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Castile and León Day (Spanish:
Día de Castilla y
León) is a holiday celebrated on April 23 in the autonomous
community of Castile and León, a subdivision of Spain. The date is the anniversary
of the Battle of Villalar, in which
Castilian rebels were dealt a crushing defeat by the forces of King Charles I in the Revolt of the Comuneros on
April 23, 1521.
Commemoration of the Battle of Villalar was closely associated
with liberal politics in Spain from the late 1700s until the 1970s,
as conservatives generally sympathized with the royal government.
With the demise of General Franco's
government, the day has broadened to a more general celebration
of Castilian nationalism rather than
only liberal politics. The government of Castile and
León established August 23 as an official holiday in 1986, and
festivals have since been held yearly at Villalar.
April 23 is the same day as St. George's Day,
with there being some crossover between the two holidays.
The birth of the Battle of Villalar as a rallying
symbol for Spanish liberals dates back to the late seventeenth and
early eighteenth centuries. León del Arroyal, an illustrious
economist and protoliberal, stated that Villalar was "the last
breath of Castilian freedom" in the latter half of the 1700s. The
Castilian comuneros received their first major recognition during
the Trienio Liberal, the
three years of liberal government from 1820-1823. Resistance
fighter Juan Martín Díez organized an
expedition to Villalar to search for the remains of Padilla, Bravo,
and Maldonado, the executed leaders of the revolt. These events
took its climax with a festival and celebration of the comuneros in
the plaza of the Villalar on April 23, 1821. Members of
left-leaning secret societies often referenced the revolt in their
names, such as "Los comuneros" or "Sons of Padilla." They also
employed the purple banner, the flag flown by the comuneros rebels.
While dormant for a time after the Bourbon Restoration to the Spanish
throne, occasional recognition of Villalar and the comuneros
came from some of the short-lived liberal governments of the
period. For instance, President Francisco Pi y Margall of the First
Spanish Republic stated that "Castile was among the first
nations of Spain who lost their freedoms in Villalar under the
first king of the House of Austria."
In the early years of the twentieth century there were other
attempts to celebrate at Villalar. Among them was a proposal by
José María Zorita Díez, a liberal deputy for Valladolid, who made a
special request for funds to commemorate the battle of Villalar.
There were also various requests and preparations to celebrate the
fourth centenary of the Battle in 1923; the city council of Palencia proposed in early
1923 that "on next April 23, all the representatives of Castile go
to the fields of Villalar and swear upon the Castilian Holy Grail,
at the scene of the Fall ... On the same day and at the same time
all the cities of Castile dedicate a minute of silence to the
heroes of Villalar." Little came of these attempts to celebrate
April 23, however.
A giant flag of Castile with the background replaced by purple, the
color of the comuneros, in the Grand Plaza of Villalar, 2007
By the early 70s, much of the reputation of the comuneros had
been rehabilitated after generally positive portrayals by
historians such as José Antonio Maravall, Juan
Ignacio Gutiérrez Nieto, and Joseph Pérez. In 1976, a gathering of
about 400 people met at Villalar. While they were dispersed by the
Guardia Civil, the meeting the next year
was far larger, with almost 20,000 attendees to celebrate the
Battle and organize pro-Castilian groups. The meetings continued on
an unofficial basis until 1986, when the government of the recently
recognized autonomous community of Castile and León granted its official
stamp of approval.
The 2006 celebration in Villalar
The acts normally begin on the evening of April 22, with
performances by musical groups and a zone of free camping for the
night. On the morning of April 23, the main ceremonies take place
alongside the monolith erected in tribute to the comuneros. Each
political party makes a floral offering to the monolith and gaves a
speech. Throughout the day, political activities and speeches
alternate with dances, music concerts, sports, exhibitions, street
theatre, and other Castilian-themed recreational activities.
The entity responsible for organizing the celebration in modern
times is the "Villalar Foundation of Castile and León."