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Music, poetry and flowers to commemorate the 300 years since Catalonia's loss of its self-government

In 1714, Catalonia was defeated and loss its sovereignty, its self-government, its Constitution and its freedoms to an absolute king who imposed a harsh political, economic, social and cultural repression that was prolonged until the 1970s, only interrupted during a few isolated and short periods. Barcelona was one of the last cities to fall, but it was ultimately defeated on the 11th of September 1714, after a 14-month military siege. A few days after, all of Catalonia succumbed to the authority of the new dynasty, the Bourbons, who founded a Unitarian Spain, centralist and with an implacable homogenisation plan. Catalonia's National Day pays tribute to those defending Barcelona until the last day and aims to make citizens remember the loss of sovereignty and freedom. On the 300th anniversary of the defeat, and in the middle of the current self-determination process, the institutional celebrations were particularly symbolical and unique.

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11 September 2014 02:27 PM

by

ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- In 1714, Catalonia was defeated and loss its sovereignty, its self-government, its Constitution and its freedoms to an absolute king who imposed a harsh political, economic, social and cultural repression that was prolonged until the 1970s, only interrupted during a few short, isolated periods. Barcelona was one of the last cities to fall, but it was ultimately defeated on the 11th of September 1714, after a 14-month military siege. A few days after, all of Catalonia succumbed to the authority of the new dynasty, the Bourbons, who founded a Unitarian Spain, centralist and with an implacable homogenisation plan. Catalonia's National Day pays tribute to those defending Barcelona until the last day and aims to make citizens remember the loss of sovereignty and freedom. On the 300th anniversary of the defeat and in the middle of the current self-determination process, the institutional celebrations were particularly symbolic and unique. Flower offerings to those defending Barcelona during the 1714 siege, poetry reading of texts reflecting on the 1714 events and music related to that time or war periods were the main ingredients of the institutional celebrations, which took place on the evening of the 10th and the morning of the 11th of September. In the afternoon of Catalonia's National Day, a massive pro-independence demonstration, which aims to gather more than 1.5 million people, has been organised by civil society and grass-roots organisations.


On the evening of September the 10th, the night before the National Day, the Presidents of the Catalan Government – Artur Mas – and the Catalan Parliament – Núria de Gispert – together with the Mayor of Barcelona, Xavier Trias, made a symbolic flower offering at the mass grave of those who defended the Catalan capital during the 14-month military siege. The graveyard is located at what is today the touristy Born neighbourhood, next to the Santa María del Mar church.

This quarter suffered the hardest during the war but particularly after it, when its inhabitants were obliged by the winners to tear down their own homes with their own hands and leave without any compensation. Where the houses and the old city walls used to stand, the Bourbon troops built the largest military citadel within a city in the whole of Europe, with most of its canyons pointing towards the city and its inhabitants. Another huge fortress was built on the other side of the city, on top of Montjuic hill, also having many canyons pointing towards the Catalan capital. At that point a strong and long-lasting repression started, in all the fronts of the daily life, including the full prohibition of Catalan language and the imposition of Spanish, as well as the elimination of Catalonia's full powers on the regulation of its economy, its taxation system, its borders, its monetary policy, its legislation, its judicial system and citizen freedoms.

The PP and C's refuse to attend all the institutional events

At the flower offer, Mas, De Gispert and Trias were joined by the members of the Catalan Government, many MPs from Catalan Parliament and the main representatives of the City Council. The Spanish nationalist and conservative People's Party (PP) – which runs the Spanish Government – and the anti-Catalan nationalism and populist party Ciutadans (C's) , which are the two parties opposing Catalonia's right to self-determination, refused to attend this event and all the other institutional celebrations of the 11th of September. They argued that the day has been "kidnapped" by pro-independence supporters and that it has been "designed to divide Catalans". However, the C's has not attended these events during the last few years, as well as the PP, which was also ignoring the celebration on some occasions in the 1980s and 1990s.

When Mas, De Gispert and Trias deposited the flowers at the base of the eternal flame which remembers those who died in the 1713-1714 siege, a pianist and singer interpreted a song by Catalan composer Federic Mompou, Damunt de només només les flors ('On you, only the flowers'). A gala formation of the Mossos d'Esquadra (Catalan Police Force) framed the space. Three choirs interpreted the song Jovenívol (Juvenile) by Lluís Millet and then all the assistants sung the Catalan national anthem, Els Segadors (The Reapers).

The main institutional celebration with only music and poetry

Immediately after, the assistants walked a hundred meters to La Llotja building, the old central market of Medieval Barcelona, which is one of the main civil Gothic buildings in the world. La Llotja welcomed the main institutional ceremony, which only included poetry reading and music interpretation. It was the first time that such a ceremony had taken place indoors and the night before the National Day. Last year, it took place at the Ciutadella Park, where the Catalan Parliament is located and which is on the land that used to be occupied by the military citadel (hence the name of the park). On the 300th anniversary, it was decided that the event should be moved to La Llotja where  a flower offer could be made to those who died defending Barcelona, in order to stress the special year.

The event in La Llotja was short but intense, and involved some of the most renowned Catalan musicians and actors. It started with Jordi Savall and the main soloists of the Capella Reial choir interpreting a popular Catalan song. Savall is an internationally-recognised artist and is probably the world's most prestigious interpreter and expert in Early and Renaissance music. In 2012, he won the Léonie Sonning Music Prize, known as the 'Music Nobel Prize'. After Savall, Pere Arquillué recited the sonnet 1714 by the Catalan 20th century poet Josep Carner. Later on, a flamenco version of Narcís Comadira's text, Boca seca, was played. The actress Emma Vilarassau read another poem from the 20th century, named 11th of September, by Josep Maria de Sagarra. The Majorcan singer Maria del Mar Bonet interpreted Salve, with lyrics by Miquel de Palol and music by Ramon Muntaner.

The actress Clara Segura read 'Letter to my nephew', an anonymous text published in several local newspapers on the occasion of the first 11th of September after the death of Franco in 1976, in which the absolute rule of the Bourbons in Catalonia was compared to the plants in Versailles gardens, which are being constantly cut and repressed to adopt a homogeneous shape that pleased the sovereign. The Quartet Casals interpreted Shostakovich's Opus 73 and, after that, Pere Quart's poem Oda a Barcelona was read. Jordi Savall went on the stage again to interpret, just with his viola da gamba, the Catalan popular song El Cant dels Ocells, which had its lyrics written during the Succession War. This song became world famous as it was interpreted by Catalan cello player, Pau Casals. Finally, Arquillué, Vilarassau and Segura read a series of sentences by Catalan artists, such as Joan Miró, Joan Maragall or Miquel Martí i Pol, as well as by Martin Luther King.

300 cellos for 300 years

In the morning of the 11th of September, at 8am sharp, 300 cellos interpreted a song composed for the occasion. The time had been chosen to pay tribute to Rafel Casanova, who led the Barcelona troops in the last night of the siege and who was killed at that exact hour at the city walls. The concert was chaired by the Catalan President, as well as by the President of the Catalan Parliament and the Mayor of Barcelona. It has taken place in front of the Born Centre Cultural, a new museum unveiled last year and which shows what the city was like in the year 1700, before the siege's massacre. It shows the remains of the houses that Barcelonans were obliged to destroy with their own hands in order to make room for the military citadel. The space hosts an enormous Catalan flag, paying tribute to those events.

Later on, during the entire morning, the main Catalan institutions and association, political, social, cultural and sports-related, paid tribute to a statute of Rafel Casanova, located not in the Born neighbourhood but in the lower part of l'Eixample, between Urquinaona Square and the Triomph Arch. Overall, this event is the most traditional celebration of Catalonia's National Day, and it has been made since the 19th century. Different institutions, such as the Catalan Government, political parties, trade unions, business associations, NGOs, choirs, FC Barcelona etc., put flowers at the base of the statute throughout the entire morning. The years the statute was removed during several dictatorial periods, Barcelonans were still passing by and dropping a flower where the statue used to be. With this last flower offering, the institutional events of the day are done although the day's peak will be the civil society massive demonstration taking place between 4.30pm and 7pm.

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  • 300 cellos playing in the 300th anniversary of the 1714 defeat (by P. Mateos)

  • 300 cellos playing in the 300th anniversary of the 1714 defeat (by P. Mateos)

  • 300 cellos playing in the 300th anniversary of the 1714 defeat (by P. Mateos)
  • 300 cellos playing in the 300th anniversary of the 1714 defeat (by P. Mateos)