Many Catalan towns have places named after Lluís Companys i Jover (1882-1040). The main stadium of the 1992 summer Olympics, nowadays home arena of the football club Espanyol, bears his name and there is a monument to his honour near the Arc de Triomf of Barcelona.
October 15, on the anniversary of his death, people around the country pay him respect. At the hour when he was shot, at 6.30 in the morning, the political parties Convergència and Esquerra by tradition organize torchlight processions on Montjuïc, but also here in Vilanova do politicians hold a local ceremony.
Lluís Companys was a lawyer by education but had made the decision to stand up for his beliefs in Catalan independence, republicanism and workers’ rights. This upset the authorities of the time, so at the age of 27, he had already been detained fifteen times and was considered a “dangerous individual”.
In 1931, he took part in the congress which resulted in the creation of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya and his personal reputation rendered the party a credible left-wing profile. After Francesc Macià died in 1933, Companys took over and from January 1, 1934, he was elected President de la Generalitat.
A few months later, he felt that the sitting government in Madrid was about to be taken over by monarchists and fascists and therefore proclaimed a sovereign Catalan state within a federal Spanish republic. That move was not appreciated, so the whole Catalan government was detained and Companys sentenced to 30 years in prison. His luck turned, however, and in 1936, when the Front Nacional (Frente Nacional in Spanish) won the general elections, he was released and took on the task to unite the republican forces within Catalonia.
Companys lead the Catalan government throughout the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). Admittedly he felt less and less content with the central republican authorities, but a bigger problem was the advance of Franco’s nationalist forces. In 1939, when these entered Barcelona, Companys fled to France. There he set up an exile representation of the Generalitat, but Nazi controlled France turned out to be too dangerous a place. On a request by Franco’s regime, in August 1940 Companys was arrested by Gestapo and sent to Spain where a military tribunal rapidly sentenced him to death, basically for “being the President of the Generalitat”.
“You kill an honourable man. For Catalonia!”, are said to have been his last words and in European history, Companys is the only president of a democratic nation who has been executed by a firing squad. In spite of several promises to look in to the matter, the Spanish judiciary still has not annulled the sentence against him. It is not surprising that he is a symbol for Catalan nationalists of all colours.
- - -
Sources: Wikipedia on Lluís Companys in English and Catalan, and on Fets del sis d'octubre in Catalan.
- - -
Here is an Avui article on the small chances to annul the sentence of Companys. Opening cases of this kind risk to serve as legitimisations of those who once claimed to be judges, but in reality were nothing but assassins.
- - -
I promise to take a better picture of Vilanova's Companys monument some day when there is not a FritoLays truck right behind it.
- - -
Technorati tags: Barcelona, Catalonia, Convergència, Independence, Spain, Vilanova