Immigrants and youth drive Catalan independence movement

Sat Nov 24, 2012 6:58am EST
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By Nigel Davies

BARCELONA, Spain (Reuters) - Independence for Catalonia may seem like romantic folly to outsiders. The Spanish region must reach back to the Middle Ages to find historic grounds for a separate territory.

It isn't so much cultural identity that has breathed new life into the secession movement, but frustration over taxes, unemployment and recession.

An increasing number of the most ardent supporters of Catalan independence do not even have roots in the region.

They are immigrants from the rest of Spain who have embraced separatism because they believe Catalonia, historically an economic powerhouse, would be more prosperous on its own.

Economists cast doubts on that argument. But, right or wrong, these Catalan converts will be key voters on Sunday when the region chooses a new government in an election on Sunday that has become a proxy for a referendum on independence.

Take 72-year-old Josep Periera, who moved to Catalonia during a mid-century wave of immigration from Andalusia, a relatively poor agricultural region in Spain's south.

When he moved to Catalonia decades ago he was called Jose. He has changed his name to the Catalan equivalent, Josep, and completely integrated.

"Only three years ago I wasn't pro-independence. But we can't take this any more," he told Reuters at a rally for Catalan President Artur Mas, who is seeking re-election after converting to the independence cause in September following a massive demonstration by secessionists.   Continued...