He has independence at his core. It is not something that he has improvisedJami Matalamla
These are the words of Carles Puigdemont, the man who has defied Spain and is pushing ahead with the independence dreams of millions of Catalans.
To some he is the enemy within, to others he is a freedom fighter. But who is the man behind the campaign for Catalonia’s independence?
He is the son of a pastry chef and was born in Amer, a province of Girona, in 1962.
Spain, at this time, was still under the iron fist of General Franco, who ruled until 1975. The village, founded in 949AD, has always been a stronghold of independence.
Puigdemont was taught Spanish at school. The dictator banned the Catalan language and cracked down on their traditions and culture.
Aged 18 he moved to Girona. Passionate about his native tongue, he went on to study Catalan philology, the study of languages, at the local university.
Language has always been important for the 54-year-old. He speaks four: Catalan, French, Spanish and Romanian.
Puigdemont did not graduate but left to work in journalism. After a serious car accident in 1983, he went to work for the pro-independence paper El Punt, where he rose through the ranks to become editor-in-chief.
He launched a campaign in 1991 to have the name of his adopted city changed from the Spanish version of Gerona to the Catalan equivalent of Girona.
After a short stint as director of the Catalan News Agency, he entered politics and in 2011 he became the town’s mayor.
In 2016, he was elected regional President of Catalonia.
Jami Matalamla, a friend of Puigdemont, told CNN: “He has independence at his core. It is not something that he has improvised. It is something he knows very well. It’s a part of who he is.”