Diada of Catalonia
The Diada, or national day of Catalonia, has been celebrated every September 11 since 1886, and since 2012 has been marked by calls for independence.
As Catalonia’s referendum on independence from Spain approaches, this year’s celebrations are being viewed as particularly significant.
Ahead of the referendum, scheduled to take place on October 1 by the Catalan government but declared illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court, the Diada is being viewed as a gauge of how the vote will swing.
The commemoration of a defeat
Despite being a celebration, the Diada historically commemorates a defeat.
September 11, 1714 marked the day that Barcelona surrendered to King Philip V of Bourbon, after 13 months of resisting the siege of his troops.
In his book “Síntesis de la historia de Cataluña” (Synthesis of the history of Catalonia), Catalan historian Ferrán Soldevila writes that the “defence was so stoic that it aroused the amazement and admiration of all Europe”.
At that time, the Catalans were not fighting for independence but within the context of the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1713).
The first celebration of the Diada dates back to 1886, when a mass was organized in commemoration of those killed in 1714 during the defense of the capital of Catalonia.
With the arrival of the 20th century, the event became more political.
In 1901 and 1905, police cracked down on the Diada festivities, imposing significant fines.
During the Second Spanish Republic (1931-1939), Catalonia recovered its institutions and autonomous regional government and established the Diada as a national holiday.
But the beginning of the dictatorship of Francisco Franco meant celebrations were again forced into secrecy.
Between 1940 and 1970, the National Front of Catalonia (FNC) organised protests against Franco’s government every September 11.
Calls for independence
Since 2012, the celebration has brought together numerous protests calling for Catalonia’s independence.
That year, over a million people, armed with Catalan flags and banners claiming independence, took to the streets of central Barcelona.
The following year, pro-independence protesters joined hands to form a human chain between the borders of Catalonia. And in 2014, almost two million people formed a giant “V” in Barcelona, calling for a vote on independence in the 9N referendum (November 9, 2014), also declared illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court.
The Diada of 2016 was the most political to date, with local demonstrations organized in five cities across Catalonia.
This year’s event
Separatists say this year’s celebrations will be even bigger.
“We will make this day the greatest mobilisation,” said Jordi Sánchez, president of the National Assembly of Catalonia.
With the referendum less than a month away, participation in the Diada is seen as being key to legitimising the challenge to the government of Mariano Rajoy and the Constitutional Court.