Cata­lan cri­sis pro­vokes sea of red-gold

Bangkok Post - - WORLD -

MADRID: Thou­sands of peo­ple wav­ing Span­ish flags lined the streets of Madrid on Thurs­day as sol­diers marched by and air­craft draw­ing trails of red and yel­low smoke flew over­head in a mil­i­tary pa­rade mark­ing Spain’s Na­tional Day.

King Felipe VI presided over the an­nual mil­i­tary dis­play, which took place this year un­der the cloud of the Cata­lan gov­ern­ment’s threat to de­clare in­de­pen­dence af­ter it pushed ahead with a banned se­ces­sion ref­er­en­dum on Oct 1 in de­fi­ance of Madrid.

Flag mak­ers have re­ported a surge in de­mand for the Span­ish flag in a coun­try where na­tion­al­ism is as­so­ci­ated with the dic­ta­tor­ship of Gen­eral Fran­cisco Franco, whose au­thor­i­tar­ian rule still haunts Spain.

“I love to see peo­ple wav­ing our na­tional flag,” said Beatriz Trap­ero, who was watch­ing with her hus­band and car­ried a small flag she bought from one of the many street ven­dors hawk­ing Spain-themed sou­venirs on the pa­rade route.

“There used to be a cer­tain shy­ness in show­ing it but now it seems not so much. I hope it con­tin­ues, that it is not just now.”

While there have al­ways been Span­ish flags at the an­nual pa­rade on Spain’s na­tional day, which com­mem­o­rates Christo­pher Colum­bus’s first ar­rival in the Amer­i­cas in 1492, this year there were far more than usual.

Peo­ple draped flags around their waists or wore them as capes and they hung from many of the bal­conies of apart­ment blocks lin­ing the pa­rade route.

The theme of this year’s pa­rade was “Proud to be Span­ish”.

“Its very emo­tional see­ing all the flags. We have to re­main to­gether,” said An­drea Cor­rales, a 46-year-old sec­re­tary who came to the pa­rade with her hus­band and two young daugh­ters.

One man held up a large Span­ish flags with the mes­sage: “Long live the unity of Spain”.

At one point a small group of peo­ple who were watch­ing the pa­rade from an apart­ment bal­cony be­gan to chant: “Cat­alo­nia is Spain!” Peo­ple on the ground looked up but did not join in and they stopped chant­ing.

The crowd cheered as mem­bers of La Le­gion, an elite unit of the Span­ish Army, pa­raded by with their mas­cot, a goat named Rocco.

But the big­gest applause was re­served for mem­bers of Spain’s na­tional po­lice force, which has come in for crit­i­cism over its vi­o­lent re­sponse to the Oct 1 in­de­pen­dence vote in Cat­alo­nia.

The crowd cheered loudly when a na­tional po­lice 4x4 drove slowly by with a black po­lice dog on its hood as well as when na­tional po­lice he­li­copters flew over­head.

“They did what they had to do, they de­serve our sup­port,” said 67-year-old re­tired teacher Al­berto Luis Buzo.

The na­tional po­lice were tak­ing part in the an­nual pa­rade for the first time in decades. The gov­ern­ment said they had been in­vited to par­tic­i­pate months ago.

EPA

Right-wing rad­i­cals march to­wards the San Jordi Square dur­ing a rally in sup­port of Spain’s unity in Barcelona on Thurs­day.

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