At 9.55 every night, the tension mounts. In every household across the land of Catalonia, matriarchs stare at the clocks, waiting. And then the moment arrives: 10pm. The matriarchs hurl their battle-cries: ‘Once more unto the breach, dear friends – and bring the pots’, and families dart to the front-line of the balconies to wage war with their woks.
Ok, I’m exaggerating but it genuinely is dramatic.
Each night, independentist Catalans take to their balconies and protest against the Spanish government by banging pots and pans. Pro-independence Catalans object to the Spanish government’s choice to ignore Catalonia’s right to a political voice, most recently through trying to ban a referendum. The cacophony of sound, created by the pots and pans, serves to symbolise Catalans’ right to be heard. It spreads a soundwave of solidarity so loud, it’s a wonder they can’t hear it in Madrid.
The protest is performed at 10pm on the dot. Nightly, you will spot Catalans brandishing saucepans and spoons (and confused tourists cowering below), as the bombardment begins. It feels as regular as clockwork.
In fact, on Tuesday 3rd, I was shocked to hear the sauce-panning begin one hour early – at the same time as the Spanish king’s speech. Coincidental? No; King Felipe is widely criticised in Catalonia, and the time-change was a deliberate attack. In fact, following the King’s broadcast, one protestor took to Twitter: saying ‘After listening to that, the only decent thing to do is to find a pot and bang it to hell’.
I thought the kitchenware protest, known as a cacerolada or cassolada, was a Catalan tradition but actually it originated in Chile. It began in the streets of Santiago and then latterly in the houses, where protestors were less at risk of physical attack. Since then, caceroladas have spread, being used to protest in Argentina, Canada and Turkey.
Wandering through the streets during the cacerolada, it originally felt like the whole world, or the whole of Catalonia, had gone to pot – literally. But I should have known better than to underestimate the Catalans. The protest is peaceful, simple and effective. The Catalans have used their pans to whip up a storm, one which will be felt far beyond the streets of Catalonia.