Posted on September 11, 2014
When we went to Spain this summer, one of our favorite regions was Catalonia, and one of our favorite cities was Barcelona (which is in Catalonia). I was really interested to see a lot of signs with three or four languages – and at times French was first, THEN Catalan, THEN Spanish, THEN (if we were lucky) English.
I kept being surprised at the prevalence of the French language (in certain areas). Of course, we were near France—but we were IN Spain. Now that I am writing about Catalonia, it turns out there are three official languages in Catalonia: Catalan, Spanish, and Aranese, which is a dialect of Occitan. So now I'm wondering if it really was French? Could it have been Aranese?
I was also interested to see banners and graffiti that said “Independencia” in several spots in Catalonia. (That word looks like Spanish, but the word for “independence” is spelled the same in Spanish and Catalan.)
I knew that Spain has autonomous communities with self-rule, and that each of these autonomous regions has common language and cultural ties, plus a shared history.
And I knew that Catalonia is one of those autonomous regions.
So, with all that self-rule, I was a bit surprised to discover that many Catalan people were not satisfied with autonomy; a growing number of them want full separation from Spain. Thank goodness, they want to achieve this separation through peaceful means—through a democratic process of voting for independence and negotiation with the central Spanish government.
With that background, what is the Day of Catalonia all about?
Today is the anniversary of the 1714 end of the siege of Barcelona (a siege is when armed forces surround a city, cutting off the city people's supplies, in order to force the city's surrender). This was at the end of the War of the Spanish Succession—a war fought over the question of who would rule Spain.
On one side was the Archduke Charles of Austria, who was backed by Britain and the Netherlands, and also (surprisingly, at least to me) Catalonia and the other territories that made up the Crown of Aragon. On the other side was Philip V of Spain, who was backed by France and much of Spain (Castilian territories) . Philip V was a member of the royal house of the Bourbons.
After a year-long siege of Archduke Charles's forces in Barcelona, the Bourbons finally triumphed and took over the city. This is considered the time when Catalonia lost its independence to Spain.
How is the Day of Catalonia celebrated?
In addition to honoring Catalan heroes, speeches and flag-waving, concerts and feasts and parties, many Catalan people peacefully demonstrate to express their desire for independence from Spain. (At least, the last few years, the demonstrations were peaceful; I certainly hope they are this year as well!)
I read that more than 450,000 people are expected to attend the mass demonstration. Right now 55% of Catalonia's people want to separate from Spain, and that percentage is said to be rising all the time.
Also on this date:
This day commemorates the tragic deaths and injury and loss that most Americans know as 9/11.
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