The Spanish national government is currently embroiled in a row with Catalonia over its calls for independence.
Much to the anger of Madrid, the Catalan regional government passed a law this week to hold a referendum on independence.
Catalan Government officially calls referendum for October 1 https://t.co/xLmtEhalBn #IndyRef #CatalanIndyRef #1Oct #1Oct2017 #Catalonia pic.twitter.com/AuqIS8PKsw— This is Catalonia (@ThIsCatalonia) 7 septembre 2017
But why does the region want to break away from the rest of Spain?
Catalonia’s distinct history goes back to the early Middle Ages, with many Catalans considering themselves as a separate nation from the rest of Spain.
Today this feeling is manifested in Catalonia’s pride in its language and identity – not to mention the fierce rivalry between football teams FC Barcelona and Madrid in the El Clasico.
Located in Spain’s far-eastern corner, Catalonia is separated by the Pyrenean mountains from southern France, with which it holds close historical ties.
Until the birth of modern-day Spain in 1715, Catalonia was an independent region in the Iberian Peninsula – now Spain and Portugal – with its own identity, laws and customs.
Subsequent kings tried to impose Castilian Spanish and laws on the region, but gave up in 1931 and restored the national Catalan government, known as Generalitat.
From 1939 the Franco regime tried to suppress Catalan identity until the dictator’s death in 1975.
Spain’s return to democracy brought devolution for Catalonia, along with other regions.
Today Catalonia has its own parliament and executive and enjoys extensive autonomy.
But Catalan pro-independence parties have long been pushing for complete independence from the Spanish state.
In 2014 an informal vote found that 80 percent of those living in the region were in favour of independence for Catalonia.