Faces of Joy, Rage and Resolve in Catalonia as Independence Vote Nears

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Students demonstrating in Barcelona, Spain, on Thursday against the central government’s attempts to halt a Catalan independence referendum. Credit Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Catalonia, the restive northeastern region that includes Barcelona and that is Spain’s economic powerhouse, is attempting to vote on Sunday in an independence referendum.

The Catalans say that their distinct language, history and culture entitle them to nationhood, or at least that they should have the chance to decide for themselves whether to break from Spain.

The central government in Madrid, with the support of Spanish courts, says the vote is unconstitutional and should be suspended. It is doing everything it can to prevent it from happening: confiscating ballots; shutting down the internet; barring polling stations and threatening Catalan officials with arrest and prosecution. It has sent thousands of police from other parts of Spain to potentially enforce the measures.

The standoff is growing increasingly volatile as the scheduled start of voting on Sunday morning approaches.

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Demonstrators threw ballot papers. Credit Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press

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Farmers from around Catalonia marched in Barcelona on Friday in support of the referendum and promised to help protect polling stations. Credit Samuel Aranda for The New York Times

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Activists pasting up pro-independence posters in Barcelona. Credit Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press

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Students provided information on how and where to vote from a stall outside the University of Barcelona. Credit Samuel Aranda for The New York Times

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People gathering at the Miquel Tarradell high school, designated as a polling station, to oppose any official attempt to prevent voting. Credit Samuel Aranda for The New York Times

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The Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, center, during a demonstration on Friday to support the referendum. Credit Quique Garcia/European Pressphoto Agency

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A demonstration in favor of a unified Spain in Madrid on Saturday. Credit Sergio Perez/Reuters

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Some Catalan officials were arrested last week as part of a Spanish police operation intended to prevent the referendum. Pro-independence groups demonstrated in front of the Catalan High Court building in Barcelona to demand their release. Credit David Ramos/Getty Images

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Demonstrators clashed with the Spanish National Police last week after police officers from another national force, the Civil Guard, stormed several Catalan government offices. Credit David Ramos/Getty Images

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An anti-referendum protest in front of Catalan National Assembly in Barcelona last week. Credit Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press

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A march on Catalan National Day, Sept. 11, in Barcelona. Credit David Ramos/Getty Images

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Catalonia’s referendum on secession is due to be held on Sunday. Credit Francisco Seco/Associated Press

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