Fiesta Nacional de España is one of two “national days” of Spain and is held annually every 12 October on the day that Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas in 1492.
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The celebration has been observed since 1935 and shares its national day status with Constitution Day, which falls on 3 August.
Up until 1987, the holiday was known as “Dia de la Hispanidad,” emphasizing Spain’s common Hispanic identity with Latin American nations. The name change came, however, to avoid any connection to Spain’s colonialist past. The choice of the date, Columbus’ sighting of the Bahamas, was a compromise between royalist and republican Spaniards that was struck in the midst of much political turmoil and many regime changes in the 20th Century.
Spaniards take Fiesta Nacional de España as an off-work day and a time to spend with family and friends. Two activities you may wish to take part in are as follows:
- Attend the main Fiesta Nacional de España parade in Madrid, which has been held there every year since 2000. You will see the king raise the Spanish flag, while the prime minister leads the procession. Military vehicle will pass through the streets as the air force soars overhead, leaving trails of red and yellow smoke. If you can’t attend in person, the event is till worth watching on t.v. or hearing on the radio.
- See the Christopher Columbus Monument in Barcelona. The statue is nearly 200 feet tall and is situated at the end of the famous tourist-frequented street known as “Las Ramblas.” The monument was built for the 1888 Universal Exposition of Barcelona to honour Columbus’ daring voyage across the Atlantic. It was in Barcelona that Columbus reported his discovery of “a new world” to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, who had sent him out. The statue is very ornately designed and has Columbus standing on top of a towering pillar. He points out with his hand over the sea, as if to indicate the vast new lands he had found.