King Felipe VI, took the royal salute at the military parade marking Spain’s national day, El Dia de Hispanidad, in Madrid, yesterday Tuesday 12th October.
Felipe, along with his wife, Queen Leticia, and their daughter La Infanta, Sofía, attended the traditional parade and flypast by more than 2,500 soldiers, 110 military vehicles and 68 aircraft.
The king joined other dignitaries, including the Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez with key ministers from his left-wing coalition government as well as Madrid´s right wing regional premier, Isabel Diaz Ayuso and Madrid Mayor, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, for the parade.
Speaking in a video broadcast to the Spanish military, the defence minister, Margarita Robles, said the armed forces have stepped up to the challenges of the last year, including the pandemic, the evacuation from Kabul and the volcanic eruption in La Palma.
El dia de Hispanidad – officially day of hispanicity, was first celebrated in 1892, when it was called the Dia de la Raza, ( which is still used in Mexico) being a celebration of the Spanish race.
This later evolved into a more general celebration of the Ibero-Latin American community, with the 12th October date coinciding with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas in 1492.
Over recent years there has been significant pushback from many indigenous communities in the Americas, against the celebration of Columbus´s arrival, and the stress now is less upon conquest, religion and race, and more on “the ephemeris of the country’s cultural and linguistic expansion beyond the European continent”.
Earlier this week, the governor of Mexico City was reported to have approved the removal of the city´s statue of Columbus and replaced by a sculpture of an indigenous woman.
Appealing for national unity, Sanchez tweeted ” “This October 12 let’s reaffirm what unites us, what makes us great as a society, what makes Spain a welcoming, open, diverse country. Let’s celebrate our commitment, solidarity, cooperation, multilateralism. Let’s celebrate who we are.”
With the continuing stand off in Catalonia that seems a far off prize.
Sanchez, who was booed on his arrival by many in the crowd, is opposed to a referendum on independence for the autonomous region, whose president, Pere Aragonès,has demanded a referendum on secession from Spain.