CARLOS PRANGER argues more religious and political tolerance is needed if Granada is to successfully commemorate the thousand year anniversary of the first Nasrid Kingdom
EACH year on January 2, the city of Granada commemorates La Toma in memory of that day in 1492 when Isabel and Fernando – those most Catholic majesties – took the kingdom of Granada from the Moors.
It was the last part of what is traditionally known as the Reconquest, in which Islam’s territory in the south of the Iberian Peninsula fell to Christian rule.
The celebration follows its own liturgy. At 11.30 AM, after parading through the streets of Granada, the mayor of Granada along with military and religious authorities attend mass in the city’s cathedral.
After this ceremony, the parade returns to the town hall in Plaza del Carmen where a crowd is waiting. Shortly before the committee arrives, however, a battalion of soldiers has marched into the plaza to stand in front of the town hall.
The celebration of La Toma has become an important tourist attraction. According to newspaper Ideal, more than 3,000 meet in the Plaza del Carmen where fascists singing Cara al Sol (the Falange hymn) have become as much a part of Christmas in Granada as its decorative lights.
Since the arrival of democracy in Spain, la Toma has been polemical as it tends to be celebrated mainly by extreme right-wing groups, who see it as a National-Catholic-Patriotic celebration of “let’s kick the Moors out.”
In recent years, more and more members of the extreme right come to Granada to celebrate la Toma. They are bolder and have made the commemoration a day of national affirmation, using their own representations of Spanish identity, such as Franco’s flag with an eagle, along with racist chanting and slogans such as “War against the Moor.”
Following tradition, a member of the ayuntamiento stands on one of the city hall’s many balconies to make a stirring speech.
While waving the banner of Castilla three times, he shouts: “Granada, Granada, Granada, por los ínclitos Reyes de España don Fernando V de Aragón y doña Isabel I de Castilla. Viva España. Viva el Rey. Viva Andalucía. Viva Granada.” (Granada, for the illustrious Kings of Spain, don Fernando V of Aragón and Isabel I of Castile. Long live Spain. Long live the King. Long live Andalucía. Long live Granada.)
This is accompanied by music as Spain’s national hymn is played in the background. The banner of Castilla is a replica of that made for Felipe II, which was copied from the one originally used by the Catholic Kings when they entered Granada on January 2, 1492.
For a number of years, citizen’s group Granada Abierta por la Tolerancia have considered this celebration intolerant and reactionary.
As they understand it, it should be a call for reconciliation and the peaceful coexistence of different cultures.
Like the rest of Spain, Granada has seen the arrival of thousands of immigrants in the last ten years and many of them are Muslims.
This sort of act is not one that can be considered welcoming.
Every year at the beginning of the New Year, Granada is divided. What really lies beneath this division, however, is a different conception of Spain and its history: the eternal question of national identity.
I would like to emphasize the chauvinistic character of la Toma. It aims to emphasise Catholicism in Spain – and not only in Granada. It is the same in similar celebrations in Baza, Alhama, Jerez, Málaga and Sevilla no matter the political persuasion of the town hall.
Although la Toma celebrates an historical event, its commemoration is based on false historical concepts.
Firstly, the definition of what is called “la Reconquista” (the Reconquest). This is an ambiguous idea held by the Spanish Right to focus on the exclusions of nationalism. Andalucia, for example, never belonged to the kingdoms of Castilla y León before the Reconquest, for the simple reason that it did not exist before al-Andalus.
It is also historically incongruous to call the Catholic Kings Spanish. When they conquered Granada in 1492, Spain did not exist as a country.
No matter how the apologists of Spanish nationalism want to depict it, the birth of Spain as a modern nation was based on a group of Kingdoms, a melting pot of three cultures ? Christian, Moorish and Jewish ? all of which mixed and lived together for many years.
Recently, the Junta de Andalucia regional government announced the 2013 commemoration of one thousand years since the first Nazarí Kingdom of Granada. Does not this contradict the celebration of la Toma? How do the authorities reconcile the conflicting points of view inherent in the two celebrations?