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Catalunya regional day celebrations see shrinking crowds
By thinkSPAIN Team Thu, Sep 12, 2019
CATALUNYA celebrated its 'regional day' today (Wednesday, September 11), which always includes a huge procession down the main streets of its largest towns and cities, particularly Barcelona – but numbers have been dwindling in the last few years.
Most of Spain's 17 autonomously-governed regions have their own bank holiday and festival, some of which involve celebrations and some of which are simply a day off work – such as that of Valencia, which falls on October 9 – and Catalunya's Diada is no exception.
Its massive gatherings started in 2012, but in the last three or four years, have become a major pro-independence demonstration – specifically since September 11, 2017, the last Diada before the disputed secession referendum on October 1 that year which has led to a number of regional politicians being imprisoned or forced into exile.
From around 2017, participant numbers have been falling, since those Catalunya residents who do not agree with the region's becoming a separate country do not feel they are represented in the Diada activities.
In 2018, the crowd had diminished to a million, and today, they dropped in number to just 600,000 – the lowest in the eight-year history of the Diada procession which, at its largest, reached 1.8 million and, until 2016, did not fall below 1.4 million.
This year, the Diada was held just days before the Supreme Court – the highest contentious audience in Spain – delivers its final verdict on the 'illegal' referendum.
And this year, the big slogan for the Diada was 'Objective: Independence', which put off those who would rather remain a part of Spain.
The referendum has divided Spain's central government, as well as Catalunya itself – left-wing Podemos considers a vote should be allowed after bilateral talks to find out the reasons for the secession bid, since being open to discussion is likely to lead to more residents choosing to remain in Spain, but the right-wing considers the original referendum a criminal offence and is in favour of stripping Catalunya of its self-governing powers, whilst the centre-left socialists do not want to go to those extremes but will not allow a legal vote on independence if it continues in power.
Although an estimated half the population of Catalunya, or possibly slightly more, are understandably nervous that a secession situation may occur, this seems very unlikely legally – a factor which means tourism and the property market in the north-eastern region have not suffered as a result and, in fact, have become stronger.
Whilst the disputed referendum ended with over 90% in favour of independence, only 42% of the electorate turned out, with the vast majority of the other 58% deciding not to do so as they considered it illegal.
This means in the event it had been sanctioned by law, the option to remain in Spain rather than break away would probably have won by a slim majority.
Photograph: Catalunya News Agency (ACN)
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