La Diada: a historical perspective

Two historians reflect on the significance of La Diada, Catalonia’s national day on September 11

The show must go on, goes the old saying, and despite a second year of pandemic, Catalonia’s national day on September 11, known locally as La Diada, took place for another year. Over the decades, La Diada has been celebrated in many ways, providing a forum for political claims and at the same time providing an opportunity for the people of Catalonia to honour their deeply-felt distinctness, whatever their political leanings might be.

Yet politics is never far away from La Diada, especially in recent years, which have seen Catalonia go through an independence bid, the fallout from which led to Catalan politicians being imprisoned and a nation divided about where its future lies.

To top it all, the coronavirus pandemic put an end to large gatherings, the heart of La Diada, and last year’s celebrations were necessarily limited, with dispersed gatherings and a virtual element that has become the norm in the post-Covid world.

Yet this year’s La Diada was a return to a classic format, with a demonstration in the centre of Barcelona and a march that went from Plaça Urquinaona to the city’s Parc de la Ciutadella.

There have been national day celebrations attended by 15,000 people and others attended by 500,000, but whatever the numbers, La Diada endures.

catalonia’s national day

In memory of 1714

La Diada commemorates the fall of Barcelona during the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714 and the subsequent loss of Catalan institutions and laws. First celebrated in 1886, it has become a focal point for Catalan nationalist feelings. Every year, a floral offering is laid at the monument of Rafael Casanova, who led the resistance in 1714.

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