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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
Column | Former Villanova fanatic watches “Nova Knicks” take down Sixers in NBA Playoffs
By Aidan Kasner, Sports Editor • May 23, 2024
Opinion | Do not arrest peaceful protesters
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • May 23, 2024

Opinion | The Spanish monarchy needs to go

Banner+for+Basque+self+determination.
Image via Wikimedia Commons
Banner for Basque self determination.

Spanish princess, future queen and tax leech Leonor celebrated her 18th birthday on Oct. 31, in a swearing-in ceremony at the national parliament, where she vowed allegiance not only to the Spanish state but to the monarchy. 

It’s hard for me to feel any kind of resentment towards an 18-year-old girl, particularly one who is essentially just a victim of the circumstances of her birth. But then I see her in a white suit, swearing her commitment and loyalty to a state that has occupied two communities I belong to as well as many, many others in the past — a state that has butchered, starved and jailed as many dissenters for as long as it possibly could. I watch as the only coverage of this ridiculous performance is to discuss her outfit or the contents and cadence of her speech, and that resentment is a little more potent and palatable. 

I think my relationship with the Spanish monarchy is essentially what’s expected from someone from a Basque-Galician family which was on the “wrong side,” as it were, of the Spanish Civil War. We have had to understand that the “consequence” of opposing fascism is seven decades of harassment, seeing our languages ridiculed, if not outright banned, and hearing an unending narrative smearing anyone with the desire to exist in their own lands, in their own name, as a “terrorist.” We watch as the state performs “democracy” with the same ministers, the same military, the same clergy and the same royals — all up to their necks in Franco’s regime — at the helm. We watch as they trot out their children, dressed in military regalia and designer suits, to give speeches about “Spanish unity” while the majority of the population, even the brainwashed thousands that support them blindly, can barely afford their rent. 

It would be easy enough to say that the Spanish nationalist public, which hates immigrants and Muslims, which routinely celebrates, mourns and praises Franco and which wants to criminalize abortion and treat sexual aggressors with impunity, deserves the financial disaster worsened by the monarchy. To be perfectly honest, it’s hard, sometimes, to feel bad for a group of people who yearn for the “good old days” of fascism, who call for war and interventionism whenever it stands to make money — that will never reach them — or kill anyone who doesn’t look like them. 

These people have called me and my family “terrorists.” They’ve celebrated when our political prisoners, many of whom are unconstitutionally held, die in solitary confinement thousands of kilometers from anyone they know. They act like violence against women is a part of life, a sort of tax we have to pay, or an intrinsic element of relationships, to exist always waiting for a blow. We are asked to live always trying to anticipate and work around the violent desires of men who think that harm is their birthright. 

The monarchy represents everything I hate about Spain. It is sustained and paid for by these mindless, bigoted conservatives who earnestly believe that Spain winning the World Cup will translate to better material conditions for them, somehow — who believe that the conservative and outright fascist parties they vote for, who cut their wages and increase their cost of living, truly represent them and their interests so long as they hate the same marginalized groups. As long as they can still slaughter bulls in public arenas, as long as the king can still have his pick of mistresses and steal millions from the public, everything will stay as it should. As long as during football matches where Moroccan, Basque and Ghanaian players score they can all paint themselves in their flag’s colors — red for the blood spilled and yellow for the gold they spilled it for — everything will be fine. 

I cannot picture a life in the Spain they envision. Not for me or for anyone who does not look, speak and hate exactly as they do. And yet — I cannot bring myself to wish the consequences of their actions, their votes and their tax dollars upon them. 

I do not think there is, or has ever been, a credible argument to make for the sake of a monarchy. As a concept, it is antithetical to democracy, and unsustainable without massive exploitation. It’s tempting, when I do go back to the villages my family are from, to really inquire as to what the basis for royalism is. Why do some people genuinely love to see Leonor in her military uniform, or to hear their King Felipe speak? What do they get out of their largely pointless, extremely expensive existence other than something to watch on TV and a pathetic parasocial relationship with people who would in all likelihood make fun of their accent behind closed doors? But I know better now, after a lifetime of explaining to these same people that there is nothing inherently terroristic about wanting to spell my name the way it’s always been written, about wanting to speak my ancestors’ languages, about wanting to exist independently of a state that has killed and tortured our people for as long as it has existed. 

Whenever I criticize the monarchy or the unending repression in the Basque Country, Galicia and Catalonia, Spaniards, even the pseudo-leftist bunch — that are fundamentally confused by self-determination movements — always ask “well, what do you even want at this point?” It’s a very interesting question. What do I want, aside from the ability to go back and not have children beaten for speaking in Basque, to not have such a high number of massacred Republican and Independentist soldiers and civilians that the total is still just an estimate, nearly a century later? I want 300,000 children to be with their parents, and not the rich, fascist families the nuns and doctors sold them to over 50 years. 

I want the police and military captains who tortured thousands and peddled heroin into my community to face something other than impunity, for once. I want the architects and the executors of the fascism that killed so many people that had full, real lives and undiscovered potential, and buried them in shallow ditches or mass graves, to be in jail — or at the very least, not still living on a government pension or working there, even. I want the royal family that supported and financed those decades of military dictatorship and violent “transition” to democracy to give back the incalculable amount of money they’ve taken from all of us, because they cannot give back the lives they’ve stolen. 

But none of that can or ever will happen, not in the Spain that exists today. Some people that I love, and tens of thousands more, have spent their entire lives hoping for an independence that may never come. The fact that a mere acknowledgment of the damage and pain inflicted by the state seems comparably improbable is a nearly incomprehensible insult. But what can we expect? What can we really even want, at this point? 

I think we are all too tired and perhaps too accustomed to waiting for the revolution or the justice we deserve. I want independence, for us and for all those who have spent lifetimes seeking it from an oppressive force that views their mere existence as a threat. I want admissions of the damage done and the depths of it. I want an end to this performance of “national unity” that Leonor swore her allegiance to. I want an alleviation of the strain felt by all of those toiling to support it, even those who are still under the national spell, even those who feel legitimate hatred for my desire to exist independently. I want an end to the presence and the subsequent burden of the monarchy, to the symbolic and material violence it carries with it. 

Sofia Uriagereka-Herburger writes about politics and international and domestic social movements. Write to her at [email protected].

About the Contributor
Sofia Uriagereka-Herburger, Senior Staff Columnist
Sofia Uriagereka is a senior majoring in Anthropology. She writes primarily about politics, both domestic and international.