Carles Puigdemont is the face of the Catalan independence movement.
Behind him there is the left-leaning Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) party that is keeping Together for Yes, an alliance of pro-independence groups which includes Puigdemont‘s grouping, in power.
But that is only half the story, if you want to understand the independence movement’s magnitude and machinations.
In the political background there are two key grassroots campaigning groups: Òmnium Cultural and Assemblea Nacional Catalana (ANC).
They are hard to pinpoint on the political map, especially if you are not familiar with Catalonian politics or the independence movement.
Even though they are not accountable to the electorate, the duo were key to planning the referendum and the demonstrations on Catalonia’s national day, September 11.
Their leaders are never too far away from the key political moments and they have privileged access to members of the government.
And their members are the first ones on the streets handing out leaflets, independence flags, and organising the crowds.
They are also very active on social media platforms.
Spain’s National Court seemingly understands their importance and has accused them of ‘sedition’, while the country’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, says they are behind the logistics of the independence referendum.
Òmnium Cultural, one of the grassroots campaigning groups behind the independence referendum, began in 1961.
Founded by six Catalan businessmen, its raison d‘être was to “preserve the Catalan culture” amid persecution during dictator Franco’s era.
According to data from Spanish newspaper ABC, Ómnium has received 20 million euros in state aid between 2005 and 2012.
When it became public the independence movement was being helped by Òmnium and ANC, the financial help was cut considerably. However they managed to increase income from other sources, most notably donations (from individuals and businesses) and service provision, which critics said was hidden public funding.
Òmnium Cultural, currently headed by businessman Jordi Cuixart, who is involved in the ‘sedition’ case, has 55 employees and 70,000 partners in more than 40 offices.
It has a budget of more than 5.5 million euros, details of which are published online. Their main income comes from membership fees, netting around 3.7 million euros.
Their agenda includes cultural extravaganzas and conferences, but their political role goes much further. They present themselves as “the main civic and cultural entity of the country,” which works for the “social cohesion of the country constructed by the shared battles” that shape Catalonian society.
On social media platforms, they act as a communication source for Catalonia’s independence movement.