Spain already is another country for many in Catalonia

The challenge Spain faces as it moves to stifle a push for independence in Catalonia goes beyond stopping separatist politicians' plans for an Oct. 1 referendum on secession.

Many Catalans already feel as though they live in another country.

Across the proud region, the central government in Madrid is often seen as a distant troublemaker that takes more taxes than it returns in services and public works. Pro-independence flags adorn streets marked by signs in the distinct Catalan language.

Spain's Ministry of Justice has warned that the independence vote the Catalan government called last week is illegal. Spain's constitutional court has ordered the vote suspended.

Yet over 600 of Catalonia's 948 municipalities say they intend to open polling stations.

It remains unclear what position officials will take in Barcelona, the regional capital.