MADRID (AP) — King Felipe VI presided over a military parade celebrating Spain's National Day on Monday during which 3,400 soldiers in crisp uniforms marched in central Madrid while armed forces aircraft performed a flyby, leaving trails of red and yellow smoke representing the Spanish flag.
Thousands of people lined the sidewalks of the Paseo de la Castellana boulevard cheering and waving flags as the king saluted, accompanied by Queen Letizia and their children, princesses Leonor and Sofia.
In the northeastern city of Barcelona, several thousand people used the celebrations to gather in a central square and emphasize their opposition to Catalan independence two weeks after the region's government held a vote to measure pro-secessionist support.
In that vote, parties pushing for independence from Spain won a majority of seats in Catalonia's regional parliament, but failed to secure more than 50 percent of the popular vote in an election they had hoped would give them a clear, unequivocal mandate for secession.
Barcelona mayor Ada Colau said she had refused to participate because the date marks not a day of pride for Spain, rather one of shame.
"Shame on a state that celebrates genocide, and on top of that holds a military parade that cost 800,000 euros ($909,000)," Colau tweeted, referring to indigenous people that died as a result of Spain's conquests in North and South America.
Monday's holiday is known as Dia de la Hispanidad, or Hispanic Day. It commemorates Christopher Columbus' arrival in the New World and is also Spain's armed forces day.
In a separate event, around 150 right-wing sympathizers set off flares, burned Catalan regional flags and vigorously waved Spanish national colors to demonstrate their antipathy for the secessionist movement. The protest ended peacefully.
Soldiers from the country's many historic regiments took part in the Madrid march and there were gatherings in other cities such as northern Pamplona, close to the Basque region, and central Zaragoza.