Located in the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula, Spain's richest region has its own language and a distinctive identity.
Catalonia is an autonomous community. Barcelona is the capital, and the largest city. The support for Catalan nationalism ranges from calls for further autonomy to demands of independence from the rest of Spain. The region has two official languages: Spanish and Catalan, both of which are spoken. In offices and schools, Catalan is the dominant language, while road signs and labels, for instance in museums, are usually bilingual. Approximately 11 million people live in the Catalan language area.
Catalonia's leaders have put forward a bill supposedly ensuring that an independence referendum will take place even without Madrid's backing. The vote is planned for October 1, but questions remain over its credibility.
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Spain's famous afternoon siesta could be consigned to history if the government gets its way. Just before Christmas, the country's labour minister called for a "national pact" to change Spain's system of split shifts. The region of Catalonia is hoping to steal a march on the rest of the country by being the first to move everyone to a 9-5 working day.
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In Spain, nationalists in the north-eastern region of Catalonia are continuing their bid for independence. Citing economic, political and cultural grievances, they say they want to stage a binding referendum on the issue next year. But the Spanish government is firmly opposed to the plan, as are many Catalans. Guy Hedgecoe has more from the region.