Spain's crushing recession has had this divisive consequence: soaring popular sentiment in Catalonia that the affluent region would be better off as separate nation.
On Thursday, regional lawmakers voted to hold a referendum for Catalonia's seven million citizens to decide whether they want to break away from Spain. The Spanish government says that the referendum would be unconstitutional. And it's unclear if the "Yes" vote would win — even in these restless times.
But it looks more likely than ever that Catalonia may ask to go its own way.
"I have a big Catalan flag on the balcony. I put it up a week before the demonstration on Sept. 11 and it is still hanging there," said Gemma Mondon, 46, a mother of two. "I think we would be better off if we can manage our money. I think we would do much better."
Catalonia, a northeastern region that is historically one of Spain's wealthiest and most industrialized, has always harbored a strong nationalist streak. Separatism is especially entrenched in the rural towns and villages outside its more cosmopolitan capital Barcelona, where people switch between speaking Spanish and Catalan with ease and at times without even noticing.
In the peaceful transition from the Franco dictatorship to prosperous democracy, Catalans were content just to recover the freedom to openly speak, teach and publish in their own Catalan language, a right denied under Franco for over 30 years.