The reapers – Catalonia´s national anthem

Though Catalonia is not a sovereign state, it does have its own national anthem. Even more than one, one could argue.

“The reapers” was already regarded as national anthem of Catalonia long before the Catalan government made that official in 1931. However, during Franco’s dictatorship, after the Spanish civil war, the song was forbidden and singing the hymn (or just talking Catalan) was punished heavily.

For 45 years the hymn survived nonetheless, and in 1976 people were allowed to sing it again. However, another 17 years had to pass, before the song, was officially declared national anthem of Catalonia for the second time in 1993.

The anthem is about the Guerra dels Segadors, (“The reapers’ war”), between 1640 and 1659. In its war with France (1635-1659) Spain had demanded that Catalunya supplies money and men to the Castilian army and forced Catalan peasants (mostly reapers) to accomodate Castilian soldiers.

The reapers suffered abuse, violence and exploitation which in May 1640 led to an uprising and The Reapers’ War that would last 19 years.

The melody, composed by Francesc Alió in 1892, is based on the one of an old folk song. Alió also documented some of the most famous lyrics of the anthem, just like Milà i Fontanals had done in 1882.

However, the modern lyrics are by Emili Guanyavents, who won a competition by the Unió Catalanista (Catalan Union) in 1899. Guanyavents version consists three verses plus refrain and represents a simplified and reduced version of the historical lyrics, which caused a lot of discussion among Catalans at the time.

Guanyavents’ lyrics:

Catalan: English:
Catalunya triomfant, Catalonia triumphant,
tornarà a ser rica i plena. shall again be rich and bountiful.
Endarrera aquesta gent Drive away these people,
tan ufana i tan superba. Who are so conceited and so contemptful.
Refrain: Refrain:
Bon cop de falç! Strike with your sickle!
Bon cop de falç, defensors de la terra! Strike with your sickle, defenders of the land!
Bon cop de falç! Strike with your sickle!
Ara és hora, segadors. Now is the time, reapers.
Ara és hora d’estar alerta. Now is the time to stand alert.
Per quan vingui un altre juny, For when another June comes,
esmolem ben bé les eines. Let us sharpen well our tools.
Refrain Refrain
Que tremoli l’enemic, May the enemy tremble,
en veient la nostra ensenya. upon seeing our symbol.
Com fem caure espigues d’or, Just as we cut golden ears of wheat,
quan convé seguem cadenes. when the time calls we cut off chains.
Refrain Refrain

Besides this official national anthem, LLuis LLach’s song “L’estaca” (“The stake”) is sometimes referred to as inofficial Catalan anthem. This song was composed during Franco’s dictatorship and is a call for freedom. It became hugely popular and has been translated into and adapted to many other languages.

Catalans are a very musical people and “Els segadors” and “L’estaca” are just two examples of the great musical aspect of Catalan culture.

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