National Day of Catalonia on September 11th
The Catalan National day is known as La Diada and is celebrated on September 11th every year to commemorate the loss of Catalonia’s laws and institutions after the Siege of Barcelona in 1714.
In 1980, the very first law passed by the restored Parliament of Catalonia declared the Diada de l’Onze de Setembre a Catalan national symbol.
One of the few articles of the Catalan Statute of Autonomy of 2006 that remained untouched by the Spanish Constitutional Court was Article 8, which specified the National Day of Catalonia as September 11th, the national anthem as Els Segadors and the flag as La Senyera.
However, September 11th as a day of national significance has been celebrated for well over a century.
The Origins of La Diada
The first time September 11th was officially commemorated was at a mass at the church of Santa Maria del Mar in La Ribera district of Barcelona, which had born the brunt of the Castilian siege of Barcelona in 1714 and many Catalan martyrs had been thrown into unmarked graves in Fossar de les Moreres just outside the church.
Two years later in 1888, to coincide with the first Barcelona Universal Exhibition, a statue of Rafael Casanova, the Conseller en Cap or First Minister of the Generalitat of Catalonia during the Siege of Barcelona, was installed, along with statues of other historic Catalans, on the Saló de Sant Joan on what is now Passeig de Lluís Companys outside the Parc de la Ciutadella.
During the early years of the 20th century, there were often violent confrontations with the authorities or rival pro-Spanish groups but the Diada was celebrated until it was banned by military dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera in 1923.
Reinstated during the Second Republic, the symbolic importance of the Diada of 1931 was that it coincided with a referendum on Catalonia’s first Statute of Autonomy, the Estatut de Núria, which approved the restoration of the Generalitat, which had been abolished in 1714.
The Diadas during the Spanish Civil War took on an anti-fascist tone with the anarchist trades union CNT even participating in 1937.
Not surprisingly, Franco immediately banned the Diada when he came to power in 1939 and the day was celebrated in private until September 11th became a focus for more public anti-Franco protests in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
After the death of the dictator in 1975, the Assemblea de Catalunya called a demonstration on September 11th 1976 in Sant Boi de Llobregat, the burial place of Rafael Casanova, and this was the first time the Diada had been legally celebrated since the Francoist occupation of Catalonia in 1939.
Since the Return of Democracy
The following year, the Diada of 1977 was held in Barcelona and more than a million people took to the streets and marched to the slogan “Llibertat, amnistia i estatut d’autonomia” – “Freedom, amnesty and Statute of Autonomy” – in the first major demonstration of the post-Franco period.
The political consequences of the demonstration weren’t long in coming and the Generalitat was restored on September 29th, a general amnesty to Franco’s political opponents was granted on October 15th and the new Catalan Statute of Autonomy was approved in 1979 as Spain entered the period known as the Transition to Democracy.
Following the official designation of September 11th as the National Day of Catalonia in 1980, the Diada has included events run by the Generalitat and the political institutions.
Civil groups and political parties throughout Catalonia normally make floral offerings at the statues of Rafael Casanova and Josep Moragues, one of the other noted Catalan military leaders during the 1714 Siege of Barcelona.
Incidentally, the statue of Rafael Casanova in Barcelona was restored before the Diada of 1977. It now stands on the corner of Ronda de Sant Pere and Carrer d’Ali Bei and is the site of the most important floral offerings.
Throughout the day, there have always been demonstrations, concerts and information points combining the poliical significance of the day with a festive element and typically people hang Catalan Senyera or Estelada flags from their balconies.
At most official events, the Catalan national anthem Els Segadors is also sung with great enthusiam and since 2004, the central event, organised by the Generalitat and the Parliament of Catalonia, has taken place in the Parc de Ciutadella and has included speeches and normally Catalan music and poetry in the presence of local dignitaries.
Calls for Independence for Catalonia
An event of a more Catalanist pro-independence nature called the Festa de la Llibertat or Festival of Freedom has been organised by Òmnium Cultural since 2000 but it is only since September 11th 2012 that the mass demonstrations in favour of independence for Catalonia have captured the attention of the international press.
On September 11th 2012, the then recently-formed Assemblea Nacional Catalana (ANC) organised a march under the slogan “Catalunya, nou estat d’Europa” – Catalonia, New European State” and more than 1.5 million people filled the streets of Barcelona.
The following year on September 11th 2013, the ANC organised the Via Catalan or Catalan Way in which 1.6 million people joined hands to form a human chain that stretched the 400-kilometre length of Catalonia from Pertús in French Catalonia to Vinaròs on the border with Valencia.
On September 11th 2014, which was also the tricentenary of the fall of Barcelona in 1714, 1.8 million people formed a human V along the main Barcelona streets of Diagonal and Gran Via in allusion to V for Victory or V for Vote in the consultation on Catalan independence that was planned for November 9th.
Although it went ahead, the consultation was considered illegal by the Spanish government so on September 27th 2015, there will be elections to the Parliament of Catalonia, which will serve as a proxy referendum on Catalan independence.
The election campaign will begin on September 11th so we can expect the Diada 2015 to be even more significant and multitudinous than recent years.