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Stuff – Pesky Separatists

October 2017 was an all-time month for independence and backlash. Two semi-autonomous regions – Catalonia in Spain and Kurdistan in Iraq – held referendums for their independence. Both regions voted in favor of proper political independence, and both were met in turn by mano duro reactions from their central governments, who moved forcefully to block said independence and strip them of their autonomy. 

 

That’s a familiar tune for Quetzaltecos and Guatemalan history aficionados. For a brief moment in the 19th century, Xela was the capital of the Sexto Estado de Los Altos – a breakaway state of the Federal Republic of Central America, founded by liberal elite seeking to cast off the influence of the Catholic Church and level the severe social stratification embraced by the conservative government in Guatemala City.  

 

It didn’t go well. The Federal Republic of Central America dissolved into civil war between the liberal and conservative factions. President-to-be Rafael Carerra pushed out a liberal invasion in Guatemala City before marching on and conquering Xela – snuffing out the Sexto Estado once and for all. 

 

That was their intention, at least. Revolts to restore the Sexto Estado continued in the years after Xela’s brief independence. Now, nearly two centuries later, the spirit of a culturally and politically distinct region lives on – evidenced by the love that Quetzaltecos have of talking shit on the capital and Sexto Estado nostalgia seen on historic monuments and independence celebrations in and around Xela. You can take away a region’s political autonomy, but smothering the spirit of a place is nigh-impossible. Xelawho stands in solidarity with the Sexto Estado, Catalonia, Kurdistan, and other places and people yearning to be free all around the world. 

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