Plaça de Catalunya was the scene of several important events during the Civil War. On 19 July 1936, rebel forces leaving their Barcelona barracks were stopped in the square by forces loyal to the Republic. Nearly a year later, on 3 May 1937, in the incident known as the Events of May, armed confrontation broke out when Catalan Government forces attempted to occupy the Telefónica building. In subsequent decades, the square, as the epicentre of the city, was the scene of many public demonstrations and events: from shows of support for the Franco regime to rallies demanding greater freedom in the dying years of the dictatorship and during
On 19 July 1936, rebel troops marched out of their barracks to attempt to take control of the city. At eight in the morning, led by Commander López-Amor, they reached Plaça de Catalunya, where a violent engagement with Republican assault guards ensured. The Republican troops were forced to withdraw, and the rebels then attacked the Telefónica building on the corner of the square with Portal de l’Àngel, where the unit led by Assault Guard Lieutenant Perales held out on the upper floors until the fighting was over. By nine in the morning, the fascist troops had taken control over all the buildings in the square, but things began to change at around two in the afternoon. The Civil Guard, which had remained loyal to the Republic, counter-attacked to support the assault forces, which had managed to take up position by using underground railway tunnels, trapping López-Amor. Civil volunteers also gave assistance in attacking the various positions held by the fascist forces. Captured artillery pieces also proved most useful, and control was regained over the Military Casino (or mess), the Telefónica building and the Hotel Colón. By four in the afternoon, fighting had ended in this part of the city. The square was a desolate sight to see, covered in the bodies of soldiers, civil guards and anonymous citizens, as well as many dead horses.
Another important incident took place in the square on 3 May 1937, during the so-called Events of May, when different anti-fascist forces in Catalonia did battle with one another. On one side were the Catalan government’s forces of public order and the PSUC, UGT and Estat Català (“Catalan State”) militants; on the other, CNT-FAI and POUM activists. Artemi Aiguader, the Catalan Minister for Governance, ordered the occupation of the Telefónica building to dislodge the CNT-FAI anarcho-syndicalists, who held the monopoly over telephone communications. The occupants put up strong resistance, but at around three in the afternoon, 200 assault guards managed to take control of the first floor, whilst the CNT-FAI called all its militants to its defence and to start a general strike. There ensued an intense struggle for the streets all over the city, particularly on May 4 and 5. On May 6, the Republican central government sent 5,000 assault guards to Barcelona to pacify the situation. An agreement was reached under which the CNT-FAI would leave the Telefónica building first, after which the assault guards would do likewise, but when the anarcho-syndicalists fulfilled their side of the bargain, Catalan Government and UGT forces took advantage to occupy the building. By nightfall, a final cease-fire was agreed between the anarcho-syndicalists and the Government. Estimates place the death toll from this incident at between 280 and 500, with more than one thousand wounded.
Today, a monument to Francesc Macià, by Josep Maria Subirachs, stands in the square. Unveiled in 1991, it was partially paid for by a collection organised by the Avui newspaper, which had promoted the idea since 1977. Macià, who had proclaimed “the Catalan Republic within a federation of Iberian republics” from the balcony of the Palau de la Generalitat on 14 April 1931, was the first president of the Catalan Government when it was restored under the Second Spanish Republic. He died on Christmas Day 1933, and his funeral was marked by an extraordinary public demonstration of mourning, as a huge cortège accompanied his coffin through the city centre to the cemetery in Montjuïc.
Address: Plaça de Catalunya || Coordinates: (LAT, LONG): 41.386992529, 2.170030957