Context of Catalonia


Catalonia (; Catalan: Catalunya [kətəˈluɲə, kataˈluɲa]; Spanish: Cataluña [kataˈluɲa]; Occitan: Catalonha [kataˈluɲa]) is an autonomous community of Spain, designated as a nationality by its Statute of Autonomy.

Most of its territory (except the Val d'Aran) lies on the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula, to the south of the Pyrenees mountain range. Catalonia is administratively divided into four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. The capital and largest city, Barcelona, is the second-most populated municipality in Spain and the fifth-most populous urban area in the European Union. Current day Catalonia comprises most of the medieval and early modern Principality of Catalonia (with the remainder Roussillon now part of France's Pyrénées-Orientales). It is ...Read more


Catalonia (; Catalan: Catalunya [kətəˈluɲə, kataˈluɲa]; Spanish: Cataluña [kataˈluɲa]; Occitan: Catalonha [kataˈluɲa]) is an autonomous community of Spain, designated as a nationality by its Statute of Autonomy.

Most of its territory (except the Val d'Aran) lies on the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula, to the south of the Pyrenees mountain range. Catalonia is administratively divided into four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. The capital and largest city, Barcelona, is the second-most populated municipality in Spain and the fifth-most populous urban area in the European Union. Current day Catalonia comprises most of the medieval and early modern Principality of Catalonia (with the remainder Roussillon now part of France's Pyrénées-Orientales). It is bordered by France (Occitanie) and Andorra to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the east, and the Spanish autonomous communities of Aragon to the west and Valencia to the south. The official languages are Catalan, Spanish, and the Aranese dialect of Occitan.

In the late 8th century, various counties across the eastern Pyrenees were established by the Frankish kingdom as a defensive barrier against Muslim invasions. In the 10th century, the County of Barcelona became progressively independent. In 1137, Barcelona and the Kingdom of Aragon were united by marriage under the Crown of Aragon. Within the Crown, the Catalan counties adopted a common polity, the Principality of Catalonia, developing its institutional system, such as Courts, Generalitat and constitutions, becoming the base for the Crown's Mediterranean trade and expansionism. In the later Middle Ages, Catalan literature flourished. In 1469, the king of Aragon and the queen of Castile were married and ruled their realms together, retaining all of their distinct institutions and legislation.

During the Franco-Spanish War (1635–1659), Catalonia revolted (1640–1652) against a large and burdensome presence of the royal army, being briefly proclaimed a republic under French protection until it was largely reconquered by the Spanish army. By the Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659), the northern parts of Catalonia, mostly the Roussillon, were ceded to France. During the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714), the Crown of Aragon sided against the Bourbon Philip V of Spain, but the Catalans were defeated with the fall of Barcelona on 11 September 1714. Philip V subsequently imposed a unifying administration across Spain, enacting the Nueva Planta decrees which, like in the other realms of the Crown of Aragon, suppressed Catalan institutions and rights. As a consequence, Catalan as a language of government and literature was eclipsed by Spanish. Throughout the 18th century, Catalonia experienced economic growth.

In the 19th century, Catalonia was severely affected by the Napoleonic and Carlist Wars. In the second third of the century, it experienced industrialisation. As wealth from the industrial expansion grew, it saw a cultural renaissance coupled with incipient nationalism while several workers' movements appeared. With the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic (1931–1939), the Generalitat was restored as a Catalan autonomous government. After the Spanish Civil War, the Francoist dictatorship enacted repressive measures, abolishing Catalan self-government and banning the official use of the Catalan language. After a period of autarky, from the late 1950s through to the 1970s Catalonia saw rapid economic growth, drawing many workers from across Spain, making Barcelona one of Europe's largest industrial metropolitan areas and turning Catalonia into a major tourist destination. During the Spanish transition to democracy (1975–1982), Catalonia regained self-government and is now one of the most economically dynamic communities in Spain.

Since the 2010s, there has been growing support for Catalan independence. On 27 October 2017, the Catalan Parliament unilaterally declared independence following a referendum that was deemed unconstitutional by the Spanish state. The Spanish Senate voted in favour of enforcing direct rule by removing the Catalan government and calling a snap regional election. The Spanish Supreme Court imprisoned seven former ministers of the Catalan government on charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds, while several others—including then-President Carles Puigdemont—fled to other European countries. Those in prison were pardoned by the Spanish government in 2021.

More about Catalonia

Basic information
  • Currency Euro
  • Native name Catalunya
  • Internet domain .cat
  • Speed limit 120
  • Mains voltage 230V/50Hz
Population, Area & Driving side
  • Population 7747709
  • Area 31895
  • Driving side right
    The Roca dels Moros contain paintings protected as part of the Rock art of the Iberian Mediterranean Basin, a World Heritage Site

    The first known human settlements in what is now Catalonia were at the beginning of the Middle Paleolithic....Read more

    The Roca dels Moros contain paintings protected as part of the Rock art of the Iberian Mediterranean Basin, a World Heritage Site

    The first known human settlements in what is now Catalonia were at the beginning of the Middle Paleolithic. The oldest known trace of human occupation is a mandible found in Banyoles, described by some sources[which?] as pre-Neanderthal, that is, some 200,000 years old; other sources suggest it to be only about one third that old.[1] From the next prehistoric era, the Epipalaeolithic or Mesolithic, important remains survive, the greater part dated between 8000 and 5000 BC, such as those of Sant Gregori (Falset) and el Filador (Margalef de Montsant). The most important sites from these eras, all excavated in the region of Moianès, are the Balma del Gai (Epipaleolithic) and the Balma de l'Espluga (late Epipaleolithic and Early Neolithic).[2]

    The Neolithic era began in Catalonia around 5000 BC, although the population was slower to develop fixed settlements than in other places, thanks to the abundance of woods, which allowed the continuation of a fundamentally hunter-gatherer culture. An example of such settlements would be La Draga at Banyoles, an "early Neolithic village which dates from the end of the 6th millennium BC."[3]

    The Chalcolithic period developed in Catalonia between 2500 and 1800 BC, with the beginning of the construction of copper objects. The Bronze Age occurred between 1800 and 700 BC. There are few remnants of this era, but there were some known settlements in the low Segre zone. The Bronze Age coincided with the arrival of the Indo-Europeans through the Urnfield Culture, whose successive waves of migration began around 1200 BC, and they were responsible for the creation of the first proto-urban settlements.[4] Around the middle of the 7th century BC, the Iron Age arrived in Catalonia.

    Pre-Roman and Roman period
    Iberian fortress Els Vilars in Arbeca
    A Roman aqueduct in Tarragona

    In pre-Roman times, the area that is now called Catalonia in the north-east of Iberian Peninsula – like the rest of the Mediterranean side of the peninsula – was populated by the Iberians. The Iberians of this area – the Ilergetes, Indigetes and Lacetani (Cerretains) – also maintained relations with the peoples of the Mediterranean. Some urban agglomerations became relevant, including Ilerda (Lleida) inland, Hibera (perhaps Amposta or Tortosa) or Indika (Ullastret). Coastal trading colonies were established by the ancient Greeks, who settled around the Gulf of Roses, in Emporion (Empúries) and Roses in the 8th century BC. The Carthaginians briefly ruled the territory in the course of the Second Punic War and traded with the surrounding Iberian population.

    After the Carthaginian defeat by the Roman Republic, the north-east of Iberia became the first to come under Roman rule and became part of Hispania, the westernmost part of the Roman Empire. Tarraco (modern Tarragona) was one of the most important Roman cities in Hispania and the capital of the province of Tarraconensis. Other important cities of the Roman period are Ilerda (Lleida), Dertosa (Tortosa), Gerunda (Girona) as well as the ports of Empuriæ (former Emporion) and Barcino (Barcelona). As for the rest of Hispania, Latin law was granted to all cities under the reign of Vespasian (69–79 AD), while Roman citizenship was granted to all free men of the empire by the Edict of Caracalla in 212 AD (Tarraco, the capital, was already a colony of Roman law since 45 BC). It was a rich agricultural province (olive oil, wine, wheat), and the first centuries of the Empire saw the construction of roads (the most important being the Via Augusta, parallel to Mediterranean coastline) and infrastructure like aqueducts.

    Conversion to Christianity, attested in the 3rd century, was completed in urban areas in the 4th century. Although Hispania remained under Roman rule and did not fall under the rule of Vandals, Suebi and Alans in the 5th century, the main cities suffered frequent sacking and some deurbanization.

    Middle Ages
    Origins of the blason of the County of Barcelona, by Claudi Lorenzale

    After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the area was conquered by the Visigoths and was ruled as part of the Visigothic Kingdom for almost two and a half centuries. In 718, it came under Muslim control and became part of Al-Andalus, a province of the Umayyad Caliphate. From the conquest of Roussillon in 760, to the conquest of Barcelona in 801, the Frankish empire took control of the area between Septimania and the Llobregat river from the Muslims and created heavily militarised, self-governing counties. These counties formed part of the historiographically known as the Gothic and Hispanic Marches, a buffer zone in the south of the Frankish empire in the former province of Septimania and in the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula, to act as a defensive barrier for the Frankish Empire against further Muslim invasions from Al-Andalus.[5]

    Petronilla of Aragon and Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona, dynastic union of the Crown of Aragon

    These counties came under the rule of the counts of Barcelona, who were Frankish vassals nominated by the emperor of the Franks, to whom they were feudatories (801–988). The earliest known use of the name "Catalonia" for these counties dates to 1117. At the end of the 9th century, the Count of Barcelona Wilfred the Hairy (878–897) made his titles hereditaries and thus founded the dynasty of the House of Barcelona, which ruled Catalonia until 1410.

    Hug IV, count of Empúries, and Pero Maça during the conquest of Mallorca (1229)
    A 15th-century miniature of the Catalan Courts

    In 988 Borrell II, Count of Barcelona, did not recognise the new French king Hugh Capet as his king, evidencing the loss of dependency from Frankish rule and confirming his successors (from Ramon Borrell I onwards) as independent of the Capetian crown whom they regarded as usurpers of the Carolingian Frankish realm.[6] At the beginning of eleventh century the Catalan counties suffered an important process of feudalisation, partially controlled by the efforts of church's sponsored Peace and Truce Assemblies and the negotiation skills of the Count of Barcelona Ramon Berenguer I (1035–1076), which began the codification of feudal law in the written Usages of Barcelona, becoming the basis of the Catalan law. In 1137, Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona decided to accept King Ramiro II of Aragon's proposal to marry Queen Petronila, establishing the dynastic union of the County of Barcelona with the Kingdom of Aragon, creating the composite monarchy known as the Crown of Aragon and making the Catalan counties that were united under the County of Barcelona into a principality of the Aragonese Crown.

    In 1258, by means of the Treaty of Corbeil, James I of Aragon King of Aragon and Count of Barcelona, king of Mallorca and of Valencia, renounced his family rights and dominions in Occitania and recognised the king of France as heir of the Carolingian dynasty. The king of France, Louis IX, formally relinquished his claims of feudal lordship over all the Catalan counties, except the County of Foix, despite the opposition of king James.[7] This treaty confirmed, from French point of view, the independence of the Catalan counties established and exercised during the previous three centuries, but also meant the irremediable separation between the geographical areas of Catalonia and Languedoc.

    As a coastal territory, Catalonia became the base of the Aragonese Crown's maritime forces, which spread the power of the Crown in the Mediterranean, turning Barcelona into a powerful and wealthy city. In the period of 1164–1410, new territories, the Kingdom of Valencia, the Kingdom of Majorca, the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Kingdom of Sicily, and, briefly, the Duchies of Athens and Neopatras, were incorporated into the dynastic domains of the House of Aragon. The expansion was accompanied by a great development of the Catalan trade, creating an extensive trade network across the Mediterranean which competed with those of the maritime republics of Genoa and Venice.

    At the same time, the Principality of Catalonia developed a complex institutional and political system based in the concept of a pact between the estates of the realm and the king. Laws had to be approved in the Catalan Courts (Corts Catalanes), one of the first parliamentary bodies of Europe that, since 1283, obtained the power to create legislation with the monarch.[8] The Courts were composed of the three Estates organized into "arms" (braços), were presided over by the monarch, and approved the Catalan constitutions, which established a compilation of rights for the inhabitants of the Principality. In order to collect general taxes, the Courts of 1359 established a permanent representative of deputies position, called the Deputation of the General (and later usually known as Generalitat), which gained considerable political power over the next centuries.[9]

    The domains of the Aragonese Crown were severely affected by the Black Death pandemic and by later outbreaks of the plague. Between 1347 and 1497 Catalonia lost 37 percent of its population.[10] In 1410, the last reigning monarch of the House of Barcelona, King Martin I died without surviving descendants. Under the Compromise of Caspe (1412), Ferdinand from the Castilian House of Trastámara received the Crown of Aragon as Ferdinand I of Aragon.[11] During the reign of his son, John II, social and political tensions caused the Catalan Civil War (1462–1472) and the War of the Remences (1462-1486). The Sentencia Arbitral de Guadalupe (1486) liberated the remença peasants from the feudal evil customs.

    In the later Middle Ages, Catalan literature flourished in Catalonia proper and in the kingdoms of Majorca and Valencia, with such remarkable authors as the philosopher Ramon Llull, the Valencian poet Ausiàs March, and Joanot Martorell, author of the novel Tirant lo Blanch, published in 1490.

    Modern era
    The Principality of Catalonia (1608)

    Ferdinand II of Aragon, the grandson of Ferdinand I, and Queen Isabella I of Castile were married in 1469, later taking the title the Catholic Monarchs; subsequently, this event was seen by historiographers as the dawn of a unified Spain. At this time, though united by marriage, the Crowns of Castile and Aragon maintained distinct territories, each keeping its own traditional institutions, parliaments, laws and currency.[12] Castile commissioned expeditions to the Americas and benefited from the riches acquired in the Spanish colonisation of the Americas, but, in time, also carried the main burden of military expenses of the united Spanish kingdoms. After Isabella's death, Ferdinand II personally ruled both crowns.

    By virtue of descent from his maternal grandparents, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, in 1516 Charles I of Spain became the first king to rule the Crowns of Castile and Aragon simultaneously by his own right. Following the death of his paternal (House of Habsburg) grandfather, Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, he was also elected Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, in 1519.[13]

    Corpus de Sang (7 June 1640), one of the main events of the Reaper's War. Painted in 1910

    Over the next few centuries, the Principality of Catalonia was generally on the losing side of a series of wars that led steadily to an increased centralization of power in Spain. Despite this fact, between the 16th and 18th centuries, the participation of the political community in the local and the general Catalan government grew (thus consolidating its constitutional system), while the kings remained absent, represented by a viceroy. Tensions between Catalan institutions and the monarchy began to arise. The large and burdensome presence of the Spanish royal army in the Principality due to the Franco-Spanish War led to an uprising of peasants, provoking the Reapers' War (1640–1652), which saw Catalonia rebel (briefly as a republic led by the chairman of the Generalitat, Pau Claris) with French help against the Spanish Crown for overstepping Catalonia's rights during the Thirty Years' War.[14] Within a brief period France took full control of Catalonia. Most of Catalonia was reconquered by the Spanish monarchy but Catalan rights were recognised. Roussillon and half of Cerdanya was lost to France by the Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659).[15]

    The most significant conflict concerning the governing monarchy was the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1715), which began when the childless Charles II of Spain, the last Spanish Habsburg, died without an heir in 1700. Charles II had chosen Philip V of Spain from the French House of Bourbon. Catalonia, like other territories that formed the Crown of Aragon, rose up in support of the Austrian Habsburg pretender Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, in his claim for the Spanish throne as Charles III of Spain. The fight between the houses of Bourbon and Habsburg for the Spanish Crown split Spain and Europe.

    The fall of Barcelona on 11 September 1714 to the Bourbon king Philip V militarily ended the Habsburg claim to the Spanish Crown, which became legal fact in the Treaty of Utrecht. Philip felt that he had been betrayed by the Catalan Courts, as it had initially sworn its loyalty to him when he had presided over it in 1701. In retaliation for the betrayal, and inspired by the French absolutist style of government, the first Bourbon king introduced the Nueva Planta decrees, that incorporated the realms of the Crown of Aragon, including the Principality of Catalonia, as province of the Crown of Castile in 1716, terminating their separate institutions, laws and rights, as well as their pactist politics, within a united kingdom of Spain.[16] From the second third of 18th century onwards Catalonia carried out a successful process of proto-industrialization, reinforced in the late quarter of the century when Castile's trade monopoly with American colonies ended.

    The beginning of the Spanish nation state

    After the War of the Spanish Succession, the assimilation of the Crown of Aragon by the Castilian Crown through the Nueva Planta Decrees, was the first step in the creation of the Spanish nation state. And like other European nation-states in formation,[17] it was not on a uniform ethnic basis, but by imposing the political and cultural characteristics of the capital, in this case Madrid and Central Spain, on those of the other areas, whose inhabitants would become national minorities to be assimilated through nationalist policies.[18][19] These nationalist policies, sometimes very aggressive,[20][21][22][23] and still in force,[24][25][26] have been and are the seed of repeated territorial conflicts within the state.

    Late modern history
    Third siege of Girona (1809), Peninsular War against Napoleon

    At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Catalonia was severely affected by the Napoleonic Wars. In 1808, it was occupied by French troops; the resistance against the occupation eventually developed into the Peninsular War. The rejection of French dominion was institutionalized with the creation of "juntas" (councils) who, remaining loyal to the Bourbons, exercised the sovereignty and representation of the territory due to the disappearance of the old institutions. Napoleon took direct control of Catalonia to reestablish order, creating the Government of Catalonia under the rule of Marshall Augereau, and making Catalan briefly an official language again. Between 1812 and 1814, Catalonia was annexed to France and organized as four departments.[27] The French troops evacuated Catalan territory at the end of 1814. After the Bourbon restoration in Spain and the death of the absolutist king Ferdinand VII (1833), Carlist Wars erupted against the newly established liberal state of Isabella II. Catalonia was divided, with the coastal and most industrialized areas supporting liberalism, while many inland areas were in the hands of the Carlist faction; the latter proposed to reestablish the institutional systems suppressed by the Nueva Planta decrees in the ancient realms of the Crown of Aragon. The consolidation of the liberal state saw a new territorial division of Spain into provinces, including Catalonia, which was divided into four (Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona).

    Demonstration after the Tragic Week, 1909

    In the second third of the 19th century, Catalonia became an important industrial center, particularly focused on textiles. This process was a consequence of the conditions of proto-industrialization of the prior two centuries in the area and was boosted by, among other factors, national protectionist laws [es], although the policy of the Spanish government during those times oscillated between free trade and protectionism. During the century, the textile industry flourished in urban areas and in the countryside, usually in the form of company towns. To this day it remains one of the most industrialised areas of Spain. In 1832, the Bonaplata Factory in Barcelona became the first in the country to make use of the steam engine.[citation needed] The first railway on the Iberian Peninsula was built between Barcelona and Mataró in 1848.[citation needed]

    During those decades, Barcelona was the focus of important revolutionary uprisings known as "bullangues", causing a conflictive relation between many sectors of Catalan society and the central government and, in Catalonia, a republican current began to develop; also, inevitably, many Catalans favored the federalization of Spain. Meanwhile, the Catalan language saw a cultural renaissance from the second third of the century onwards, the Renaixença, among both the working class and the bourgeoisie. Right after the fall of the First Spanish Republic (1873–1874) and the subsequent restoration of the Bourbon dynasty (1874), Catalan nationalism began to be organized politically under the leadership of the republican federalist Valentí Almirall.

    Proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic on 14 April 1931 in Barcelona

    The anarchist movement had been active throughout the last quarter of the 19th century and the early 20th century, founding the CNT trade union in 1910 and achieving one of the first eight-hour workdays in Europe in 1919.[28] Growing resentment of conscription and of the military culminated in the Tragic Week in Barcelona in 1909. Under the hegemony of the Regionalist League, Catalonia gained a degree of administrative unity for the first time in the Modern era. In 1914, the four Catalan provinces were authorized to create a commonwealth (Catalan: Mancomunitat de Catalunya), without any legislative power or specific political autonomy, which carried out an ambitious program of modernization, but it was disbanded in 1925 by the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera (1923–1930). During the final stage of the Dictatorship, with Spain beginning to suffer an economic crisis, Barcelona hosted the 1929 International Exposition.[29]

    After the fall of the dictatorship and a brief proclamation of the Catalan Republic, during the events of the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic (14–17 April 1931),[30] Catalonia received in 1932, its first Statute of Autonomy from the Spanish Republic's Parliament, granting it a considerable degree of self-government, establishing an autonomous body, the Generalitat of Catalonia, which included a parliament, an executive council and a court of appeal. The left-wing independentist leader Francesc Macià was appointed its first president. Under the Statute, Catalan became an official language. The governments of the Republican Generalitat, led by the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) members Francesc Macià (1931–1933) and Lluís Companys (1933–1940), sought to implement an advanced and progressive social agenda, despite the internal difficulties. This period was marked by political unrest, the effects of the economic crisis and their social repercussions. The Statute of Autonomy was suspended in 1934, due to the Events of 6 October in Barcelona, as a response[clarification needed] to the accession of right-wing Spanish nationalist party CEDA to the government of the Republic, considered close to fascism.[31] After the electoral victory of the left wing Popular Front in February 1936, the Government of Catalonia was pardoned and the self-government was restored.

    5 pesetas note made by the Generalitat de Catalunya during the Spanish Civil War, 1936, Republican currency
    Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) and Franco's rule (1939–1975)
    Left: Spanish Revolution of 1936. Right: Bombing of Barcelona (1938)

    The defeat of the military rebellion against the Republican government in Barcelona placed Catalonia firmly in the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War. During the war, there were two rival powers in Catalonia: the de jure power of the Generalitat and the de facto power of the armed popular militias.[32] Violent confrontations between the workers' parties (CNT-FAI and POUM against the PSUC) culminated in the defeat of the first ones in 1937. The situation resolved itself progressively in favor of the Generalitat, but at the same time the Generalitat was partially losing its autonomous power within Republican Spain. In 1938 Franco's troops broke the Republican territory in two, isolating Catalonia from the rest of the Republic. The defeat of the Republican army in the Battle of the Ebro led in 1938 and 1939 to the occupation of Catalonia by Franco's forces.

    The defeat of the Spanish Republic in the Spanish Civil War brought to power the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, whose first ten-year rule was particularly violent, autocratic, and repressive both in a political, cultural, social, and economical sense.[33] In Catalonia, any kind of public activities associated with Catalan nationalism, republicanism, anarchism, socialism, liberalism, democracy or communism, including the publication of books on those subjects or simply discussion of them in open meetings, was banned.

    Francisco Franco in Reus, 1940

    Franco's regime banned the use of Catalan in government-run institutions and during public events, and also the Catalan institutions of self-government were abolished. The pro-Republic of Spain president of Catalonia, Lluís Companys, was taken to Spain from his exile in the German-occupied France, and was tortured and executed in the Montjuïc Castle of Barcelona for the crime of 'military rebellion'.[34]

    During later stages of Francoist Spain, certain folkloric and religious celebrations in Catalan resumed and were tolerated. Use of Catalan in the mass media had been forbidden, but was permitted from the early 1950s[35] in the theatre. Despite the ban during the first years and the difficulties of the next period, publishing in Catalan continued throughout his rule.[36]

    The years after the war were extremely hard. Catalonia, like many other parts of Spain, had been devastated by the war. Recovery from the war damage was slow and made more difficult by the international trade embargo and the autarkic politics of Franco's regime. By the late 1950s, the region had recovered its pre-war economic levels and in the 1960s was the second-fastest growing economy in the world in what became known as the Spanish miracle. During this period there was a spectacular[citation needed] growth of industry and tourism in Catalonia that drew large numbers of workers to the region from across Spain and made the area around Barcelona one of Europe's largest industrial metropolitan areas.[citation needed]

    Transition and democratic period (1975–present)
    The Olympic flame in the Olympic Stadium Lluís Companys of Barcelona during the 1992 Summer Olympics

    After Franco's death in 1975, Catalonia voted for the adoption of a democratic Spanish Constitution in 1978, in which Catalonia recovered political and cultural autonomy, restoring the Generalitat (exiled since the end of the Civil War in 1939) in 1977 and adopting a new Statute of Autonomy in 1979, which defined Catalonia as a "nationality". The first elections to the Parliament of Catalonia under this Statute gave the Catalan presidency to Jordi Pujol, leader of Convergència i Unió (CiU), a center-right Catalan nationalist electoral coalition, with Pujol re-elected until 2003. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the institutions of Catalan autonomy were deployed, among them an autonomous police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra, in 1983,[37] and the broadcasting network Televisió de Catalunya and its first channel TV3, created in 1983.[38] An extensive program of normalization of Catalan language was carried out. Today, Catalonia remains one of the most economically dynamic communities of Spain. The Catalan capital and largest city, Barcelona, is a major international cultural centre and a major tourist destination. In 1992, Barcelona hosted the Summer Olympic Games.

    In November 2003, elections to the Parliament of Catalonia gave the government to a left-wing Catalanist coalition formed by the Socialists' Party of Catalonia (PSC-PSOE), Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and Initiative for Catalonia Greens (ICV), and the socialist Pasqual Maragall was appointed president. The new government redacted a new version of the Statute of Autonomy, with the aim of consolidate and expand certain aspects of self-government.

    The new Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia, approved after a referendum in 2006, was contested by important sectors of the Spanish society, especially by the conservative People's Party, which sent the law to the Constitutional Court of Spain. In 2010, the Court declared non-valid some of the articles that established an autonomous Catalan system of Justice, improved aspects of the financing, a new territorial division, the status of Catalan language or the symbolical declaration of Catalonia as a nation.[39] This decision was severely contested by large sectors of Catalan society, which increased the demands of independence.[40]

    Independence movement
    Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, addresses to the crowd following the unilateral declaration of independence on 27 October

    A controversial independence referendum was held in Catalonia on 1 October 2017, using a disputed voting process.[41][42] It was declared illegal and suspended by the Constitutional Court of Spain, because it breached the 1978 Constitution.[43][44] Subsequent developments saw, on 27 October 2017, a symbolic declaration of independence by the Parliament of Catalonia, the enforcement of direct rule by the Spanish government through the use of Article 155 of the Constitution,[45][46][47][48][49] the dismissal of the Executive Council and the dissolution of the Parliament, with a snap regional election called for 21 December 2017, which ended with a victory of pro-independence parties.[50] Former President Carles Puigdemont and five former cabinet ministers fled Spain and took refuge in other European countries (such as Belgium, in Puigdemont's case), whereas nine other cabinet members, including vice-president Oriol Junqueras, were sentenced to prison under various charges of rebellion, sedition, and misuse of public funds.[51][52] Quim Torra became the 131st President of the Government of Catalonia on 17 May 2018,[53] after the Spanish courts blocked three other candidates.[54]

    In 2018, the Assemblea Nacional Catalana joined the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) on behalf of Catalonia.[55]

    On 14 October 2019, the Spanish Supreme court sentenced several Catalan political leaders, involved in organizing a referendum on Catalonia's independence from Spain, and convicted them on charges ranging from sedition to misuse of public funds, with sentences ranging from 9 to 13 years in prison. This decision sparked demonstrations around Catalonia.[56] They were later pardoned by the Spanish government and left prison in June 2021.[57][58]

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Stay safe
    Stay safe

    Catalonia is usually a safe place. Be aware of pickpockets in crowds and don't leave your car unwatched in motorway rest areas. Tourist areas such as Las Ramblas in Barcelona city attract many petty thieves so you should be vigilant. As a tourist, you are a target for thieves. They can spot you and you cannot spot them. Do not carry all your money and documentation in the same bag or pocket. If you have been robbed, always go to the police.

    If you are driving, follow traffic regulations or you may be fined. If you are fined, you will have to pay in cash immediately; otherwise, your car will be removed from the road. Therefore, have at least €200 with you, just in case.

    Ever since the 2017 independence referendum which many opponents of independence view as illegal and the subsequent trial of pro independence figures involved in the referendum which handed down lengthy jail sentences, there have been widespread mass protests in Catalonia, sometimes involving police violence or violence by protesters. While you should be fine if you keep out of politics altogether and the Catalan population is pretty much evenly split in pro- and anti-independence camps, even peaceful protests can become violent without much advance notice so as a visitor, you are advised to just stay away from protests. Protesters also sometimes block major highways or airports to communicate their displeasure and draw attention to their cause, so be prepared to make alternative arrangements if this conflicts with your travel plans.


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