King Felipe VI, at the celebration of the National Day that he presides, is flanked, l-r,  by the Infanta
Sofia, Princess Leonor, heir to the throne of Spain, Queen Consort Letizia,
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, and Defense Minister
Margarita Robles, Madrid, 12 October 2018


by Chris Collins
Photos: Pool Moncloa/Fernando Calvo unless stated otherwise

For a National Day celebration, the Fiesta Nacional de España, usually held in Madrid, is extraordinary for its decided lack of patriotic fervor, except in unusual circumstances. In this sense, it is not remotely comparable with the Fourth of July or Bastille Day. The Fiesta Nacional – presided by King Felipe VI who is accompanied by the Royal Family, and attended by the Ministers of the government, top regional authorities, and members of the diplomatic corps –  is very low-key, just not to say dull. It is even overshadowed by the local fiesta of Our Lady of Pilar, patron saint of the City of Zaragoza in the northeastern region of Aragon. The feast day of the Virgen del Pilar falls on 12 October though the celebrations go on for days.

“The Landing of Columbus” oil on canvas by Albert Bierstadt, PD

And yet neither the Fourth of July nor Bastille Day, France’s National Day, could hold a candle to the game-changing significance of the Fiesta Nacional. For this Spanish National Day commemorates the first arrival of Christopher Columbus, who was on the payroll of the Catholic Monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand, in the Americas on 12 October 1492. It thus effectively set the stage for the first ever documented circumnavigation of the earth when the Magellan expedition that started off in 1519 launched the world into the era of globalization, no less!

Not even the recent appearance on the political scene of the radical-right party, Vox, with its Make Spain Great Again demagoguery, could spark patriotic excitement at this year’s Fiesta Nacional. To be sure, a small group booed the Socialist Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, from the sidelines. But the incident failed to incite the crowd one way or the other.

The National Day parade with the aerobatics of the Patrulla Aguila overhead

And so on 12 October 2018, Spain marked the day Columbus first set foot on the Americas with its usually unexciting military parade, the not-so-terribly-impressive display of aerobatic prowess by the Air Force’s Patrulla Aguila, and the (fittingly) solemn tribute to the fallen.

It was just as well. Excitement is the last thing Spain needed after the regional parliament of Catalonia passed a shocking resolution just two days earlier (69 Yes votes in a legislature with 135 deputies), condemning Felipe VI for his position at the height of the Catalan crisis and his televised address to the nation on 3 October 2017 which “justified violence” at the polling stations during the illegal referendum on Catalonia independence.

L-R: The Queen and King with Prime Minister Sánchezand wife Begoña Gómez at the Fiesta Nacional reception in the Royal Palace

The resolution also called for the “abolition of the outdated and anti-democratic institution of the monarchy.”

This on top of the upcoming snap elections in an Andalusia impaired by political instability, the clamor of the national rightwing parties for general elections falling on deaf ears of the Prime Minister, the dicey approval of the State Budget. . .

Peace and quiet would be just what the doctor would order. Spain could save the Fiesta Nacional fireworks for another day!


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DIA DE LA HISPANIDAD: PROUD TO BE SPANISH: https://www.guidepost.es/dia-de-la-hispanidad-proud-to-be-spanish/