Catalonia’s independence has been a pressing topic in Spain for some time now, but especially in the last few months. Any newcomer in Barcelona will find this to be clear from the moment they arrive, whether they be for, against, or neutral to the idea. On top of a handful of protests and newspaper headlines, the huge presence of the Catalonian nationalist flags in the city represent the support for the notion. You can find flags around every corner of the beautiful Barcelona streets; hanging off balconies, yachts, official buildings and even on top of the Catalonian human towers, known as ‘Castellers’.
La Senyera, meaning simply ensign, banner or flag in Catalan, is the official flag of Catalonia. It consists of four red stripes on a golden background. This remains consistent in the four Spanish Autonomous Communities of Catalonia; Aragón, the Balearic Islands, Valencia and the city of Alghero in Sardinia. However, there
are slight variations of the flag; for example, in Aragón there is an extra coat-of-arms, a castle in the canton for the Balearic Islands, and in Valencia a blue fringe on the hoist. It is believed by the Catalonians that La Senyera’s pattern derives from the 9th century where the Count of Barcelona, ‘Wilfred the Hairy’, was injured while helping Frank King, ‘Charles the Bald’ in a battle against the Normans. The King soaked his hand into Wilfred’s wound and drew his four bloody fingers across Wilfred’s golden shield as a mark of gratitude, thus creating the emblem of the four red stripes on a golden background. These four stripes are
known as “Els Quatre Dits de Sang”, meaning the Four Fingers of Blood.
L’Estelada, meaning starred flag, is an unofficial flag used for political movement as a symbol of support to Catalonia’s independence from Spain. The design of L’Estelada consists of the yellow and red bars of the Senyera,
with the addition of a five-pointed star in a triangle.
The star was inspired by the stars in the flags of Cuba and Puerto Rico in the early days of nationalism. Although the L’Estelada remains a symbol of freedom in Catalonia, it is one that is temporary and if independence from Spain is gained, the Senyera would be the national flag of Catalonia.
Another symbol that represents and distinguishes Catalonia from Spain is the Catalan donkey. While the Osborne bull is the unofficial symbol of Spain and the Catalonians regard it as a concentrated symbol of its power, the donkey is a symbol of peace. It is said that the donkey represents the characteristics of a true Catalan; hardworking, tenacious, a silent intelligence, and the ability to endure hardship (this is what they call ‘Seny’).