term, it’s not really helping solve the problem and a long-term solution needs to be found.

The Área Metropolitana de Barcelona have been trying to stop the beach erosion with their Resilience Plan, which will ask for greater contributions of sand to try and balance out the current losses and divide the beaches up with breakwaters.

In the case of Badalona, it has been proposed that 13,200 cubic metres of sand be added to the beach each year, as well as to rethink the layout of the equipment located on the seafront. The construction of a breakwater on La Mora beach has also been proposed.

In Sant Adrià, the plan is to build another breakwater, as well as to remove the jetty in front of the old industrial areas. The council also hope to add a further 95,000 cubic metres of sand.

It is thought that similar plans may be carried out on Barcelona’s other beaches.

Is this a problem anywhere else in Spain?

Yes, beach erosion is a problem throughout Spain, as well as throughout the world, due to climate change.

Theocharis Plomaritis from the University of Cádiz who was one of the co-authors of the Nature Climate Change study published in March 2020, told El Periodico that by the end of the century the retreat of the beaches in Spain and Southern Europe could be 86 metres, if no measures are taken to contain climate change. 

According to the study, in the best case scenario – with measures to mitigate the effects of climate – the loss of sandy beaches in Spain would be 60 metres and 27 of these metres by 2050.