In 1977, Catalonia’s national day, September 11, was celebrated by the largest demonstration that had ever taken place in the country. The demonstrators marched to the site of this monument to pay tribute to Rafael Casanova, 38 years after the statue had been removed by the Francoist authorities.
The statue of Rafael de Casanova, hero of the defence of Barcelona during the Bourbon siege in 1714, is by Rossend Nobas, who carved it on the occasion of the 1888 Universal Exposition in Barcelona. Originally, the sculpture stood in what is now Passeig de Lluís Companys, the main entrance to the Expo site in the Ciutadella Park, and was not transferred to its present site, where Casanova is thought to have fallen wounded, until 1914. Since 1897, the statue has been a meeting point each September 11, the date when Barcelona finally fell to the Bourbon army, for people manifesting their nationalist feelings by making floral offerings to memory of the Catalan hero.
On 12 April 1939, following the end of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the Francoist authorities that had occupied the city removed the statue and placed it in storage. Although the new regime banned all Catalan nationalist demonstrations at the monument, floral offerings and Catalan flags continued to appear at the site each September 11, though not without brutal reprisals. Years later, on the death of the dictator in 1975 and the start of the Democratic Transition, society and political parties called for the restoration of Catalan cultural symbols. Finally, in December 1976, approval was given for the recovery of monuments removed during the dictatorship. The statue of Rafael Casanova was installed on its pedestal once more on 27 May 1977.
September 11 that year, 1977, saw the largest demonstration that had ever taken place in Catalonia, occupying the whole of Passeig de Gràcia. The figure of one million people is mentioned, though a more accurate estimate would place the number at 750,000. On reaching the monument, those at the head of the march, formed by representatives from Catalan political forces, placed floral offerings at the pedestal. Though this was a peaceful march, it ended with the death of a young man, Carlos Gustavo Frecher, killed by a rubber bullet fired by the police, which reacted violently against demonstrators for democratic freedoms on several occasions during the Transition.
In 1980, after the first democratic elections to the Parliament of Catalonia, September 11, known here as L’Onze de Setembre, was declared Catalan National Day.
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