Perhaps, it is customary for each of us to see local holidays – be it “city day” or “regional day” – in general, in any country the celebrations are similar: a concert is organized on the central square, festive speeches are made, and city residents are happily waving flags, eat ice cream, and rejoice at how lucky they are to live in this glorious city.
As a rule, the date is chosen quite obvious – the day of the foundation of the city. And if the region – the date of formation in official documents. Or in a local legend, if there is one. However, one of the most interesting stories of the local holiday will be told in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia. It takes us to the 18th century, and specifically to 1714. The war for the throne of Spain ends, and for Catalonia it ends very tragically.
In that War of the Spanish Succession (as we call it now), two royal dynasties fought – the ruling Habsburgs, and the Bourbons claiming the throne. Each region understood that this was a time of change, and it was necessary to take sides. Catalonia then supported the old king, but his army lost the war, and a new monarch, from the French dynasty of Bourbons, ascended the throne.
Barcelona held the siege for fourteen months, but the forces were unequal, and on September 11, 1714, Barcelona fell under the onslaught of the army. The new king appreciated the decisiveness of the Catalans, and just as decisively decided to punish the rebellious people. Catalonia has lost many independent institutions, in fact, local government was abolished. Even the University of Barcelona was moved to the small town of Cervera, a few days’ drive from the capital. One of the districts was destroyed, a fortress with a prison was built on this place, new taxes were introduced, any weapon was prohibited, even household knives could only be stored in the kitchen. Barcelona remembered this day as one of the most bitter in its history, and it took more than 100 years before everything returned to normal life.
Why is one of the most important holidays – Catalonia Day – celebrated on September 11? What are they happy about, you ask logically? The fact is that that defeat is very deeply imprinted in the memory of local residents. Those who died in that siege were remembered as heroes, and in 1886 several young activists decided to honor the memory of the victims by laying flowers at the old cemetery of the El Born district. The youth police were dispersed, but a start was made: each year more and more local organizations began to organize 9/11 evenings. From the society of lovers of mountain walks to church circles. The more the police tried to suppress the actions, the larger they became, resulting in marches on city streets against police violence.
During the dictatorship until 1975, such actions were strictly prohibited, but after the death of dictator Franco, several city organizations at once expressed their desire to organize the September 11 parade. The mayor of Barcelona that year did not allow the celebration on the streets of the city, and suggested holding the event in a tiny town near Barcelona, where one of the famous participants in the events of 1714 was buried. Almost 100,000 people came to the small town for the action, and came on foot. Since 1977, the holiday has already been held in Barcelona, and the number of participants usually exceeds 1,000,000 people.
The Parliament of Catalonia has declared 11 September an official holiday. The official motto is “Freedom and independence!” On this day, Barcelona becomes an area for huge demonstrations. People from all over the region flock to their capital to take part in the parade, to raise the flag of their territory, and to say “I am Catalan! I am proud of my history, my past, my people! And in the face of any difficulties, we will stand shoulder to shoulder! ” Despite the large number of participants, this day is very peaceful. Many come with large families, with children and strollers, with balloons, singing songs and hymns. The instigators to break something, or to set fire to something – are immediately pushed out of the general column, and they draw the attention of the police. And, looking at this stream of happy people, confident in their strengths, you understand: they will definitely succeed!