Spain’s national day, La Fiesta Nacional de España, is October 12. It commemorates the day in 1492 when the first Columbus expedition claimed the Americas for Spain.
Rodrigo de Triana, a sailor on the expedition, was the first to see land. Columbus claimed the discovery to earn a reward, but he lied.
The exact location is lost to the mists of time, but is believed to be one of the islands that today is the Bahamas. This claim led to the Spanish Empire which in the Americas lasted until the Spanish-American War of 1898.
October 12 is also the Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar, the patron saint of Zaragoza, Spain.
The celebration is complicated for former colonies. We cherish our Spanish cultural heritage, but being colonized is a brutal experience that tried to erase our own cultural heritage. The political-economic-religious-social system that was left behind is dysfunctional. We are still struggling to decolonize ourselves. So it is complicated.
Spain National Day 2023
The next Fiesta Nacional de España is Thursday, October 12, 2023.
La Fiesta Nacional de España
This day is a national holiday in Spain. Madrid usually celebrates with a military parade led by the king and prime minister.
The celebration started in 1935. It was then called “La Día de la Hispanidad,” a reference to Spain’s relations with its former colonies.
The Colonial Period is behind us, but it is striking how even today, people around the world take great pride in their Hispanic heritage. We still send our children to learn Flamenco as a living expression of our roots.
Today the country with the most Spanish speakers is Mexico. The second most Spanish speakers are in the United States.
There is a renaissance in Spanish culture today
Saturday, October 12, 2019 ~ Renowned Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film Pain and Glory (Dolor y Gloria) is a semi-autobiographical story of three phases in his life. The film flows back and forth through his childhood in rural Spain, the peak of his success in the 1980s, and the present where he faces creative block and the question of what should a successful old man do next in life?
The story is also a loose allegory of modern Spain. There was the isolation and backwardness of the Franco years (filled with the violence of Catholic Nationalism), followed by the success of the 1980s when the dictator fell, and a period of malaise after the Financial Crisis of 2008.
But Spain is reaching out into the world again. The young flamenco pop singer Rosalía was one of the first signs. She broke out in 2018. Her youthful exuberance is filled with Flamenco tradition that also breaks Flamenco tradition. Purists don’t like her. She is from Catalonia, not Andalusia. The Flamenco community in Spain is very traditional.
But Rosalía got everybody singing and dancing Flamenco again. Almodóvar found his muse again. Spain is conquering the world once more. This time not with force, but with passion. ¡Viva España!
Leading Spanish Organizations Around the World
On this day it’s worth noting Spain’s leading institutions in Spain, in Washington D.C. and in New York City (with Twitter names where known). On making this list, we noticed that many of these institutions are our clients. Gracias.
- Ministry of Culture @SpainIsCulture
- Flamenco Festival @flamencofest
In Washington D.C.
- Spanish Embassy @SpainInTheUSA
- Spanish Embassy Culture @SpainCultureUS
In New York City
New York City’s “Little Spain” used to be on 14th St between Seventh and Eighth Ave. La Nacional is the only remnant. Spaniards used to arrive at the docks on the Hudson River around 12th St and walk over to La Nacional for friendship, support and guidance.
El Barrio East Harlem became known as “Spanish Harlem” because before the Spanish-American War of 1898, the Cubans who lived there were Spanish. They were followed by Puerto Ricans and lately Mexicans.
- Spanish Consulate @ConsuladoEspNY
- Spanish Consulate Culture @SpainCultureNY
- Instituto Cervantes library and cultural center @IC_NewYork
- King Juan Carlos Center at NYU @KJCC_NYU
- Hispanic Institute at Columbia University Twitter @CasaHispanicaNY
- Spanish-American Institute
Spanish Social Club
- La Nacional @centroespanolny
- Hispanic Society @HSAmuseum
- AENY Spanish Artists in New York @AENYInfo
- Repertorio Español @repertorionyc (Cuban, but Spanish repertory)
- Thalia Spanish Theatre @TeatroThalia
- Flamenco Vivo @flamencovivo
- Soledad Barrio & Noche Flamenca @NocheFlamenca
- Menkes flamenco shoes (now in Miami only)
- Pragda Films @pragda
- Manolo Blahnik fashion footwear
- Zara @ZARA
- Desigual @desigual
- Mango @mango
- Camper shoes @camper
- Pretty Ballerinas @PBallerinas
- Pronovias bridal wear @pronovias
There are many more Spanish institutions in New York City, and another even bigger layer of Hispanic institutions.
New York City and even the United States would not be the same without our Hispanic heritage. Do you drink orange juice in the morning? Well orange trees were first planted in Florida by the Spanish conquistadores. It’s one small example.
Once upon a time, all of these countries were part of Spain. We weren’t Cuban, Mexican or Peruvian then, we were just Spanish.
The Spanish Empire claimed parts of Africa, the Caribbean, Central America, South America and Asia.
Today we tend to see countries in relation to their last colonial power, but many regions in the Americas were Spanish first. We think of modern independent countries as more British, French or Dutch, but there is a Spanish cultural overlay underneath.
In fact, the first European colony in what became the United States wasn’t Jamestown in 1607. It was St Augustine in 1565 in what became Florida. The first African Americans were free men and important members of this community. It was fully integrated. The Spanish Catholic church has many problems, but it allowed racial intermarriage which created a very different society in the Spanish-speaking Americas.
This was the true beginning of the European United States. We began as a multiracial society. That was completely different from the White Anglo Saxon Protestant (WASP or English) point of view that if you are not WASP, you are a black, soulless devil-worshiper. And the English didn’t just treat people of color that way. They treated everyone not WASP that way including Welsh, Scottish and Irish of Great Britain, and of course their traditional French enemies.
Hispanic Caribbean Countries
Cuba | Dominican Republic | Puerto Rico
Hispanic North American Countries
Costa Rica | El Salvador | Guatemala | Honduras | Mexico | Nicaragua | Panama
Hispanic South American Countries
Argentina | Bolivia | Chile |Colombia | Ecuador | Paraguay | Peru | Uruguay | Venezuela
Hispanic Asian Countries
The Philippines was Spanish for about 300 years. The Pacific galleon route ran between Acapulco, Mexico and Manila, Philippines. We don’t consider ourselves Hispanics, but we have 300 years of cultural influence. One thing we noticed is lechón, roast pig, which is prepared exactly the same way in Puerto Rico and the Philippines because it was introduced by Spaniards.
Interestingly, in Thailand the word for bread is “pan.” That’s a Spanish word. So the influence is there.