npr – Spanish Crisis Revives Calls For Catalan Secession

On a recent day in Barcelona, the capital of northeast Spain’s Catalonia region, José Maria Borras and his lifelong friend Antonio Canosa sip coffee in the same square where they went to grade school.

The two retirees — both in their mid-60s — grew up under Spain’s military dictator Francisco Franco, who prohibited the Catalan language, festivals and any talk of independence.

“It’s been a long struggle for freedom,” Borras says. “Back in those years, if you were in this very schoolyard speaking Catalan you’d be punished.”

Now these two friends chatter away in their native tongue, in a square adorned with Catalan flags. Canosa chimes in.

“The Franco years were bad for us. Then finally democracy arrived, and we had some good years,” he says. “But now the economy has brought back another form of tyranny — budget cuts from Madrid.”

Spain’s dismal economy has residents of Catalonia, the country’s richest region, wondering once again if they’d be better off going it alone.

With their own language and distinct culture, Catalans have long felt different from Spain. Now, during one of the worst moments in Spain’s economic history, Catalans are renewing efforts to make independence a reality.

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