Recent opinion polls suggest that slightly less than half of Cataloniaâs 7.5 million people support separation from Spain, but separatist parties won a majority in the regionâs Parliament in 2015 and their influence has grown.
Many say Catalonia would face a perilous and uncertain future outside Spain, the market for most of the regionâs goods, and would not be assured of being readmitted to the European Union.
Others complained that the thrust for independence had deepened divisions within the region, whose vibrant economy has attracted families from inside and outside Spain.
Olga Noheda, a doctor in Centelles, said one of her patients, an older man, began crying in her examination room, and explained that his granddaughter had begun expressing dislike for Spaniards.
âHe was very sad, because he didnât understand where it all came from,â she said. âHe migrated to Catalonia many years ago, from Seville, and he was wondering if his granddaughter was aware that he was a Spaniard.â
In Barcelonaâs Placa de Catalunya late Sunday night, voters chanted and celebrated the referendum, even if it remained very unclear how the separatist leaders hope to enforce its outcome.
âWeâve shown our way of making politics and changing things is very different to that of Spain,â said Marti Feliu, 21, a history student at Barcelona University. âItâs our opportunity to create a different kind of country, even if we donât yet know exactly how and when.â