Debate over Spain's National Day military parade spending and colonial legacy

Far-right Vox want October 12 holiday commemorating Columbus' arrival in America marked in Catalan parliament 

The monument to Cristopher Columbus in Barcelona (by Alan Ruiz Terol)
The monument to Cristopher Columbus in Barcelona (by Alan Ruiz Terol) / Alan Ruiz Terol

ACN | Barcelona

October 11, 2021 07:10 PM

The October 12 bank holiday, the National Day of Spain, which commemorates Christopher Columbus's arrival in America, is once again the subject of political and social debate over Spain's colonial legacy and how the date should be marked in Catalonia.

While the far-right party Vox has called on the Catalan government to celebrate October 12 "with total normality," pro-independence Esquerra Republicana (ERC) has called on the Spanish government to reduce spending on military parades.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis' formal apology to Mexico for the "sins committed" by the Catholic Church during the Spanish conquest – and the reaction from the Spanish right defending Spain's actions – has brought the issue to the fore in recent weeks.


Vox's deputy spokesperson in the Catalan parliament, Antonio Gallego, has said that parliament speaker Laura Borràs and President Pere Aragonès should commemorate the holiday "even if they don't like it".

His party has requested that the Spanish flag is flown on the facade of the parliament building, displayed at the foot of the main staircase, and that a commemorative event is held, with the Spanish national anthem played.

October 12

Vox plan to take part in various events on October 12, including at the Columbus monument at the bottom of Barcelona's La Rambla.

"We Spaniards have to feel proud of our contribution to the world. We contributed a lot to Latin America and we have nothing to be ashamed of. We must celebrate this date without a complex," Gallego said.

Despite it being a bank holiday, the Catalan government will hold their cabinet meeting on Tuesday as normal. Similarly, in central Catalonia, the market and shops in Osona will open as normal after a decision by traders and shop owners not to shut.

Military parades

ERC meanwhile say Spain should cut spending on military parades, arguing the costs are unjustified, especially in light of the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With Spain's National Day normally marked by military parades in Madrid, ERC has urged the Spanish government to suppress any events or ceremonies "that involve superfluously expensive military displays."

They have also proposed abolishing public celebrations of Armed Forces Day (May 30) as well as cutting the budget of the Ministry of Defense for these parades and rerouting the funds towards social policies.

Esquerra are critical of the fact that the budget allocated to parades "has been increasing under the mandate of the Socialist executive" and say that the 2019 National Day of Spain cost €912,536. "It is immoral to maintain unnecessary spending like this" in the current context, the pro-independence party said.

Spain's legacy

Spain's colonial legacy has been brought into the spotlight recently by Pope Francis' apology to Mexico for the "sins committed" by the Catholic Church during the Spanish conquest of the Americas.

The leader of the regional government of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, defended Spain's actions, saying it brought Catholicism, civilization and freedom to Latin America.

On a visit to the United States in September, the People's Party politician said the Pope's remarks were "surprising." She also claimed that indigenism was "the new communism."

Her party's leader, Pablo Casado – without naming Pope Francis – argued that "despite cancel culture" and "historical revisionism" Spain's legacy "should make us proud." Spain is, Casado said, "after Greece and Rome," the "most important nation in the history of humanity in terms of contribution to other countries."