On Monday, December 11, students taking Spanish III with Ms. Sara Sebring spoke with the mayor of a city at the center of the Catalonian independence movement in Spain.
Joan Rabasseda, mayor of Arenys de Munt, governs the first city to vote in favor of the secession referendum, which his town did in 2009. In ten days, new elections will be held for the Catalan parliament, which will signal whether the independence movement is likely to be completed. Mr. Rabasseda has been splitting his time between Brussels and Barcelona as a mediator for the Spanish government and currently exiled Catalan president, Charles Puigdemont.
He took time out of his schedule to Skype with Ms. Sebring’s class, answering students’ questions.
To start the conversation, Ms. Sebring asked Rabasseda if he would prefer the students to ask their questions in English or Spanish. He responded, “Well, this is a Spanish class, right?”
Students’ questions included specifics about the referendum, the situation surrounding the secessionist movement and the atmosphere in Spain as the vote looms. To speak with Rabasseda, who has played a prominent role in this political process and been interviewed by “The New York Times”, was a rare opportunity for Saint Ignatius students.
Senior AP Spanish student Anthony Delsanter sat in on the conversation after spending three weeks in Barcelona, Spain, during summer vacation. Delsanter hosted an exchange student named Marc last school year and lived with Marc's family while overseas this past July.
"It's good to see other people that know about [the issue] and are learning about it," Delsanter said. "It's one of those things that schools don't really teach." He asked Rabasseda about how Catalonia's neighboring countries of France and Andorra are responding to the uncertainty and learned that they are being cautious in throwing support to any side.
Overall, Delsanter appreciated the chance to speak with Rabasseda and said he has a bias in favor of the separatists, informed by the opinions of his host student and host family. He plans to capitalize on the foreign language education he has received at Saint Ignatius by majoring in linguistics in college.
"Spanish has always been my thing as far as academics goes," Delsanter said. "It's like a piece of me is there. My heart is in Catalonia."