Rumbling Homage to Catalonia (International New York Times)
BARCELONA — Perched high atop a building on the northern corner of the Plaza de Catalunya is a huge banner announcing, in English: “Catalonia: Next Independent State in Europe.” It was still intact on Saturday, days after Sept. 11, when more than one million Catalans swarmed the streets of Barcelona in a remarkable show of fervor for independence.
The Diada, as the date is known, is an annual commemoration of Catalonia and a wistful nod to its troops who were defeated in the 18th-century War of the Spanish Succession. The day’s celebrations are a habitual spur to local pride. But this year the massive turnout surprised everyone, in Spain and abroad.
The economic crisis has magnified longstanding exasperation among the residents of Barcelona and the region, who feel that the national government routinely belittles their identity. The percentage of Catalans supporting independence has doubled, to 46 percent, since 2008.
Regional leaders are in no rush to temper the sentiment. Artur Mas, the president of the Catalan government, has been playing it up ahead of a meeting on Thursday with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to discuss the terms of a pending fiscal pact.