Something is missing at the top of the flagpole which stands outside the town hall in Arenys de Munt. Despite a law requiring it, the red and yellow of la Rojigualda – Spain’s national ensign – is nowhere to be seen. Something else is missing inside the building itself. On the walls of Josep Manuel Ximenis’ office a blank space marks the spot where a portrait of King Juan Carlos would normally hang.
But both these absences are a badge of honour for Mayor Ximenis.
Instead he proudly displays a certificate declaring his town to be a “free and sovereign territory of Catalonia”, independent of the Bourbon crown and the symbols of the Spanish state.
It may not be legally binding or even recognised outside of the municipal limits but it represents the strength of the desire for nationhood that is growing across Catalonia and has set the wealthy region on a collision course with Madrid this weekend.
Three years ago last September, Arenys de Munt, a picturesque town of 8,500 residents 45 kms north of Barcelona, held an informal referendum on whether Catalonia should secede from Spain. Forty-one per cent of residents turned out to vote and an overwhelming 96 per cent of them said ‘Yes’.
Cultural, religious and economic differences.
So when US secessionists are claimed by the “elite” to be a bunch of nutters, perhaps they should look around.