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Carles Puigdemont declares independence on October 10 last year. He is now in German exile fighting extradition to Spain (Generalitat de Catalunya)

Even if it is not supported by the facts of history and geography, the assertion that “Catalonia is not Spain” — the most frequently used separatist slogan during the referendum campaign — is deeply felt by a substantial minority. It has led to the replacement of Spanish symbols, emblems and street names with Catalan ones. It may also explain the Catalan decision to ban bullfighting. Since many Catalans continue to watch the corrida on television and since the ban did not extend to a form of bull-running in which lighted flares are attached to the bull’s horns, the suspicion has grown that the ban had as much to do with the promotion of Catalan independence as with the welfare of the bull.

The feeling of many Catalans towards Spain and their fellow Spaniards was aptly described by the poet Salvador Espriu (1913-85), who achieved international fame despite writing only in Catalan:

Oh, how tired I am of my cowardly
old so savage land!
how I would like to get away
to the north
where they say the people are clean,
and decent, refined, rich, free
aware and happy . . .

Characteristically, the poem concludes on a pessimistic note: Espriu believes that such an escape is impossible.

In 1932, four years before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the philosopher and essayist José Ortega y Gasset declared that the “Catalan problem” was impossible to solve. He is reported as having said: “It is a perpetual problem, which has always been, and will remain as long as Spain exists . . . It is something that no one is responsible for; it [lies in] the very character of that people; it is its terrible destiny, which drags distress throughout its entire history.” In his view, the best that could be hoped for was that the Catalans, and their fellow Spaniards, would recognise the intractable nature of the problem and consequently avoid rash or unrealistic measures that were bound to bring on disaster. It is a great pity that his insight has not informed the conduct of those who ran the Barcelona government until last October as well those in Madrid who responded to its botched bid for independence.
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