By Anna Cuenca ,AFP
MADRID — Catalonia has promoted its language and popular culture since the 1980s, cultivating a sense that it is different from the rest of Spain which has now turned to separatism, analysts said. Spain’s steep economic downturn is often cited as one of the main drivers of separatism in the wealthy northeastern region, which holds a symbolic referendum on independence on Sunday in defiance of legal challenges by Madrid. A 2010 decision by Spain’s constitutional court to water down a 2006 statute giving the region more powers to the region has also added to the growing pressure for secession. But analysts say ��Catalanism,�� which like other European nationalisms emerged at the end of the 19th century, has been encouraged by successive Catalan leaders since Spain returned to democracy following the death of longtime dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975. ��There was a desire to prevent the massive migration of workers from southern Spain in the 1960s and ’70s from dividing Catalan society in two blocks, based on language or regional identity,�� said Ferran Requejo, political science professor at Barcelona’s Pompeu Fabra University. The Catalan language, which was banned in public during the Franco years but widely spoken at home, has been promoted by the regional government in cinema, music, courts and the economy. The Catalan broadcaster set up in 1983 by the ruling nationalist CiU party, with its TV stations dedicated to sports, culture, children and news, also transmits political messages, said Gabriel Colome, political science lecturer at Barcelona’s Autonomous University.
��Programs for children are a way to socialize them in a culture. If you can at the same time develop them politically, it is even better,�� he said. But this policy has turned against them because instead of ��producing CiU voters, it has turned them into supporters for the left-wing separatist Catalan Republican Left (ERC) party,�� he said. The ERC, which props up Catalan leader Artur Mad’s CiU government, currently leads opinion polls and has kept up the pressure on the Catalan government to press ahead with the independence referendum in defiance of the central government.