Catalan independence flag
If you live in Barcelona or Catalunya, you will doubtless heard talk of the Via Catalana - but what's it all about? It is an initiative by the movement for Catalan independence, which will see a human chain of hundreds of thousands of people take place from north to the south of the autonomous community on September 11th at 17.14. Find out more with our guide below
SEPTEMBER 11TH - This is known as La Diada in Catalan, and is celebrated as Catalunya's national day, even though it isn't an independent nature. This date was chosen for la Diada because on September 11th, 1714, the city of Barcelona, which had been besieged for 413 days, fell to the Spanish. This defeat later saw the Spanish king Felipe V take his revenge on the Catalans for supporting the Austrians and other European countries against his claim to the Spanish crown. He retaliated by getting rid of key Catalan institutions, such as the parliament, and also banning the public use of the Catalan language. Catalunya's independence was lost—as it was absorbed into a greater Spain—and those people who now want it to be an independent country once more, use the annual September 11th celebrations to press for their separation from Spain, for example, through street demonstrations.
17.14 - the time for the Via Catalana has been chosen because in the 24-hour clock, it is the same as the year that Catalunya lost its independence. In recent FC Barcelona matches, the 17th minute and 14 second mark has also seen many fans make their own call for independence, because they know that so many people around the world are watching the popular team.
CATALAN INDEPENDENCE - The movement for Catalan independence is currently enjoying something of a peak. Growing discontent for the way the region is treated by the central Spanish government in Madrid coupled with the financial crisis has seen growing numbers of Catalans say they would support a move to independence from Spain. The ruling Catalan government, headed by president Artur Mas (leader of the CiU federation) who is in an informal coalition with the independence supporting ERC party, has said that it aims to hold a referendum on the subject next year, although Spanish authorities insist that such a move would have no legal backing. The practical issues of becoming an independent nation, such as defence, economy and, the crucial one, would FC Barcelona continue to play in the Spanish league, have not yet been clarified.
VIA CATALANA - Following last year's mass demonstration on September 11th calling for independence (organisers say around 1,000,000 people took part, which, if true, isn't bad for an area with around seven million inhabitants), there has been increasing momentum in the local campaign seeking a break with Spain. This year, the organisers of that demonstration, the Assemblea Nacional Catalana (National Catalan Assembly), have organised a new initiative, the Via Catalana human chain. Inspired by similar events in Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia in 1989 prior to winning their independence from the Soviet Union (the Baltic Way or Chain), the plan is to have about 400,000 people link hands on a 400-kilometre route from the north of Catalunya, close to the French border, down to the southern Delta del Ebre region, on September 11th, 2013 at 17.14. At the time of writing, practically all the spots available had been taken, with the sparsely populated Delta region in the south the one with the most spaces still to be filled. It is hoped by the Assemblea and participants that this peaceful demonstration of intent will go down in history as a key event on the road to Catalunya's eventual independence.
If you're in Barcelona, click here to see a map of the route the human chain will take through the city (in the space 'Número de tram', write 740).