What Is Life Really Like In Catalonia, Spain?
Catalonia is known for its tourist destinations and its fight for independence, but what is it really like to live in the autonomous region?
Spain's recent general elections failed to end a government gridlock and has left the country once again without a ruling party in parliament. One of the issues tying up lawmakers is the fate of Catalonia, the autonomous region that has been petitioning for independence since the 19th century.
In today's edition of Seeker Daily, Laura Ling reports on what life is really like in Catalonia and its capitol city of Barcelona.
Those who have been to the city of Barcelona generally agree: It's the single coolest city on the planet. The architecture, the food, the people -- everything works. Greater Barcelona, the metropolitan area around the city, is the region's economic hub and one of the largest tourist destinations in country.
As for Catalonia itself, it's one of Spain's 16 autonomous communities but has long been a kind of first among equals, with its own unique culture and language -- Catalan. Around 7.5 million people, roughly 16 percent of Spain's population, live in Catalonia.
Compared to the rest of Spain, Barcelona is culturally and ethnically diverse. Around a quarter of the city's population aren't Catalonian at all. More than a third of Catalonians speak Catalan in the countryside, but in Barcelona that number is only about two percent.
The region's GDP of more than $200 billion is higher than any other autonomous region. Many major industries -- like food production and construction -- rely heavily on tourism, which has actually protected residents from economic hardships in the rest of Spain. In fact, even as national GDP declined, Catalonia's GDP simultaneously grew -- and unemployment dropped.
The region's thriving economy is the primary reason separatists want to break away from Spain. Proponents of a split argue that Catalonian taxpayers are keeping the rest of the country afloat, even as they receive fewer public services. According to a 2014 poll, nearly 80 percent of Catalonia residents want independence. But the recent election and continuing divisions in Parliament suggest that a referendum vote is still a long way off.