By 8am on September 10, the streets of Gibraltar were flecked with red and white as locals and supporters flocked into the streets to celebrate the country’s National Day.
In recent months, the tensions between Gibraltar and neighbouring Spain have been on the rise. Legally given to Britain back in 1713 as part of the Treaty of Utrecht, Gibraltar has been a British dependency ever since, and is a country immensely proud of its roots. After years of Spanish leaders, such as Francisco Franco, trying to claim back the Rock, Gibraltar is now more patriotic then ever before.
“Hell will freeze over,” a phrase now made famous by Gibraltar’s chief minister Fabian Picardo, was plastered over t-shirts adorning the chests of locals. Banners sporting the Union Jack flew at every corner, alongside bunting blazing red and white overhead.
A day of celebration, the Rock’s Main Street and Irish Town were full of beaming faces as we headed towards Casemates Square. Babies in pushchairs waving flags, groups carrying banners of political notions and dogs in fancy dress. Even the ICC building joined in, hanging the words: “the soil of Gibraltar should belong to no one but the people of Gibraltar” from its walls. The closer to the square we got, the thicker the crowd grew, and by the time we entered cobbled plaza we were surrounded by a sea of red and white, cheers and smiles.
Entertaining the crowd, the stage was alive with dancers and singers, the beat of their soundtrack so loud that it vibrated my rib cage. After an hour of patriotically clad locals sauntering by, their Union Jack sunglasses glinting, it was time for the political rally.
Taking to the stage were Gibraltar’s government officials, as well as representatives from other British dependencies, such as Jamaica and the Falkland Islands. Rousing speeches ensued, as the crowd cheered and applauded. Supported by Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, a video message was delivered, whereby the PM swore his allegiance and support to Gibraltar, saying: “The British people and my government stand with you now… The British government wholeheartedly supports your right to determine your political future… Gibraltar has been British for 300 years. Let’s keep it that way.” Standing at the back of the crowd, I couldn’t help but feel proud. Not because I’m Gibraltarian, or have any personal connection to the country, but because their inspiring words and commitment to their nation demands respect from any outsider.
Bringing the speeches to a climactic close, the Mayor Anthony Lima and crowd commenced a countdown to the balloon release. To the clatter of clapping and horn of klaxons, thousands of red and white balloons were let loose on the clear blue sky above, sailing overhead and out into the world, followed by the classic Tina Turner hit, Simply The Best and the Gibraltarian National Anthem.
As families and friends congregated for street parties, lunches and dinners, Gibraltar was abuzz with musical performances, BBQs and celebrations. As night fell, the day drew to an end with a spectacular firework display that flooded the Rock and its land with colour: a triumphant end to a thrilling day.
Whatever the country’s political difficulties, National Day 2013 was celebrated in a mature and respectful manner, a tone that the Gibraltarian people should be proud of.
The Rock on which I stand,
May you be forever free,
My own land!’”