Sept. 11th marks a far older tragedy for Catalans — the day in 1714, amid the War of Spanish Succession, when Catalan forces holding out in Barcelona succumbed to the Franco-Spanish (Castilian) forces of the Bourbon King Philip V. In 1716, the Nueva Planta decrees were passed ordering the suppression of the institutions, privileges, and the ancient charters of the areas that were formerly part of the Crown of Aragon (Catalonia, Aragon, Valencia, and the Balearic Islands) thus submitting de facto these regions in a new, and uniformly administered, centralized Spain. Sept. 11 became Catalonia’s national day, an occasion once suppressed by the fascist Franco dictatorship, but now cause for an outpouring of Catalan pride and aspirations to regain the lost liberties three centuries ago.
As many as 1.8 million people marched in Barcelona on Thursday in support of Catalonia’s latest bid for independence. The streets of this elegant coastal city were a sea of red-and-yellow, Catalonia’s stripes. Catalans poured down to Barcelona from all the cities and towns in Catalonia to form a giant “V” in Barcelona, symbolizing both the desire to “v”ote on the question of secession as well as the wish for “v”ictory. On the same day in 2013, Catalans formed a 250-mile-long human chain marking Catalonia’s right to self-determination as the Baltic states did in 1989 when seeking freedom from the Soviet Union and in 2012 yet another massive demonstration (between 1.5 and 2 million) was held in the streets of Barcelona.
Barcelona’s mayor, Xavier Trias, summed up the vision for an independent Catalonia: “If Catalonia becomes independent, it will be a new kind of state: European, open for trade, cosmopolitan and welcoming and protective of its many diverse inhabitants, including the millions of people from around the world who have come in recent decades … It is wrong, and divisive, to oppose this vision”.