Understanding the National Day of Catalonia in Spain

Sep 20, 2018 10:30:00 AM / by Maya Crawford

Maya Crawford

Maya Crawford is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2018, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Business Administration major at  University of Massachusetts Lowell, she is studying abroad in Barcelona this semester.

In this week's post, Maya shares her experience from the National Day of Catalonia and what she learned about its local significance.


My city for this semester is, of course, Barcelona, and in this blog post I will talk about an event that went way beyond my expectations. It is about the National Day of Catalonia, a day where people come together and peacefully protest for the independence of Catalonia. Our accommodation is very close to the center of Barcelona, which was perfect for us because we were located right at the beginning of the parade.

Experience the National Day of Catalonia with LocalsThe crowd cheering all at once and waving their flags for independence.

As soon as we left our apartment, we saw a sea of people covered in red and yellow clothing, flags, and face paint! Back home in Boston there have been protests, parades, celebrations, and more, but I have never seen anything quite like this. Aerial views of the gathering showed so many people, some said there was almost a million out in the streets—and I believe that wasn’t an exaggeration.

The parade extended from basically our front door all the way into the center of Barcelona, Catalunya. We walked through the streets and heard speeches, musical performances, and joined in with singing songs. One really cool thing we saw was a human tower. In this sport/performance people form structures with their bodies, climbing on top of each other forming a high sturdy tower with one small person at the top. The ones we saw were about five layers of people high and all ended with a child on top. It was incredible watching how easy they made it seem, and to think a child was fearless and talented enough to make it to the top. People were cheering so loudly and proudly for them, it’s a super impressive piece of their culture!

Scenes from the National Day of CataloniaA man climbed a light pole and hung from the side with a flag tied to his pants leg!

Another cool part was the wave of cheers. At about 5:10pm they made an announcement and everyone in the crowd went silent. Then from the front of the protest people started cheering and the cheers went in a wave from Catalunya all the way back to where our apartment is, which is a pretty long distance. They time this so that by 5:15 the entire crowd is cheering and waving their flags at the same time. This was probably one of the most fun and organized things I have ever seen, and it was so cool to be part of it.

National Day of CataloniaThe symbol for Catalonia independence can be found posted all around Catalonia.

One of the protestors heard us speaking, noticed we were American and spoke to us giving more information on why they were in the streets protesting, who they were fighting for and why. It was incredible hearing how passionate these people were for their cause, and how the families came together from the grandparents in wheelchairs, to babies with yellow onesies who could barely talk yet. It was really beautiful to see that with such a touchy and intense subject, everyone was able to stay peaceful. We didn’t hear about any incidents of violence or anger within this event, and our CAPA professors said in the years prior everyone stayed peaceful as well.

With Friends at the National Day of CataloniaMy housemates Ania, Sava, and myself along the side of the parade.

Attending this protest really opened my eyes to the politics of a country other than my own, and really expanded my mind. I met so many people and heard so many stories of families, their experiences, and their love for their home country. These people are SO proud of where they come from, and even in this tough time they found a way to have fun and come together to fight for what they want. It was truly a beautiful experience.

Thanks, Maya!

Maya's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned.

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Topics: Barcelona, Spain, Local Culture