Updated: February 9, 2023Published: December 16, 2022
If you google “does Spain have an independence day?” everything you get is related to October 12th, Spain’s National Day or Hispanic Day. BUT…. is that day considered the independence day of Spain?
In Spain, we have several national holidays throughout the year, which commemorate relevant events that marked the history of our country. However, something that has surprised me is that when searching on the internet, only October 12th is mentioned, and no reference is made to May 2nd.
Why May 2nd? Well, in this post, you will understand the importance of this date and why it marked a before and after in Spain. You will also understand the difference between this date and the famous October 12th.
Are you ready for a little history lesson? I’m sure your mind will be clear after reading this post, and you won’t have more doubts!
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Does Spain have an Independence Day?
Spanish Independence Day is celebrated every May 2nd in Madrid. It is also considered the day of the Community of Madrid.
This day commemorates the uprising of May 2nd, 1808, in which the people of Madrid confronted the French troops led by Napoleon, who was taking a big part of the Iberian Peninsula territory.
It was an important day in the history of Spain because it started the Spanish War of Independence, which lasted until 1814.
But to understand what happened, we must go back to October 27th, 1807, when the Treaty of Fontainebleau was signed. In this Treaty, a joint military action was agreed by France and Spain to invade Portugal, in which Spain also allowed the passage of French troops through its territory.
The truth was that Napoleon also intended to invade Spain, which would trigger the Spanish War of Independence.
The Spanish War of Independence pitted the allied powers of Spain, Portugal, and the United Kingdom against France. The objective of the French Empire was that Joseph Bonaparte (Napoleon’s brother) would take the Spanish throne after the abdications of Bayonne. It was in Bayonne where King Charles IV and his son Ferdinand VII renounced the Spanish throne in favor of Napoleon Bonaparte.
But after the uprising of the people of Madrid and after years of battles in different regions of Spain, on December 11th, 1813, with the signing of the Treaty of Valançay, Napoleon Bonaparte recognized Ferdinand VII, king of Spain and the Indies.
How Spain celebrates Independence Day?
First, you should know that not all of Spain celebrates Independence Day; this celebration only takes place in Madrid.
May 2nd did not become a national holiday because it was not well received at the court of Ferdinand VII, who returned to the Spanish throne in 1814 after Joseph Bonaparte was expelled. This celebration had a certain liberal connotation that the king of Spain did not like, so he decided to keep it in Madrid but not extend it to the rest of the country.
Every May 2nd, an act of homage is held in Madrid in honor of what happened on that date. This act consists of three parts:
A floral offering to the heroes in the Florida cemetery by the political leaders of Madrid.
A military parade in the “Puerta del Sol,” where a wreath is placed on the thanksgiving plaques in honor of those who fought on May 2nd, 1808.
A ceremony for awarding the May 2nd Medals at the headquarters of the Presidency of the Community of Madrid.
In addition, the region is responsible for carrying out various cultural activities so that the people of Madrid can join in this day that marked the history of the country forever.
Monuments and paintings related to the 2nd of May in Madrid
A fact that I find interesting to highlight is that in Madrid, several monuments are dedicated to what happened on May 2, 1808:
Monument to the Fallen for Spain (“Monumento a los Caídos por España”). This is the most representative and popular monument, located in the Plaza de la Lealtad next to the Paseo del Prado.
Monument to the People of the Second of May 1808 (“Monumento al Pueblo del Dos de Mayo de 1808”). This work by Aniceto Marinas is located in Madrid in the Fanjul Gardens near Ferraz Street.
Plaza del Dos de Mayo. It is located in the famous Malasaña neighborhood and is one of the main places where the events of May 2, 1808, took place. The monument, located in the center of the square, is dedicated to captains Daoiz and Velarde.
In Madrid, we have a lot of sculptures that represent different moments in the history of Spain. If you want to discover which are the most representative sculptures of our capital and the rest of Spain, do not miss the following article:
There are also two works by the famous Spanish painter Francisco de Goya related to May 2, 1808.
The Charge of the Mamelukes (“La lucha con los mamelucos”). This painting is set on Alcalá Street, near the Puerta del Sol in Madrid, during the uprising of May 2.
The Firing Squad on the mountain of Principe Pio or The Firing Squad of May 3 (“Los fusilamientos en la montaña de Príncipe Pío o Los fusilamientos del 3 de Mayo”). This painting refers to the night the French shot the Spanish patriots arrested after their uprising against the French troops the day before.
Difference between Independence Day and October 12th
On the one hand, October 12 is celebrated throughout Spain as Hispanic Day or National Day of Spain, in commemoration of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492.
The celebration of this day is characterized by an official act in the “Plaza de Colón” in Madrid, where homage is paid to the Spanish flag, and a military parade is held along the “Paseo de la Castellana.” This special event is presided over by the King of Spain. It is attended by the Royal Family, representatives of the powers of the State, and Spanish regional leaders.
If you want to know everything about October 12 and its importance for Spain, take a look at this post which is super complete!
On the other hand, as we have already mentioned previously in this post, May 2 is the day celebrated as the Day of the Community of Madrid and the day of the Independence of Spain. But this holiday is not celebrated nationally; it is a regional holiday only in the autonomous community of Madrid.
Before reading this post, had you ever heard before the date of May 2nd?
It can be confusing if it is not explained in detail all the history behind that date. I am sure we all studied what happened that day in school, but then we forget, so it is good to remember it!
Jimena Bolívar is a seasoned travel writer with a unique passion for Spanish Food & Recipes. With a background in business and marketing, she brings a strategic and innovative approach to her writing, making her the perfect guide for those looking to truly experience the Authentic Spain. Jimena is also a Mother of 4, and is a huge fan of knitting her own clothes.