The Catalans are the people who live in the "Paisos Catalans", or Catalan Countries, which include Valencia, the Balearic Islands, parts of the Spanish region of Aragon, Roussillon in southeastern France and, Catalonia itself. Sunday's referendum does not cover the entire Catalan Countries. It is confined only to Catalonia, an area in northeastern Spain, which has a population of 7.5 million people. The Catalans have a distinct history, culture and language. Salvador Dali, Antoni Gaudi, Joan Miro, Ferran Adria and Pep Guardiola are among the most famous Spanish Catalans.
Catalonia has dominated international headlines in recent weeks in the wake of a banned referendum on splitting from Spain. Yet, the region in northeast of Spain, which has its own language and distinct customs, has a long history of striving for independence. Historical disputes and financial grievances have strengthened the cause of independence, yet its its 7.5 million people appear to be deeply divided over the issue. A defined region of Catalonia was first referenced in the 12th century. The region has been part of Spain since its unification in the 15th century, following the marriage of Ferdinand I of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile.
Catalonia is a prosperous region in the northeast of Spain, a state formed by 17 territories and two cities, partially autonomous, governed by the Statute of Autonomy. That's part of the Spanish constitution which establishes the limits of self-rule for each region. There's no social conflict; it's a political conflict between a Spanish state that does not understand that Catalonia is a nation with the right to decide and is tired of the state not complying and of having to renounce being Catalan to be Spanish. But Catalonian history dates back to the days before Spain was even a nation. In 1469, when King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile married, Catalonia, a principality within Aragon, kept its independence, own institutions, parliament and laws.
The Spanish region of Catalonia is set to hold a referendum on independence on October 1. About 1.6 million people live in Barcelona, Catalonia's capital, which is a major tourist destination. Sunday's vote will be the region's second referendum on independence in three years. The previous ballot, a non-binding vote in November 2014, returned an 80 percent result in favour of an independent Catalan state. However, less than half of the 5.4 million eligible voters participated.
GIRONA, Spain – It's a time for celebration in Girona, a city that maps and world governments say is in Spain, but many residents consider part of the independent republic of Catalonia. Amid the party atmosphere of a festival weekend, many in this secessionist stronghold are cheering the Catalan parliament's declaration of independence from Spain, a country they don't regard as their own. "I've never felt Spanish in my life," said graphic designer Anna Faure as Girona celebrated the annual festival of its patron saint with food, music, a carnival and displays of the gravity-defying sport of human towers, known as castells. Faure says castells is a true Catalan tradition, a view she doesn't hold about Spanish icons such as bullfighting, which Catalan authorities have tried to ban, or Flamenco, an import from Andalucia in southern Spain. Flamenco is fine, she said, but "it's not mine."