National Day begins with floral tribute to last leader before loss of sovereignty in 1714

President Aragonès leads ceremony with independence supporters divided and lacking a joint way ahead

President Aragonès and other government members during the floral tribute for Rafael Casanova on Catalan National Day 2022 (by Guifré Jordan)
President Aragonès and other government members during the floral tribute for Rafael Casanova on Catalan National Day 2022 (by Guifré Jordan) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

September 11, 2022 12:16 PM

The Catalan government, headed by president Pere Aragonès, was the first institution to lay flowers for Rafael Casanova in Barcelona on Sunday morning, which marks the beginning of Catalan National Day or 'La Diada' celebrations.

The floral tribute commemorates the last commander-in-chief of Catalonia during the Siege of Barcelona at the end of the War of Spanish Succession.

Injured during the fall of the city on September 11, 1714, the day Catalonia lost its sovereignty to the Bourbons, who still rule over Spain, Casanova has become an icon in the quest to demand greater freedoms and self-rule. Here's the Filling the Sink podcast we published during the Diada last year with all the context you need: 

Main institutions, entities, and athletes attend floral tribute

Shortly after 9 am, ministers and the President were the first in a long array of political, social, business and sports figures to honor Casanova. 

After the cabinet, interim parliament speaker Alba Vergés and other bureau members, as well as Barcelona mayor Ada Colau and other local councilors and political parties followed.

Mainly pro-independence and pro-referendum political groups attended the event, while the Socialists were the only openly unionist party to participate.

The floral tribute, a long-standing tradition, has taken on added significance in recent years due to the ongoing territorial tensions between Spain and Catalonia.

Internal disputes among independence supporters

Yet, this year, pro-independence protests have been overshadowed by the internal disputes among those wanting a split from Spain.

Indeed, the leading party in government, Esquerra Republicana, was booed by a few dozen onlookers upon laying flowers beside Casanova's statue.

President Aragonès, a member of the party, has rejected attending the annual mass pro-independence demonstration which will take place in the afternoon, prompting criticism from the more confrontational faction of the independence movement.

President vows to make new referendum possible

Talking to the press after the tribute, the head of government repeated the message of his official speech the night before: Catalonia has to vote again to decide its future, referring to a referendum on self-determination, when the movement for independence has enough "strength."

He also stressed his commitment to resolving the political conflict by holding talks with Spain. 

Since the beginning of his tenure, his cabinet has held two bilateral meetings with the government in Madrid - after the second one, a vague joint commitment to ending the judicialization of the issue was made, along with another one to further protect the Catalan language. 

Junts: "We have to remain mobilized"

Yet, Aragonès' allies in government, Junts per Catalunya, did not attend any of the two meetings since they are skeptical about the likelihood of persuading Spain to allow Catalonia to vote on independence. 

After the floral tribute, the party president and suspended parliament speaker, Laura Borràs, called on the public to keep "actively resisting repression."

"We have to remain active and mobilized," she said, implicitly criticizing Aragonès for not attending the rally.

Esquerra: do not "confuse enemy"

Esquerra's spokesperson, Marta Vilalta, said independence supporters should not "confuse who the enemy is," and called for an end to internal discrepancies within the movement. 

CUP against both Spanish and Catalan government approaches

Meanwhile, in a separate event, far-left pro-independence CUP, which like Junts is also skeptical about negotiations with Madrid, called for a boycott of the Spanish government's agenda on Catalonia prioritizing "reunion" talks.

"The only thing this strategy wants is to halt any social progress," said MP Xavier Pellicer, who also criticized the Catalan government because "its rhetoric does not match the facts." 

The party did not join the floral tribute.

Barcelona mayor: stop internal rows

Barcelona's mayor, Ada Colau, who is in favor of a referendum but not of independence, complained about the internal rows between the government coalition partners and called on Esquerra and Junts to focus on countering inflation. 

She asked for "an urgent plan" to fight the energy crisis, a message complementary to that of Jaume Asens, the president of her party, anti-austerity En Comú Podem, who asked for a "return to consensus."

For him, 80% of Catalans are in favor of a vote and everyone has to come together with this aim. The end of judicialization of the issue and the return of pro-independence exiles, such as former president Carles Puigdemont, were among his other demands. 

Trade unions CCOO and UGT also demanded that internal "rows" come to an end and for politicians to focus on the effects of the Ukrainian war.