Flight: Catalonia: Change of Sovereignty

The weather has been idyllic and pleasant, with afternoon temps in the 70s, blue skies, and fall color. I decided to wander over to the airport, unsure if I would fly. The day was nice, though the haze was persistent and enigmatic given the weather forecast models calling for hefty Tramontane activity, which usually heralds dry and clear air. Upon arrival, I decided to assemble my new tool chest, and then decided to take a flight “just for fun,” without the cameras for the first time in a long time. The doors would be wide open (no fear of cameras falling out), and I might have a little fun too.

Takeoff was at 1800RPM, because I can. That translates into less than 40 horsepower, and yet the plane still takes off and climbs slowly. As I was in the downwind of the pattern, devising some other sort of antics to do after landing, another pilot asked me on the frequency what I think of independence. “Independence? Did they declare?” “Yes, about 10 minutes ago.”

Of all days to fly “just to have fun” and without the camera, a god damn country forms while I am not looking! Another pilot announced on the radio: “You took off in Spain and you’ll land in Catalunya.”

While that has some fun drama, the newly declared Republic of Catalunya may have occurred while performing the preflight runup. It is somewhat ambiguous as to when the moment itself happened. Nonetheless, I grabbed the cameras and went back up for the first photo documented flight in the Republic of Catalunya.

Now, let’s be honest, it may not last long. It may be an actual declaration that holds. Surely, things are going to get worse before they get better. The mere concept of Catalunya does not fit into the post WWII model – either right or left. The European Union is based on the inviolate autonomy of the existing nation state, in answer to more than 1,000 years of European bloodshed. Things like Catalunya do not fit into this framework, so the whole of Europe will be watching, with angst, as to what happens. If Catalunya can successfully pull it off, nobody will like it. If bodies start hitting the floor in Barcelona during Madrid’s smack down, nobody will like it. It is going to be an interesting ride.

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On final….
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Still on final….
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Flight: Spain, Andorra, France: Bagneres de Luchon, Pyrenees

Flight path taken. Pause below for a word salad before the rest of the photos.
Bagneres de Luchon Flight Path

My autistic fixation with linear blogging is now totally ruined. Infrared images, daily flying for most of the summer, and now this damn independence movement have ruined any semblance of compulsive order that I previously enjoyed while posting my venomous rants. I suppose I will create some grand fusion of all prior methods and bastardize subject, theme, and imagery.

The independence thing drags on and on and on. I should have known that Spanish and Catalan culture avoids commitments and binary outcomes, favoring nagging, pressure, manipulation, false presentation of facts, drama, finger pointing, taking offense….. I am tired writing about it. Yes, we have our lovely little apocalyptic revolution backup plan, and I have suddenly hit an emotional wall about the whole thing. I couldn’t really give a hoot what happens. Show me some tanks, guns, and civil unrest and I might start caring again.

Yes, tomorrow the central government proclaims it will invoke Article 155, though the latest plan is to use a more surgical implementation of powers, calling a regional snap election in January instead of a Francoist smack down (again), where they rollout martial law and try to scare everyone with a show of force. Here is my free political consulting wisdom about this snap election idea: it will likely irritate the Catalans, creating a larger representation in Catalan Parliament that wants independence. One would think members of the same nation could understand how not to get the worst possible outcome with their fellow citizens, though wait a minute….American politics….never mind.

As for the flight on this post, it has nothing to do with the referendum or any current events. I took it in June, a rather monumentally long jaunt across the Pyrenees, with my first landing in France since the flight down from Germany. Bagneres-de-Luchon is not an easy field to fly into as the circuit is extremely tight, and there is the fact that nobody told me there would be 15 gliders, airplanes, and paragliders swirling around like gnats. Nobody spoke English, of course, so I just wedged in and landed the plane and that was that. After a bunch of mutually unintelligible grunting, and after finishing with refueling, I discovered many of them spoke Spanish. Go figure.

I would label all of these….but does anyone really care? This is the French side of the Pyrenees.
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Infrared camera.
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White peak on the center horizon is in Spain, highest peak in the Pyrenees: Aneto.
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Same mountain, different camera.
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I came uncomfortably close to a paraglider here at 10,000 feet!
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Heading toward Monte Perdido, Spain.
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I should have some trepidation about engine failure, and I don’t care. Its very calming up there, despite not-so-calm wind.
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Wedged in a tiny spot between the Monte Perdido restricted area and the French national park restricted area. 
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Monte Perdido. Local lore has it that Guardia Civil sit in there with cameras waiting for airplanes to break the rules so they can send them tickets.
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Back in the land of Emmanuel Macron.
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That is pretty badass, and I just flew most of it!
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Regular camera battery quit and I am not in the mood to reach for the bag as I have to urinate like a racehorse.
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Back in the air again. Pico Aneto on the horizon.
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Catalonia, Spain, and France visible in this image.
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Now back in Spain. This little section of Catalonia did NOT vote heavily for independence.
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Same mountains, different camera. East side of Aigüestortes. For anyone that wishes to tattle on me, I was outside this restricted zone.
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“Mountains. See one, seen them all.” So says some of my beloved and encouraging family.
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Vall d’Aran
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La Seu d’Urgell
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Flight: Spain or Catalonia: Faking Independence

This is getting fatiguing.

After the referendum, the police smackdown, the vote count, and posturing from both sides, the Catalan President said he would speak Tuesday 10/10 at 6PM. I didn’t think much of it, until rumors in the press indicated he planned to declare independence. At 5:15PM, I suddenly decided that “if he does declare, I want to be in the air during a change of sovereignty,” so I raced over to the airport, preflighted, took off, and commenced flying in circles. I went to Ara.cat on my phone, a Catalan news site (in Catalan, mind you, which I do not speak fluently), and kept checking the minute-by-minute feed. “Meeting is delayed one hour.” What the heck is this? Announce a historic speech, for which TV networks are cocked and ready, the world is watching….and then delay? A couple of pilots were sitting in lawn chairs by the runway, downing Catalan beer, so I landed, parked the plane, and sat next to them. They offered a cold one, and in a moment of temptation, contemplating that an independence declaration technically would create a regulatory void, it might be legal….and I didn’t.

The Catalan pilots told me nothing will happen at 7PM, wait til 7:30. Their battery ran out at 6:50, so they left and I hopped in the plane, flying in circles some more, hitting refresh repeatedly while trying to fly and muddle through Catalan news.

“Legislator’s shaking hands and moving towards seats.”
“Everyone in their place.”
“Carles Puigdemont sitting holding a pen.”

Jesus Christ! Get it over with already! Coitus interruptus!!!

“Puigdemont begins speaking.”
“ ‘Back in 2005…..’ “ (Really? Just declare already!)
“ ‘We have repeatedly attempted dialogue with the Spanish government….’ “

On and on it went, until the sun went down and it started to get too dark. I so badly wanted to be in the air for the moment, but discretion said it was time to land. I pulled up to hangar, hit “Live feed” on the iPhone, blasted the volume, and listened to the speech as I put the plane away. Finally, the gifted orator that he is built up to the crescendo where he declared independence, the crowd roared and…….the connection shut off.

Two minutes later, I got it back up and running, and heard this babble about dialogue with Spain, mediation, resolution, working together. “What the hell is this now?” I headed back to Ara.cat, only to find he both declared independence, and in a strategic device, suspended it right after.

An Irish friend of mine called it “Puigdemont’s fake orgasm.”

That is exactly what it feels like around here. Today, the Prime Minister of Spain (yes, I have to specify which nation we’re dealing with in this incestuous cesspool of confusion) publicly asked “did you declare independence or not?” That is admittedly an amusing reality, forcing the head of state to clarify if his wayward teenage breakaway region sinned or not….before he sends the tanks in.

What does the future hold? Don’t ask me! The thing I am learning these days is that Spain’s fascist history lies just beneath the surface. There were no truth commissions, war crimes trials, or other steps typical of such a transition. Commander Fascist simply became Assistant Deputy Undersecretary of Bureaucracy in the post-fascist parliamentary democracy, while mass graves literally remained buried and nobody tried to make too much sense of a very dark period. Catalonia resisted Franco heavily, got smacked rather heavily by Franco, and these lightly scarred wounds seem to have been torn open again. I doubt there will be a binary or conclusive outcome for some time. Any action either side takes to further their cause, while being effective in one aspect, will be offset by the rebellion or force of the other side. It may make sense for both parties to just turn to European institutions to solve it for them, otherwise the risk of violence is going to be uncomfortably high.

Until then, I will keep flying…..until I get shot down.

Down the valley in Cerdanya. I actually like this photo.
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So will this be a new nation or what?
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Camp de golf.
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I am ready to lose my mind and I am still creating pretty pictures!
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This guy clearly has better things to do than worry about independence.
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Landed, because the “major speech” is delayed. 
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Ugh. If independence is declared, my photos will be no good!
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Literal sunset….and the sunset of my idea to keep flying during this nonsense.
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The Referendum

The weeks building up to referendum on October 1 featured some downright amusing games of cat and mouse, a veritable soap opera that foreigners mostly would ignore as a domestic matter. As October 1 came, shocking events transpired in Catalunya that will not be forgotten in this country.

As previously mentioned, the referendum did not have legal standing under Spanish law. That meant that Spain had no obligation to respect it, and any anticipation that Catalunya would somehow become a separate nation would hinge upon separate events: a declaration of independence, action to eject Spanish rule, coupled with Spain somehow allowing it to happen without resisting. The mere presence of a referendum really is empty without further action.

I must point out that counties in Colorado voted to secede from the State of Colorado and form the State of Northern Colorado a few years ago. A few months ago, Puerto Rico voted for statehood. In both instances, it would require Congressional and Presidential approval to be binding, so nothing happened. A “valid” referendum, properly and duly counted, had no legal teeth to create the underlying circumstances for which the people voted for.

That leaves me wondering why the government of Spain elected to attack its own citizens. The videos I have watched literally make me sick: defenseless people, women, the elderly– shot with rubber bullets, smashed with police batons, hurled down the stairs, kicked repeatedly, thrown (quite violently, actually). In some videos, people writing in pain are kicked again, just for good measure by riot police. The crime? Lining up to vote in a referendum that the Constitutional Court said is meaningless. Who are the perpetrators here? I would contend it is not the citizenry. By taking out national anger on the innocent (who are not the criminals as far as I can understand from the court order), the government has made a grave political mistake. I also see some tinges of pathology here: how can an officer sworn to protect and serve repeatedly harm old people?

Catalans made it clear for months leading up to this day that “the world is watching.” My advice to them was that the world watched millions of Jews get slaughtered before we chose to act. As I write this, the Rohingya in Myanmar are fleeing for their lives. Do we care enough to act? No. My opinion was that 10,000 dead would convene European institutions to meet. 50,000 would create incredible outcry. It would take at least 100,000 dead, in my view, inside the framework of the European Union, before the EU would use force to interfere with a Member State’s internal affairs. Curiously, only one European head of state has denounced the violence against peaceful citizenry: Belgium. France, Germany, the UK, and Scotland have had minority political leaders denounce the violence, but not their heads of state. I can only wonder why action that in a court of law would be deemed in violation of national and European human rights is meeting such silence.

I decided to take a walk this afternoon, driving to a nearby village, and wandering around the countryside for a bit. I saw some people lined up at a town building, so I went over to investigate. Clearly it was an election line, so like a moth to a flame, I walked over hoping to photograph some of the event to share. Then I saw some police and continued along, getting scowled at viciously by the people hanging around the town square. Emerging on the other side, I saw an innocent looking person sitting behind the building, and asked him if people were voting. Our conversation switched to English quickly, as he turns out to be American, and we had quite a lively discussion. Apparently, I look just like some of the Guardia Civil officers that showed up with attack dogs and tried to steal the “urns” (voting boxes, as they call them). Apparently, the Spanish police figured out they could steal full urns (instead of the empty ones they were so hell bent on confiscating), and the Catalans in turn figured out they could sneak out the back door with the full urns as the police arrived and bring them back when they leave (you must admit, it’s kind of amusing). This apparently went down here in La Cerdanya. Voter turnout in this neck of the woods was apparently sky high. I am told that the news of police violence out of Barcelona this morning was incredibly motivating.

So what happens now? The voting is finishing up, despite news sites being blocked, and despite blocking the Catalan sites used to tally the vote. Facebook traffic tells me they had to use VPNs routing through other countries to get it done. When the numbers come in, I predict a vote to leave, with turn out being high given the circumstances though not necessarily that high compared to an election without disruption.

All indications then point to Tuesday. The Catalan government previously indicated they would declare independence based on a yes vote within 48 hours. We shall see what happens, though I am quite certain that today was only a preview of a level of unrest that everyone told me wouldn’t happen.

I did also go flying today. If history is being made (or everything is simply going to hell), I might as well go up in the Cub.

Autumn is beginning.

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Cadí-Moixeró. These rocks have seen the Romans, Visigoths, Moors, the slaughter of the Cathars, Holy Roman Empire, Napoleon’s armies, Franco’s dictatorship, and the recent idea of basic human rights and nonviolence. If they could speak, we would think they are wise, yet humanity seems continuously ignorant of history which can tell us the same things.
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Mountain waves over La Seu. 
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For the most part, everyone agrees on aviation. It was eerily quiet for a Sunday morning.
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