Scots have kilts, what do Catalans have?

Thu Nov 7, 2013 3:14am EST
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By Fiona Ortiz

MADRID (Reuters) - When Catalonia's local language was reintroduced in the northern Spanish region's schools three decades ago, Nati Grabiel was on the frontlines of the effort, training teachers to educate in the Catalan tongue.

Today, the 72-year-old retired schoolteacher is on another crusade: trying to convince the world that Catalonia should break away from Spain. She and five other pro-independence senior citizens are travelling to the United States early next year to shoot a film that explains Catalan culture and history.

"There is no going back. No, no, no," says the dynamic, white-haired Grabiel.

Grabiel's cinematic adventure is one of many marketing efforts, including movies, books and web projects, to promote a growing movement to make the region of 7.5 million people - 16 percent of Spain's total - an independent state.

Around half its residents would choose independence in a yes-no breakaway referendum, according to polls, and they are pushing for a vote similar to the one Scotland will hold next year on leaving the United Kingdom.

The central government has resisted the move, saying a referendum would be unconstitutional.

Most Spaniards struggle to understand the campaign for independence, since Catalonia has significant self-governing powers and last year received a financial rescue of billions of euros from Madrid. But many Catalans feel they would not have needed a bailout if their taxes weren't partly used to support poorer regions.

Catalonia's drive for more control over taxes and public spending has gained force in the last two years as all of Spain has undergone painful austerity measures to cut a dangerously high public deficit. Tensions between the region, which makes up a fifth of the Spanish economy, and Madrid over budget and other issues have raised the prospects of a break-up.   Continued...

(L-R) Six pro-independence senior citizens Jaume Sobreques, Albert Roma, Nati Gabriel, Paco Vallespi, Florenci Trullas and Tomas Llusera pose in front of the Catalan flag, on the roof of the Catalonia History Museum in Barcelona November 5, 2013. REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino