MADRID – October 12 the national Spanish holiday Día de la Hispanidad or Fiesta Nacional is celebrated throughout Spain. This holiday is completely dominated by Spain and the Spanish empire that was created after Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ America.
All Spaniards have a day off on this day. This year the public holiday falls on Tuesday and that means a long weekend (puente). Therefore, many Spaniards also take Monday off.
Military parade in Madrid
The most characteristic feature of Fiesta Nacional de España celebrations is the military parade traditionally held in Madrid, with which Spain demonstrates its military prowess. After being replaced last year by a static event with no audience due to the pandemic, current health conditions have allowed the military parade to be held again. King Felipe VI, his wife Queen Letizia, and the Spanish Prime Minister are present. The parade through Madrid usually also includes foreign diplomats and representatives of the governments of the 17 autonomous communities.
The act will start at 10.00 am in the Plaza de Lima and half an hour later the kings will arrive there, where the grandstand will be and the military honours, the paratrooper jump and the hoisting of a new flag will take place. The live broadcast can be followed from 10.15 am on La 1 de TVE.
The parade is governed by the Royal Decree 862/1997 of June 6, which stipulates that this festival seeks to “improve its commemoration as much as possible and strive for the full integration of all the historical and cultural elements that make up the Spanish nation. ” In addition, each city organises its own celebrations in the spirit of Spain, which usually take place in the squares in front of the local town hall.
Not without controversy, events and demonstrations are also being prepared throughout the day in Barcelona. At 11 a.m., the Denaes Foundation, chaired by Santiago Abascal, Unidad Hispanista and Somatemps, will make a wreath at the monument to Christopher Columbus, at a time when his figure in America is being questioned.
Later, at noon, the platform Catalunya suma por España organised a demonstration with the slogan ‘Together for what unites us: Spain and Hispanidad’. The meeting will begin at the confluence of Provença Street with Passeig de Gràcia and will reach Plaça Catalunya, where a manifesto will be read and the Spanish national anthem will be played at approximately 1.30 pm.
Information tents will be set up in the square until 6.00 pm and at 7.30 pm the day will conclude with a Mass that will take place in the Parroquia de la Mare de Déu dels ngels, located at Calle Balmes 78.
On the other hand, several organisations have prepared actions against the celebration of Día de Hispanidad. Som Antifeixistes has convened a demonstration in Plaça de la Universitat at 11:30 am. The youth organization of the left-wing independence, Arran, has also organised demonstrations at 7.30 pm in several cities of Catalonia to protest against this party.
On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus anchored off the coast of the Americas. At the time, the explorer did not know that he had discovered a new continent. He was under the impression that he had arrived in Asia, the intended destination of his journey. It turned out to be the Bahamas, the archipelago he later called San Salvador. Columbus’ initial plan was to find a western sea route to India.
After Columbus’ first arrival, further exploration and colonisation of the “Americas” by Europe began. From this point on, the Spanish Empire kept getting bigger and more powerful until, at one point, it became the most influential empire in the world. This fact is commemorated annually on October 12. The law governing everything surrounding this Spanish holiday states that on that day Spain ‘started a process of linguistic and cultural projection far beyond European borders’.
However, there has been increasing controversy surrounding the party for years. America already existed when Columbus docked his ship. In fact, the continent was discovered about 14,000 years ago when the first humans set foot on it. Moreover, the arrival of the Europeans was not positive for the indigenous peoples. Their land was colonised with the indigenous population largely exterminated. According to historians, about 90% of original inhabitants did not survive the arrival of the Spaniards and later other Europeans. In part, the indigenous people also succumbed to foreign diseases which they could not withstand. Those who eventually survived all this misery were forced to adopt the Christian faith.
New meaning to celebration
For these reasons, several countries started to replace the celebration with others more in line with their original cultural identity. In Argentina, for example, in 2010 the Día de la Hispanidad was replaced by the celebration of Día de Diversidad, the Day of American Cultural Diversity. In Bolivia, the day was changed to Decolonization Day in 2009. On October 12, Chile celebrates the Day of the Meeting of Two Worlds.
Efforts have also been made in Spain to change the character of the festival. In 2016, the municipality of Madrid raised the Wipala. This is a colourful flag that represents indigenous cultures. The Day of the Indigenous Resistance has been celebrated in the council of Navarre since 2017. Proponents of these changes feel that this way the different viewpoints exist around the historical event are taken into account.