Spanish city bans Hispanic Day public holiday amid claims it 'celebrates genocide'

Activists in Barcelona also want holiday cancelled and statue of Christopher Columbus removed

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The Independent Online

A city in Spain has cancelled a public holiday commemorating the day Christopher Columbus first set foot in the Americas, saying it “glorifies the genocide” associated with Spanish occupation of the continent.

Badalona city council announced it was calling off the festivities for Hispanic Day on October 12, when schools and places of work are typically closed and military parades are held.

In a statement the council said it believed the holiday “celebrates the genocide of the occupation of America and has Francoist connotations”, and announced the decision to switch the day off to December 9 to make Spain’s Constitution Day holiday into a long weekend.

"There are people who chose to celebrate their Hispanic heritage on a day that doesn’t have the connotations of October 12," mayor Dolors Sabater told Onda Cero Radio.

Critics of the festival have argued it should also be banned across Spain on the grounds that former dictator General Francisco Franco favoured the holiday as a way to "extoll the values of his dictatorship".

Badalona is the third largest city in Catalonia, and the council has long supported the idea of the region breaking away from Spain. 

The Hispanic Day holiday celebrating his achievements has been criticised in Catalonia previously, with many activists and senior officials calling for it to be banned according to the Local.

Last year, the mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau said he believed the country should not be marking “a genocide” with an €800,000 (£700,000) military parade.

This year a motion was launched in the Catalonian capital to cancel this year’s holiday, alongside a vote on whether to remove and destroy a prominent statue of Columbus on La Rambla, but both ideas were rejected by the city council.

The ship belonging to Columbus landed in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492, before the navigator went on to discover large areas of the Americas.

It is estimated that during the initial Spanish conquest of the Americas up to eight million indigenous people died, marking the first large-scale act of genocide of the modern era according to historians.

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