'I am a Catalan': 50 years since Pau Casals' United Nations speech
Famed cellist and peace activist remembered across Catalonia
Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of one the most memorable speeches ever made by a Catalan: Pau Casals’ impassioned address to the United Nations, where the great cellist famously proclaimed "I am a Catalan."
In 1971, Casals appeared before the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York to receive the UN Peace Medal in recognition for his work towards peace, justice, and freedom.
Following his speech, in which he praised Catalonia’s contributions to peace and democracy, he broke his vow to not play the cello in public as long as Spain was ruled by dictator Francisco Franco and performed El Cant dels Ocells, a traditional Catalan folk song he himself popularized.
50 years later
This beloved Catalan figure has not been forgotten 50 years later: not only did a commemorative concert take place in the Catalan capital's Palau de la Música on Sunday evening, but social media was filled with references to the musical legend.
🇺🇳 This year we celebrate a special #UNDay, as today marks the 50th anniversary of Pau Casals’ historic speech at the United Nations.— Catalan Gov. USA (@Catalonia_US) October 24, 2021
The virtuoso cellist famously highlighted how Catalonia’s values have historically aligned with those pursued and encouraged by the @UN pic.twitter.com/84C1irHZFj
"I am a Catalan" 🧡— Òmnium Cultural (@omnium) October 24, 2021
Tal dia com avui Pau Casals, català pacifista i universal, va pronunciar el seu recordat discurs a la @UN, en rebre la Medalla de la Pau de les Nacions Unides. pic.twitter.com/GKbWsiCQYp
1971: The United Nations awarded Pau Casals the U.N. Peace Medal in recognition of his stance for peace, justice and freedom.— Paul Friend🌹Be Happy Stay Positive Never Give Up (@PFr1end) October 24, 2021
Casals accepted the medal and made his famous "I Am a Catalan" speech where he stated that Catalonia had the first democratic parliament. https://t.co/rvHOXrjXuN
⬛️⬜️🇺🇳 #Onthisday #UNDAY2021 we recall #Catalan composer and author of the Hymn of the @UN, #PauCasals.— ANC Ireland 🎗️ (@ANC_Ireland) October 24, 2021
50 years ago, he was awarded the UN Peace Medal, and he pronounced his speech "I am a Catalan", vindicating #Catalonia in front of millions of people.#StandUpForCatalonia pic.twitter.com/P32hseLHvr
Avui fa 50 anys, Pau Casals va internacionalitzar la causa de Catalunya en el seu històric discurs a les Nacions Unides. Per esdevenir universal, Pau Casals no va necessitar deixar de ser català. Va ser sempre coherent al seu compromís. El seu exemple inspira moltes generacions. https://t.co/nNCeDGU2PA— Carles Puigdemont (@KRLS) October 24, 2021
👉🏻 El nostre compromís amb la cultura catalana i amb la defensa de la personalitat política de Catalunya.— Socialistes PSC/❤ (@socialistes_cat) October 24, 2021
“Vull deixar testimoni del reconeixement de les i els socialistes catalans a Pau Casals i al president Tarradellas”.
🗣 @salvadorilla#PSC/❤️ pic.twitter.com/YyN3lrBhHq
The life of Pau Casals
Born in 1876 in El Vendrell, in southern Catalonia, Casals learned music from his father and would go on to become one of the greatest cellists ever, widely praised for the recordings of the Bach Cello Suites, and playing for the likes of Queen Victoria and U.S. presidents Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy.
A supporter of the democratic Second Republic government of the 1930s, Casals fled Spain to escape the Franco regime and died in 1973 in Puerto Rico, his mother's home country where he had resided for several decades, at the age of 96.