El Día Del Trabajador: How People Celebrate May Day in Spain

What is the “día del trabajador” in Spain?

May Day in Spain is known as El día del trabajador or Primero de Mayo and was celebrated for the first time in 1889: its origin is the same as the International Labour Day, the worker revolt in Chicago in 1886.

For the first Labor Day celebration, socialists and anarchists planned two separate demonstrations in Madrid.

For the socialists it was a great success: a huge number of people took part in the protest and it ended obtaining a shorter working day, which was the most important goal.

In Madrid the celebration was quite peaceful but elsewhere in Spain (for example in the Basque Countries) the protests were very violent. For this reason the government prohibited public manifestations, so the following year the socialists focused only on labor laws and rights in order not to break the law, whilst the anarchist lost interest in the celebration because their only goal was the social revolution but they couldn’t carry on their fight.

Even though the Spanish Labor Day is dated back to the 1889, it became an official holiday only in 1931, allowing people to protest against the government regarding work related themes.

And that’s not all!

In 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, Franco abolished this holiday and only small secret protests were held by groups of workers against Franco’s army. In addition to that, all the Spanish exiled by Franco continued celebrating the Labor Day outside Spain, holding banners with a clear protest against his regimen.

After many vicissitudes, the Día Del Trabajador was re-legalized after four decades, in 1978: since then it consists of peaceful and well organized protests supported by trade unions.

Nowadays the atmosphere is more festive than in the past, but people still take part in demonstrations all around the country and commemorate those who fought for the worker’s rights. This year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, demonstrations are banned but trade unions are planning alternative ways to commemorate this important day.

What about your country? How do you celebrate the Labour Day?

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