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Ashfield family in Catalonia’s 250-mile ‘human chain’

  • In this photo taken on June. 29, 2013, supporters hold their "estelada" flags as they attend to a pro-independence festival in the Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona, Spain. The Spanish region of Catalonia is set to see possibly its largest ever pro-independence rally on Wednesday when organizers are hoping to surpass the around one million people who took to streets of Barcelona last year, many of whom called for a free state. Besides the traditional march in Barcelona held on the regional holiday of Sept. 11, a pro-independence grass roots group has organized a human chain stretching for over 400 kilometers north and south across the economically powerful northeastern region.  (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

    In this photo taken on June. 29, 2013, supporters hold their "estelada" flags as they attend to a pro-independence festival in the Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona, Spain. The Spanish region of Catalonia is set to see possibly its largest ever pro-independence rally on Wednesday when organizers are hoping to surpass the around one million people who took to streets of Barcelona last year, many of whom called for a free state. Besides the traditional march in Barcelona held on the regional holiday of Sept. 11, a pro-independence grass roots group has organized a human chain stretching for over 400 kilometers north and south across the economically powerful northeastern region. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

  • In this photo taken on June. 29, 2013, supporters make a mosaic with the words of Catalonia as they attend to a pro-independence festival in the Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona, Spain. The Spanish region of Catalonia is set to see possibly its largest ever pro-independence rally on Wednesday when organizers are hoping to surpass the around one million people who took to streets of Barcelona last year, many of whom called for a free state. Besides the traditional march in Barcelona held on the regional holiday of Sept. 11, a pro-independence grass roots group has organized a human chain stretching for over 400 kilometers north and south across the economically powerful northeastern region.  (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

    In this photo taken on June. 29, 2013, supporters make a mosaic with the words of Catalonia as they attend to a pro-independence festival in the Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona, Spain. The Spanish region of Catalonia is set to see possibly its largest ever pro-independence rally on Wednesday when organizers are hoping to surpass the around one million people who took to streets of Barcelona last year, many of whom called for a free state. Besides the traditional march in Barcelona held on the regional holiday of Sept. 11, a pro-independence grass roots group has organized a human chain stretching for over 400 kilometers north and south across the economically powerful northeastern region. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

  • In this photo taken on June. 29, 2013, supporters wave their "estelada" flags as they attend to a pro-independence festival in the Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona, Spain. The Spanish region of Catalonia is set to see possibly its largest ever pro-independence rally on Wednesday when organizers are hoping to surpass the around one million people who took to streets of Barcelona last year, many of whom called for a free state. Besides the traditional march in Barcelona held on the regional holiday of Sept. 11, a pro-independence grass roots group has organized a human chain stretching for over 400 kilometers north and south across the economically powerful northeastern region.  (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

    In this photo taken on June. 29, 2013, supporters wave their "estelada" flags as they attend to a pro-independence festival in the Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona, Spain. The Spanish region of Catalonia is set to see possibly its largest ever pro-independence rally on Wednesday when organizers are hoping to surpass the around one million people who took to streets of Barcelona last year, many of whom called for a free state. Besides the traditional march in Barcelona held on the regional holiday of Sept. 11, a pro-independence grass roots group has organized a human chain stretching for over 400 kilometers north and south across the economically powerful northeastern region. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

  • In this photo taken on June. 20, 2013, a motorcycle driver wears a helmet decorated with a pro-independence flag in Barcelona, Spain. The Spanish region of Catalonia is set to see possibly its largest ever pro-independence rally on Wednesday when organizers are hoping to surpass the around one million people who took to streets of Barcelona last year, many of whom called for a free state. Besides the traditional march in Barcelona held on the regional holiday of Sept. 11, a pro-independence grass roots group has organized a human chain stretching for over 400 kilometers north and south across the economically powerful northeastern region.  (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

    In this photo taken on June. 20, 2013, a motorcycle driver wears a helmet decorated with a pro-independence flag in Barcelona, Spain. The Spanish region of Catalonia is set to see possibly its largest ever pro-independence rally on Wednesday when organizers are hoping to surpass the around one million people who took to streets of Barcelona last year, many of whom called for a free state. Besides the traditional march in Barcelona held on the regional holiday of Sept. 11, a pro-independence grass roots group has organized a human chain stretching for over 400 kilometers north and south across the economically powerful northeastern region. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

  • In this photo taken on June. 29, 2013, supporters hold their "estelada" flags as they attend to a pro-independence festival in the Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona, Spain. The Spanish region of Catalonia is set to see possibly its largest ever pro-independence rally on Wednesday when organizers are hoping to surpass the around one million people who took to streets of Barcelona last year, many of whom called for a free state. Besides the traditional march in Barcelona held on the regional holiday of Sept. 11, a pro-independence grass roots group has organized a human chain stretching for over 400 kilometers north and south across the economically powerful northeastern region.  (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
  • In this photo taken on June. 29, 2013, supporters make a mosaic with the words of Catalonia as they attend to a pro-independence festival in the Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona, Spain. The Spanish region of Catalonia is set to see possibly its largest ever pro-independence rally on Wednesday when organizers are hoping to surpass the around one million people who took to streets of Barcelona last year, many of whom called for a free state. Besides the traditional march in Barcelona held on the regional holiday of Sept. 11, a pro-independence grass roots group has organized a human chain stretching for over 400 kilometers north and south across the economically powerful northeastern region.  (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
  • In this photo taken on June. 29, 2013, supporters wave their "estelada" flags as they attend to a pro-independence festival in the Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona, Spain. The Spanish region of Catalonia is set to see possibly its largest ever pro-independence rally on Wednesday when organizers are hoping to surpass the around one million people who took to streets of Barcelona last year, many of whom called for a free state. Besides the traditional march in Barcelona held on the regional holiday of Sept. 11, a pro-independence grass roots group has organized a human chain stretching for over 400 kilometers north and south across the economically powerful northeastern region.  (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
  • In this photo taken on June. 20, 2013, a motorcycle driver wears a helmet decorated with a pro-independence flag in Barcelona, Spain. The Spanish region of Catalonia is set to see possibly its largest ever pro-independence rally on Wednesday when organizers are hoping to surpass the around one million people who took to streets of Barcelona last year, many of whom called for a free state. Besides the traditional march in Barcelona held on the regional holiday of Sept. 11, a pro-independence grass roots group has organized a human chain stretching for over 400 kilometers north and south across the economically powerful northeastern region.  (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

In this country, Sept. 11 may be tied to the terrorist attacks a dozen years ago, but Spain’s Catalonia region knows it as “Diada de Catalunya” — Catalonia’s national day.

This year, it was marked with a human chain of hundreds of thousands of Catalan separatists that stretched 250 miles across the region — from Perthus in the Catalan Pyrenees to Alcanar in the delta of the River Ebre — to press for independence.

There for the massive demonstrations, Liz Castro of Ashfield was also launching her newly published book of essays, “What’s Up With Catalonia?”

Castro, a technology writer, publisher and blogger, spent six years, from 1987 to 1993, living in Barcelona, is married to a Catalan graphic designer and studied the Catalan language at the University of California at Berkeley.

Castro’s new bilingual book, published by her own Catalan Press, contains 35 essays that explore the causes behind separation, and includes a prologue by Catalan President Arthur Mas.

Mas, in a New York Times op-ed column Tuesday, wrote that he is still waiting for a reply to his July request to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy for his assistance with a formal referendum on separation.

“We do not seek to isolate ourselves. Catalans are deeply pro-European and we do not imagine a future outside the European Union,” Mas wrote. “Catalonia would have the eighth largest economy in the union and would be a net contributor to its budgets ... We also seek no harm to Spain. We are bound together by geography, history and our people, as more than 40 percent of Catalonia’s population came from other parts of Spain or has close family ties.

“We want to be Spain’s brother, as equal partners. It goes beyond money or cultural differences. We seek the right to have more control over our economy, our politics, our social services.

“We seek the freedom to vote,” he added. “In Europe conflicts are resolved democratically, and that is all we ask. We seek justice and equality for our diverse society ... We are united in our call to let us be heard at the ballot box.”

A deep recession and cuts in public spending in the wealthy industrial region in northeastern Spain that accounts for a fifth of the country’s economic output, have stirred discontent with the central government in Madrid, Reuters reported this week. Polls show backing for secession has risen steadily in Catalonia, with a large majority of Catalans wanting the right to hold a referendum.

Castro, in a YouTube video last year intended as an introduction to the Catalan separatist issue, said, “Catalan really feels like a part of me. It’s been part of my life.”

She has lived on Norton Hill Road since 1994 with her husband, Andreu Cabre. Together with their three children, all of whom speak Catalan, the family took part in Wednesday’s demonstration.

In it, most of the estimated 1.6 million Catalan separatists wore the yellow and red national colors and chanted “In-de-pen-den-zia” or sang the Catalan anthem, holding hands at 5:14 p.m. — 1714 in military time, corresponding with the year the region lost sovereignty.

The demonstration, inspired by a 1989 demonstration that helped the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania win independence from the Soviet Union, was entirely peaceful, said Castro, and was intended “to show the world what they want to do. They ended up showing themselves,” and the peaceful, creative, happy, well-organized characteristics that make the culture special to her.

“It’s such a kind of typical thing for this people to do,” she said of the demonstration. “They want this crazy impossible thing, and they’re not planting bombs or assassinating people; it’s not aggressive or violent. They’re clear and assertive.”

In fact, that Catalan spirit is what appeals to Castro and as of last week had her and her family living temporarily in Barcelona.

“I like their way of life, language. They make community one of their priorities,” she said. It’s one of the things I like about Ashfield, the connections between friends, and they do that here, too. It’s a lot like the Pioneer Valley in that way.

“The fact that they would join together to figure out the very complicated way of demanding independence is very much in character, figuring out where everyone should go. It’s brilliant.”

Castro and her family were assigned by organizers to segment 315 of 500 segments of the demonstration, north of the village of Villafranca, where she reported, “It was packed. We were smooshed together.”

She called the demonstration “a clear call to move forward and have the referendum in 2014,” as promised by Catalan politicians and rejected by the government in Madrid.

“Part of what I’m trying to do with this book is to explain what Catalonia is and what the people want to the world that doesn’t even know they exist. It’s very frustrating to me. So I asked educators, political leaders and historians if they would contribute to a book,” and she used her skills creating e-books, as well as her husband’s designing skills, to make it happen.

“That’s one of the cool things about the world right now, that anybody can publish a book,” she said. If it were only as easy creating sovereignty for a nation of 7.5 million people.

The display of separatist sentiment, organized by the Catalan National Assembly, comes at a critical juncture for the pro-independence movement, which since last year has been pushing for the 2014 referendum.

The Spanish government, which is trying to pull the country out of recession while also pushing through unpopular spending cuts, has called a referendum unconstitutional. But Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy recently met privately with Mas in an apparent effort to defuse political tension and heal grievances.

(The Associated Press contributed to this article.)

On the Web: www.cataloniapress.com

You can reach Richie Davis at:
rdavis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, Ext. 269

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