Though the bloc has turned a cold shoulder to Catalonia’s independence movement, its mere existence makes it easier for Catalans to envision themselves as a small but independent state enveloped by the larger union.
For some Catalans, then, the independence movement is far from being a flag-waving, identitarian exercise. Rather it is a post-nationalist project, said Antonio Baños, a former leftist lawmaker and a leading voice for independence.
“There are people who are pro-independence in a classical way — they talk about Catalan culture, language and identity,” Mr. Baños said. “But the success of the pro-independence movement is in the way that it has brought on board people from other identities and perspectives. It’s not a nationalist movement, it’s a movement about sovereignty.”
In an added complexity, the movement also includes significant numbers of people from other parts of Spain — people like Mr. Baños himself, whose family is from southeastern Spain and who says he thinks in Spanish rather than Catalan.
“There are people who feel Spanish but feel that the old Spanish kingdom cannot be reformed in any way,” said Mr. Baños, who heads an association of Spanish migrants who support Catalan independence. “They believe that independence is the best means of solving problems, of improving their lives.”
Whether or not she agrees, the city’s mayor, Ms. Colau, feels that the debate has strengthened rather than weakened Barcelona’s pluralistic culture.
“For many years, Barcelona has been a Mediterranean city, a global city, and thousands of people have always mobilized here for peace, for dialogue and for human rights,” she said. “And that remains the case today.”