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BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 21 : People attend a protest called against the imprisonment of Catalan pro-independet leaders Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart in Barcelona, Spain on October 21, 2017. (Photo by Lola Bou/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Catalonia, perhaps Spain’s wealthiest region, is on the verge of losing its 40-year autonomy as Madrid moves to once again impose direct rule over the region’s government.

With the capital of Barcelona at its heart, Catalonia has its own language and culture, a proud identity, a population of 7 million, and a history of repression by Spain. Now its most recent bid for independence has led to Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announcing last Saturday, after an emergency cabinet meeting, that he will remove Catalonia’s leadership and begin a process of direct governing from Madrid.

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