October’s sentences handed down by the Spanish Supreme for the Catalan Political Prisoners had thousands take to the streets in protest; and with protests means… more flags! Around that time I was getting quite a few questions about the various flags that were on display. One in particular drew more attention than others. With three episodes already under my belt, I realized a fourth episode of Patrick Guide Barcelona’s Fun with Flags was long over do. So here it is: Episode 4: La Bandera Negra or the Black Flag.
The Black Flag seems to stand out amongst the crowd as the back color provides a large contrast to the normal yellows, reds, and even blues of the flags we have explored previously. There are, however, some similar themes within the flag that loyal readers will already understand; the white ‘X’, or cross, and star displayed upon it. The white cross is the same as the cross of Saint Andrew or Barcelona’s patron saint, Santa Eulalia (which was referenced in Episode 3). The addition of the star has the same meaning as the star we saw in La Estelada in episode 2, independence.
La Bandera Negra is actually a relatively new flag, created in 2014 to celebrate the 300 year anniversary of the 1714 Battle of Spanish Succession. The creators behind the flag were the president of the Reeixida Foundation, Jordi Avià, and Joan Marc-Passada who sought to create a new flag, combining older historic references and the newer themes that have been created as the Catalan Independence Movement has grown. The interesting thing about the flag is that there seems to be a bit of discrepancy about the history and actual design behind the design, as it draws on several romantic ideas to connect towards today’s political climate.
The black color was chosen to represent the persistent fight. While the white flag has always been seen as the symbol of surrender, the black color was chosen to show there was no giving up. While it is not tied to the violent context of war, it is the fight without surrender. The creators used the slogan “No hay marcha atrás”, No going back, which has become a kind of motto for those supporting independence lately. While the black flag has been seen throughout history (some newpaper articles even referenced the skulls and bones of a pirate flag) , there are few specific examples in Catalan folklore that were most sought out as examples. Black flags were said to have been used in the Reaper’s War of 1640, which is kind of seen as a civil war within the 30 Year’s War. The Bandera Negra title for the flag also shares the same name as a terrorist group of the same name responsible for the failed attempt on the life of Alfonso XIII in 1925 commonly known as El Complot de Garraf. Around the same time, the anarchist movement adopted flags with black banners, many of which you will see around the city as well. While writing this I am realizing the possibilities of more episodes!
While there have been instances from the 17th century, up until the 20th century of black flags being used here, the most important has to be the Battle of Spanish Succession in 1714 as the citizens of Barcelona held the Bourbons out for 14 months as the city was surrounded. The legend, that brought about the idea for the flag claims that when the Catalans refused to give in, the flag was flown. This story, coinciding with the September 11th, National Day of Catalonia, has become the staring and rallying point for the current Independence Movement.
From what I have been able to gather, that is what the inventors of the flag have tried to capture and while the Bandera Negra is not a historically accurate flag, it does draw on some historical, mythical, and folkloric elements to add to the sea of flags you will see while in the city.