1.5 million people gathered in Northeastern Barcelona on Saturday to demand greater regional autonomy for Catalonia
It was probably unfortunate that Spain's highest court chose the Friday before the World Cup Final to make its ruling forbidding this prosperous region with a revolutionary history from calling itself the Nation Of Catalonia.
There are some who believe all the focus on Spain and the World Cup may have prompted the large turnout. Some soccer fans had been displaying the Spanish flag instead of the beloved Catalonian flag. This may have prompted discussions within families and neighborhoods of their proud history. it was noted the number of young children in strollers wearing the flag of Catalonia at the demonstration in Barcelona yesterday. One demonstrator was quoted as saying he hoped the Dutch win 300 to 0. While this was undoubtedly a minority opinion it illustrates the emotion behind their struggle for autonomy. The demonstration was called by 1400 organizations, including political parties, trade unions as well as cultural organizations. It received extensive television coverage in Spain showing the huge crowd waving yellow and red Catalan national flags, chanting and carrying banners with one slogan, "We Are A Nation".
Prior to 1936 Catalonia was an autonomous state with its own culture and language. By 1939 Catalonia was crushed by Franco's army and Catalan patriotism was brutally repressed.
From 1939 to 1975 Catalonians were forbidden to speak or write in their own language. It was illegal to publish books in Catalan. Merce Rodoreda is considered one of the best modern Catalan writers. She remembers in 1939 seeing Catalan books being burned in the streets and Catalan newspapers were banned. There were signs on buildings "No Ladres, Habla El Idioma Del Imperio Espanol" (Don't Bark, Speak The Language Of The Spanish Empire). Rodoreda saw her entire culture being crushed and she found herself, along with many refugees, in Paris - and then fleeing south before Hitler's invading armies. She wrote about that time, "I couldn't have written a novel if they had beaten it out of me. I was too disconnected from everything. In general literature made me feel like vomiting." But in 1957 she did start writing again. But she refused to return to Spain until Franco was dead - 1975.
It was announced at the demonstration yesterday that since the Court had ruled that they can now begin collecting signatures for a popular referendum on the Catalan Nation.
Spain won the World Cup.