There is a Spanish proverb that a difficult choice puts one between the sword and the wall (entre la espada y la pared).
Spain is currently facing such a choice with Catalonia. Should it negotiate with Catalonia knowing that doing so may result in the secession of the region and set a precedent for others?
Or should it continue to stand firm in the face of the independence demands while the tension builds, conflict continues, and Catalan rights are taken away?
The impasse can't continue
Spain and Catalonia are at an impasse following the attempted referendum on Sunday.
The Spanish Government stated that it was illegal, and followed through on its threat to arrest participants and block attempted votes.
In the resulting conflict, hundreds have ended up in hospital.
Despites the efforts to stop the referendum, 42 per cent of the electorate turned out and 90 per cent voted for independence, an unsurprising figure given that ardent secessionists were more likely to cast their ballot.
It is now expected that the Catalan secessionists will follow through on their promise that, should the "Yes" vote prevail, they will declare independence.
Although there were good reasons for denying a referendum with Catalonia, they are outweighed in the present circumstances by the risks of continued Spanish intransigence and the erosion of democracy.
Spain should negotiate with the Catalan secessionists.
A democracy to be proud of
This will not be the first time Catalonia has declared independence, but it will be the first time since the Transition (la Transicion) to democracy after 40 years of autocratic rule under Francisco Franco.
The resulting democracy is something that all Spanish citizens should be proud of. The transition was bloodless, helped in no small part by many former supporters of Franco.
The Pact of Forgetting (el Pacto del Olvido) helped the people to put aside the memories of the Civil War, a divisive and bloody conflict that had occurred within living memory.
One of the more laudable features of Spanish democracy has been its willingness to give greater autonomy to regions like Catalonia and the Basque country. But it has done this in a way that must evolve.
By giving the Catalans control over their budget and the right to make Catalan the language of instruction in public schools, it has created the conditions for nationalism.
By tolerating, if not encouraging, anti-Catalan rhetoric in conservative circles of Spanish society, and by refusing to give symbolic recognition of the Catalan national identity, it has fomented secessionism.
The Catalan independence leaders have manufactured the current standoff by following the strategy of secession.
They have attempted to force the Spanish Government to negotiate by using tactics of nonviolent civil resistance, public spectacle, paradiplomacy, and by harnessing the power of the Catalan Government.
There is a logic to all of this: to get the Spanish Government to overreact, to create conflict, to generate public appeal at home and abroad, and to get outside actors to pressure Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to negotiate.
That appears to be happening now that foreign actors are calling for dialogue, and Chancellor Angela Merkel has personally called Mr Rajoy to discuss the matter.
Open dialogue needed
The Spanish Government needs to open a dialogue with the Catalan independence leaders.
Polls show that a majority of Catalans want dialogue even if a majority may not want independence.
Spain should do that by changing the message and by using the democratic institutions of the state. It has much to offer and may even win a Scotland-style referendum should it be held.
Spanish democracy has come to a crisis.
Its regional differences and policies have generated contradictions that need to be resolved democratically. That is the only way forward.
Further intransigence, violence, and the curtailing of Catalan rights are a step back.
Ryan D Griffiths is a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney.