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.
BARCELONA, Spain – Hundreds of people are gathering in downtown Barcelona ahead of a rally to protest the Catalan government's push for secession from the rest of Spain. Many in the crowd forming in a central square are carrying Spanish and Catalan flags. Sunday's rally comes a week after separatist leaders of the Catalan government held a referendum on secession that Spain's top court had suspended and the Spanish government said was illegal. The referendum was won by the "Yes" side, though less than half of the region's electorate voted. Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has pledged to push ahead for independence.
The Catalans come in droves, carrying separatist flags and cameras to photograph the nondescript brick house on a quiet road in the town where Napoleon suffered his final defeat more than two centuries ago. Some come bearing gifts -- a painting, a bottle of wine. They make the 650-mile trek to Belgium to visit the house's occupant: former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, Spain's best-known fugitive. Puigdemont has called Waterloo home for the better part of a year, after having declared Catalonia independent from Spain in the wake of a successful October 2017 secession referendum -- and then fleeing to avoid arrest. He has since faced European Union warrants and spent 12 days in a German jail as Spain seeks to extradite him on charges of misuse of public funds and rebellion against the state for having organized the independence referendum, which drew 40% of eligible voters.