If you have ever been in Barcelona on the 11th September you’ll have seen more people than usual on the street, Catalan flags hanging from balconies and windows and concerts and plenty of animation to enjoy the day. If you’re still not quite sure what all this is about, here’s a guide to the 11th September, Catalan National Day.
The 11th September is the Catalan National Day and is also a holiday in the whole of Catalonia. It actually commemorates a defeat: the date the of Barcelona’s downfall in hands of the Borbonic troops after a 14 month siege in 1714 during the Succession War. This violent defeat is of such importance for Barcelona and the rest of Catalonia because the new king punished its opponents (most of Catalonia fought for Austrian candidate to the throne Charles of Austria) by approving a decree that abolished all of the Catalan institutions and destroyed a whole neighborhood in Barcelona to build one of Europe’s best fortresses at the time.
It is officially commemorated in many ways, especially in Barcelona, remembering the victims that fell and fought for their city during the siege with a flower offering at the Fossar de les Moreres (el Born), where they were buried. Another figure that is also remembered is Rafael Casanova, the mayor of Barcelona during the time of the siege and one of the people who resisted till the end. A flower offering is also placed by public institutions on this day.
The 11th also marks the day of demonstrations, during the years there has been many in favor for Catalan independence or for the right to vote. This year, the citizen organization ANC has organized a demonstration that will fill Gran Vía and Diagonal of people asking for the right to have a referendum.
This year is also special as 2014 marks 300 years of Barcelona’s downfall. During this past year there have been many homages to remember this year such as special sculptures in the streets of Barcelona, special acts across Catalonia remembering the Succession War and the reopening of the Mercat del Born, where we can see what was left of the neighborhood the Borbonic troops destroyed back in 1714.
As it is the Tri-centenary, there are many activities to do in Barcelona to celebrate, learn and enjoy the “Diada”.
Prepare for the Nit Blanca, a night full of street shows and folkloric music will fill different spaces of Barcelona. At 22h, in the Ciutadella Park you’ll be able to see “La ira dels peixos” play, which has been the opening act for this year’s street theatre festival “Fira de Tàrrega”. You’ll also be able to see Sardanas, the Catalan typical dance in Plaça Sant Jaume; watch flamenco dancer Alba Carmona on the rooftop of the Museum of Catalan History; or admire vertical dancers along the streets.
On the actual national day you can go up to Plaça Sant Jaume and discover the catalan government building, Palau de la Generalitat, which will be open to the public for the day so everyone can discover this historical building. You can also visit the Born market to see the remains of the Barcelona that disappeared exactly 300 years ago and learn a bit of history.
In the afternoon it’s time for the demonstration. If you’re not up for huge masses of people it’s best to avoid Diagonal and Gran Vía streets, but if you’re curious to see a two street mosaic of the Catalan flag forming a giant V or would like to take part, people will start heading for the streets from about 15.30h and will finish shortly after 18.00h. Catalan authorities would like to warn people who need to move in/out of Barcelona this afternoon (especially if going to the airport) to do so before 2 PM to avoid getting trapped amids all the traffic as there will be road restrictions due to the demonstration.
At dusk, Arc de Triomf fills with people, stalls and concerts, another way to mix in with locals and to grasp the vibe of the Catalan national day.