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 the days leading up to the vote, school principals had received letters threatening them with sedition charges, which carry a 15-year prison term, if they willingly allowed their buildings to be used as polling stations.
City officials were told they would face criminal charges for misusing public funds. In one city, the local newspaper editor discovered he faced a criminal complaint after he printed a list of schools that would be holding votes.
Ten days ago, Spanish police detained a dozen officials of Catalanâs regional government, including its secretary general of economic affairs.
Still, in some Catalan cities like Berga, people lined up to vote early, aware that the Spanish police could intervene later in the day. A car toured the city with a megaphone, calling on citizens to go to their polling stations âto defend the ballot boxes and democracy.â
In the southern port city of Tarragona, Emilia Roldan Cano was the first and last person to cast a vote before police confiscated the ballot box at her polling station. The 58-year-old sales assistant was still pleased to have been among the many people who cast a ballot.
âI am Catalan and I love Catalonia,â said Ms. Roldan Cano, whose parents moved to the region from Andalusia in the 1950s, looking for work. âAnd now I like it more, seeing all that I see.â