Catalans March For Independence
Yesterday, on the National Day of Catalonia, an estimated 1.5 million Catalans flooded Barcelona's city centre to celebrate their national identity with many seizing the opportunity as well to renew calls for Catalan independence and to protest against Spanish fiscal policy and austerity measures.
Downtown Barcelona was in gridlock as nationalist fervour hit a record peak, with people arriving from around Catalonia to wave the distinctive striped yellow and red Catalan flag: the majority of these also sported a blue triangle and white star, signalling the desire for an independent state, free from the mantle of Spain.
Whilst a hardcore minority of nationalists have never stopped lobbying for independence, in recent months many more Catalans have noisily joined the call to separate from Spain and form a new European state, as the region has felt the full impact of the country's economic crisis. Surveys suggest that whereas around 25% of residents supported independence in 2010 now the figure is over 50%. Much of it comes down to money... despite generating the most wealth in Spain, the region is also the most in debt. Many Catalans blame the debt on what they calculate to be a 5 billion euro deficit in taxes paid to Madrid versus government spending in the region.
Despite the ardent feelings, most of the holiday was passed in peaceful and good spirited protest.
For further reading see these articles in Time Magazine and Reuters News Agency.