The Spanish state of Catalonia, which counts Barcelona as its capital city, could secede from the rest of the country if the group that just won the state's elections has its way.
On Sunday, a coalition of political parties which have promised to lead Catalonia to become its own nation won state elections with a majority of 72 of 135 seats. But although the Junts pel Si (Together for Yes) coalition and their allies won the vote, winning independence for Catalonia will be a more complicated matter, as the BBC writes:
The result was more ambiguous than the positive rhetoric suggests. The pro-independence camp continues to say they are ready to break away from Spain, even in the face of strong opposition from the Spanish government.
But they know that would be controversial and complicated. In truth, their aim is still to get a legally-recognised referendum.
There is popular support in the state for independence from Spain. An informal, non-binding vote last November found that more than 80 percent of Catalans approve of seceding from Spain, because their region is economically strong and has a long history of Catalan language and culture independent of Spanish influence. Under the military dictatorship of General Franco, from 1939–1978, the Catalan language and cultural traditions were banned. Both Catalan and Spanish are now taught and spoken in the state.
"We have earned the right to a referendum," said Artur Mas, head of the Democratic Convergence of Catalonia, one of the leading parties in the winning coalition. "Once again Catalonia has shown that it wants to rule itself."
In 2012, the New York Times writes, Mas began a campaign to get tax concessions for the region, arguing that the more economically stable region should not have to shoulder the burden to support struggling regions in other parts of Spain. This, along with that sense of pride in Catalan cultural heritage, have re-invigorated the independence debate in recent years.
But the Spanish government, based in Madrid, has said it will challenge any moves toward an independent Catalonia in court, and has ruled out approving an official referendum.
"There is a majority of Catalans who love their people and love their land, and do not want to see it amputated from Spain and from Europe," said Mariano Rajoy, Spain's Prime Minister.
Anti-independence protestors also took to the streets in Madrid yesterday chanting, "Catalonia is Spain," as the election results came in.