|This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (July 2010)|
The Estelada (Eastern Catalan: [əstəˈɫaðə], Western Catalan: [esteˈlaða]; pl. Estelades; full name Senyera estelada, "starred flag" or "lone star flag", from estel, "star") is an unofficial flag typically flown by Catalan separatists to express their support for either an independent Catalonia or independent Països Catalans (Catalan Countries, i.e. the territories where Catalan is traditionally spoken). The use of this flag as a protest symbol within Catalan nationalism has become more notable since the 1970s' Spanish transition to democracy. The design of the Estelada comprises the red-and-yellow bars of the Senyera, with the addition of a five-pointed star in a triangle at the hoist.
Design and meaning
The flag dates from the early 20th century; it was most probably designed in 1918 by Vicenç Albert Ballester i Camps. It came from combining the traditional four red stripes over a gold field of the Senyera with a blue triangle at the hoist containing a five-pointed white star, inspired by the flags of Cuba and Puerto Rico. Later designs combine the Senyera with a yellow triangle at the hoist containing a five-pointed red star. In both designs the lone star motif means Catalan independence.
The 3rd Article of the provisional Constitution of the Catalan Republic, written and approved in 1928 in Cuba by the Assemblea Constituent (Constituent Assembly) of Catalan separatism, specifically provided that the official flag of the Catalan Republic should consist of four red bars on a yellow field, superimposed with a white five-pointed star in a blue triangle.
The star in the flag comes from the early days of nationalism, the lone star symbolising national freedom and independence. Cuba's fight for its independence was watched closely by the Catalanists of the nineteenth century and in 1906, when the Cuban War of Independence ended, the Centre Catalanista de Santiago de Cuba (Catalanist Centre of Santiago de Cuba) was created. An embryonic Catalan estelada flag could already be seen: in the middle of a senyera there was a white star with five points.
The first star with a clear nationalist intent known in Catalonia is from before 1904, associated with the Unió Catalanista (Catalanist Union). It is a stamp commemorating the acquisition of the Pi de les Tres Branques (Three-Branched Pine) by the Catalanist Union.
Later, in 1906, a star appeared in the nameplate of the magazine Fora Grillons! (Breaking Chains!), published in Santiago de Cuba by Catalan exiles - a publication that had already clearly proclaimed the independence of Catalonia.
The politics of the League of Nations allowed many nations to seize the opportunity of independence, and Czechoslovakia, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Armenia did so during in 1918; other nations like Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia, were declared independent, but were then immediately annexed by the Soviet Union.
From the nations that hoped for independence, pressure groups began to mobilize internationally. In the Catalan case, the Comitè Pro-Catalunya (Pro-Catalonia Committee) was one of the most active. It was in this context that a need was perceived to have a flag as a symbol of Catalan aspiration; and, of course, a star appeared on it. Since then the estelada flag began to be spoken of. It was probably designed by Vicenç Albert Ballester, with the blue triangle signifying the blue sky of humanity, and the white star symbolizing freedom.
The first photograph in which the flag appeared was in a publication dated the bulletin L’intransigent (The Intransigent) in 1918. It shows a group of young Americans and Catalan separatists holding both flags.
Also in 1918, there was a comic strip in circulation—a stamp without postal value—dedicated to the future Society of Nations, where there was also an estelada.
There are several kinds of estelada. One is in the last number of La Tralla ("The Whip", a radical separatist magazine from the 1920s), before the coup d'état by Miguel Primo de Rivera. The other is in a document published by the Comitè Pro-Catalunya written in Catalan and Arabic, to greet and encourage one of the Moroccan leaders who revolted against Spain.
In Cuba, it appeared for first time in the nameplate of the magazine La Nova Catalunya (1920), (The New Catalonia). The estelada flag went on on to appear in other Catalan separatist publications.
An estelada was owned by Francesc Macià during the failed invasion of Prats de Molló in 1926; it appeared between the imprisonment of the Catalan volunteers and their transfer to Paris to be put on trial. There are photographs of the volunteers with the estelada in several other places.
In 1928, with the presidency of Francesc Macià in the Constituent Assembly of the Catalan independence movement, the estelada was again seen, and the Catalan separatists made it their flag.
During this period a new practice began, and continues to the present day; whenever a prominent Catalan nationalist dies, as a sign of mourning, his comrades will cover the red bars of the estelada with a black cloth, leaving the star visible to signify that they will continue pursuing the same ideals.
Later, during the period from 1931 to 1936, the estelada still appears numerous times. Some of these flags only have two colours due to the shortage of money, but the traditional estelada with the blue triangle and white star was kept.
After the Francoist dictatorship came to power, the Front Nacional de Catalunya (National Front of Catalonia), or FNC, which used the Catalan flag and the estelada, was formed in response to the new Spanish nationalist regime.
During the sixties, in the university section of the FNC, there was a faction called the Partit Socialista d’Alliberament Nacional dels Països Catalans, (Socialist Party for the National Liberation of the Catalan Countries), or PSAN. Because this party wanted to make its own socialist and Marxist ideas clear, it decided to change the colour of the star to red; in 1969, this new version of the estelada started to appear at PSAN meetings.
In the mid-seventies, the PSAN had, in turn, its own splits. They led to the creation of a new movement, the Moviment d’Unificació Marxista (Movement of Marxist Unification), which started to use the red star inside a white triangle, while the PSAN kept the red star inside a yellow triangle.
The unification of the two versions of the flag could only take place when the Movement of Marxist Unification and the Bloc d’Esquerra d’Alliberament Nacional (Left National Liberation Bloc), or BEAN, both disbanded. At that time the flag with the red star and the yellow triangle were a symbol of both socialist and communist separatists.
As of 2005 both kinds of Estelada flag (the classic and the red) are used at the same time.
After the Fall of Communism in Europe the red star of the Estelada groga (yellow estelada) has steadily lost its original leftist meaning. It is currently flown just as a simpler and less cluttered version of the Estelada in the traditional Catalan colors.
The estelada is ubiquitous as a simplified symbol - four vertical bars topped by a star, sprayed or daubed on walls, lampposts or mailboxes all over Catalonia. These simple graffiti are most often in one basic color, either in black or red. More elaborate large pro-independence graffiti use often the red-star Estelada as a symbol.
Valencian nationalist Senyera
The white star version has been used by Valencian nationalist groups since the early 20th century. Some of these groups may be blaverist (Valencian separatist, as opposed to Catalan nationalist) in their ideology, especially those with more pro-sovereign positions.
The oldest extant document showing this Estrelada - with a red star - is a war poster of the Valencian Left.
- Vicenç Albert Ballester i Camps Grup Enciclopèdia Catalana
- Joan Crexell i Playà, L'origen de la bandera independentista, Edicions El Llamp, 1984.
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