The National Day of Catalonia or La Diada Nacional de Catalunya on 11th September each year was first celebrated in 1886. The 11th September is a historic date in the Catalan calendar. The day, simple known as La Diada, commemorates the 14 month Siege of Barcelona, and when on the 11th September 1714, Catalan troops were forced to surrender to the Castilian forces of France and Philip V of Spain towards the end of the War of the Spanish Succession. It was unfortunately all pretty much downhill from there for the next 250 years. All institutions of Catalonia were destroyed and they became part of the Spanish kingdom.
Many Catalans have been battling this repression ever since. Most recently from the Spanish dictator, Francisco Franco. The National Day of Catalonia was reinstated after 94 years in 1980, five years after Franco’s death in 1975. Catalonia today is at least an autonomous community. Though this is still far from acceptable for many.
Where’s the National Day of Catalonia happening?
The 11th September is a Catalan holiday so don’t expect to get much done. Instead go out and enjoy the celebrations (and political demonstrations).
Traditionally the National Day of Catalonia starts with floral tributes being laid at the statue of Rafael Casanova (yes, that’s who Carrer de Casanova is named after) due to the important part he played in the War of the Spanish Succession. His statue is in the small square at the corner of Ronda de Sant Pere and Carrer d’Alí Bei.
You can pay your respects to the 4000 soldiers who lost their lives defending the city at Fossar de les Moreres, the eternal flame next to the church of Santa Maria del Mar.
And take a walk from the Arc de Triomf, down Passeig de Lluís Companys towards Parc de la Ciutadella where you can often catch a concert, a poetry reading, or a dignitary’s speech.
Look online for specific events each year and exactly what is happening when. The Generalitat website is usually a good source of information.
Expect to see the odd senyera being waved – the Catalan flag of nine horizontal stripes, five yellow and four red which has a legend all of its own and is one of the oldest flags in Europe. And enjoy the sound of Els Segadors, the official national anthem of Catalonia since 1993.
Els Segadors, the national anthem of Catalonia
You can listen to Els Segadors below (MP3: 1 min 50 secs).
Britain’s role in all this
The more I read of Catalan history the more unfair it all seems to be. But then so many histories are. It seems clear that Britain somewhat shirked their duties at the time. As written in the journal of the House of Lords in 1715…
…and the Honour of the British Nation, always renowned for the Love of Liberty, and for giving Protection to the Assertors of it, was most basely prostituted and a free and generous People, the faithful and useful Allies of this Kingdom, were betrayed, in the most unparalleled Manner, into irrevocable Slavery.
In his History of England from 1745, Nicholas Tindall wrote…
The Catalans, thus abandoned and given up to their enemies, contrary to faith and honour, were not however, wanting to their own defence; but appealing to Heaven, and hanging up at the High Altar the Queen’s solemn declaration to protect them, underwent the utmost miseries of a siege; during which multitudes perished by famine and the sword, many were afterward executed, and many persons of figure were dispersed about the Spanish Dominions and dungeons.
So whatever your feelings towards the history of the Catalan people and their current fight for their future, it is clear that the National Day of Catalonia sits deep in their hearts.
Some related articles on Wikipedia if you have the time. All fascinating.