IHT Global Opinion
Spain's New Old Flag
by Jonathan Blitzer

At public demonstrations against austerity measures, an ever diverse array of protestors, including young people, wave the old tricolor. As the journalist Javier Valenzuela told me, “Young people in their 20s and up are identifying the flag as a symbol of protest against the current state of affairs.”

Bearers of the Republican flag at public demonstrations say it has a range of meanings. Some cite historical memory of the atrocities of the Civil War and its enduring legacy of unburied enmities. Others, drawing on the history of the Second Republic, mention the waning prestige of the Spanish monarchy.

Still more carry it to rallies as a call for economic justice at a time when the government is doing nothing about the widening gap between the rich and the poor — a chief issue also during the early years of the Republic. As one activist remarked: “The question shouldn’t be ‘Why are we seeing so many more Republican flags now?’ It should be ‘Why weren’t we seeing more of them in the years before?’”

The flag is, crucially, a catchall. In the current political morass it’s hard for engaged citizens to know where exactly to take aim with a pointed critique. So much seems to be going wrong. The Republican flag invites and sustains activism while also keeping criticism flexible and open-ended.


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