On May 17th Galiza celebrates the “Dia das Letras Galegas”, which could be roughly translated as ‘Galizan Literature/Language Day’ – it’s a tricky one!

This festivity was first introduced in 1963 making the best of a partial relaxation of the Francoist (Spanish) Dictatorship. Hence in its origin it was symbolic yet, at the same time, it also was a vindication for anything and everything Galizan.

Things began to change again after the dictator died, when the date openly took more political overtones. Later on, and to make a long story short, it became an official public holiday in Galiza in 1991.

On this day we mainly celebrate Galizan language, its literature and, in general, Galizan culture as a whole, where each year is dedicated posthumously to a different author. Some see it as the “Galizan Eisteddfod” (the famous Welsh festival), if we were to establish a parallelism with another stateless nation within our context.

The 1963 celebration commemorated the centenary of the publication of “Cantares Galegos”, the first piece of work written in Galizan language by renowned author and absolute national muse Rosalia de Castro (1837-1886). This was, as a matter of fact, one of the first publications in Galizan (in Galizan territory) in centuries, defying the Spanish control. It marked the beginning of the so-called Rexurdimento (Renaissance) period, that is to say, a social and cultural movement that openly and directly opposed Spanish colonialism, censorship and, above all, sought vindication for the Galizan culture.

Sadly though May 17th simply means one more nice bank holiday to some. It is also a day for the local pro-Spanish media and authorities whitewashing, the day when they all turn holier-than-thou for the Galizan cause by trying to speak the language and waving the flag for 24 hours. Good news is that the rest of us will continue to do so for the remaining of the year.

So if you are reading this on May 17th… Have a nice one and let us toast!