Celebrations, Commemorations and Calls for Independence in the Catalan Capital
Think of September 11th and invariably New York and its tragic events of 2001 will immediately come to mind. Yet in the Spanish region of Catalonia, September 11th represents a day of festivity, patrimony and remembrance as the Catalan people come together to celebrate their national day.
Known locally as the Festa Nacional de Catalunya or La Diada, the National Day of Catalonia commemorates the anniversary of the end of the 14-month siege of Barcelona in the War of Spanish Succession, when Bourbon King Philip V’s troops captured the city on September 11th, 1714. The surrender of Barcelona marked the dissolution of Catalonia’s autonomous institutions, the removal of Catalan as an official language of Spain and the implementation of new centralised, countrywide laws.
La Diada was first celebrated in 1886 but was suppressed by General Franco in 1939, a ban which remained in place throughout his regime. Five years after Franco’s death in 1975, the regional government of Catalonia reinstated La Diada and September 11th as a public holiday and this year takes on a particular significance as 2014 represents the 300th anniversary of this historical event, with festivities and acts of remembrance taking place on this public holiday across the autonomous community.
Some 4,000 people lost their lives in the siege of Barcelona and each year, on the morning of September 11th, representatives of the political parties bring floral tributes to the monument of Rafael de Casanova, a prominent Catalan who fought in the War of Spanish Succession. The memorial plaza of Fossar de les Moreres in Barcelona’s Born district, situated close to the Santa Maria del Mar church, is also covered in flowers by those paying their respects to the fallen.
You’ll see La Senyera, the official Catalan flag, flying proudly across the Catalan capital at any time of year but on La Diada it’s literally around every corner, hanging from balconies, streaming from car windows and flying above government buildings and cultural institutions. Yet in recent years, a new flag – a white star on a blue triangle positioned over the red and yellow stripes of the senyera – is gaining popularity and is considered the unofficial symbol of the Catalan independence movement. Indeed for some, La Diada offers an opportunity for demonstration and protest in favour of an independent Catalan state.
And yet for the majority it is a day of festivity, with shops and offices closing and families and friends coming together to celebrate. There are speeches, prize-giving ceremonies and concerts aplenty featuring Catalan music and the sardana, a traditional Catalan dance.