National Day in Spain was cited for the first time in January 1913 in a briefing published by the Ibero-American Union of Madrid. The idea of commemorating a day as such came from the former IAUM president, former mayor of Madrid, and former minister Faustino Rodríguez San Pedro, to unite all Spanish-speaking people. The idea took shape during the first decades of the 20th century, when numerous American countries began to establish October 12 as a holiday in their territories, some using the name Columbus Day, as in the case of the Dominican Republic, United States, and Honduras. While others Day of Indigenous Resistance or Day of the Cultures, which is the case for Venezuela, Costa Rica, and Argentina.
The day was established on October 12, 1987, and has the purpose of solemnly remembering the different moments of the collective history that are part of the common historical, cultural, and social heritage according to the law that instituted the festival. Also, the legal text 18/1987 states: “The chosen date symbolizes the historical anniversary in which Spain, about to conclude a process of State construction based on our cultural and political plurality, and the integration of the kingdoms of Spain into the same monarchy, begins a period of linguistic and cultural projection beyond European limits.”
The main event that takes place on this National Holiday that commemorates the arrival of Christopher Columbus to America is the military parade in Madrid in which all branches of the army participate: planes, tanks, and other bodies. Last year’s parade started in the Plaza de Cuzco at around 11 in the morning with the jump of a paratrooper and the raising of the Spanish flag. The act was chaired by King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain, with the presence of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense, and members of Congress and the Senate. The parade had 4,200 personnel from the Army and Navy, as well as the Civil Guard, National Police, Civil Protection and Maritime Rescue, and 76 aircraft. On this day, museums, palaces, and restaurants open their doors to the public to celebrate how the Spanish language and culture spread from Europe to America.
Due to the pandemic, the Ministry of Defense has decided to implement measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. As a response to the new outbreak, the capital city of Madrid has been confined and the announcement of the state of alarm has been proclaimed once again. Because of this reality, the traditional Hispanic Day parade, on October 12, will not be held this year. However, although there is no parade as such, a much more discreet and less crowded act will take place in the Plaza de la Armería of the Royal Palace. The national holiday will be celebrated with an event presided over by King Felipe VI, but with much fewer crowds by members of the Armed Forces and citizens who traditionally came this day to enjoy the parade.
Surprisingly, this holiday coincides with the Day of the Virgen del Pilar, patron saint of Zaragoza and Spain. The festivity of the patron saint of the city, where thousands of people sing catholic hymns and dress in traditional costumes to go to La Plaza del Pilar Square to leave flowers before the Virgen del Pilar. The veneration of the Virgin is an ancient religious tradition where the population pays its respects and prays for the church. Likewise, in 2014, the United Nations (UN) decided that on this day, the world should also commemorate the Spanish language as one more element of union and consolidation of the Hispanic world.
Despite everything, Spaniards from all autonomous communities will be able to stream the parades on live-tv, youtube, and through social media while being safe in their homes.