In this time of controversy and political debate in Spain, it’s interesting that a small festival in Sligo has this week become the subject of discussion in that country.
During the Celtic Fringe Festival, which took place in Sligo in September last, a colleague and I produced a short commemorative video which features 1,100 crosses being assembled at Streedagh Beach, each cross representing the life of a Spanish Armada sailor who died on the beach in 1588.
In the past week, this video has been viewed almost 200,000 times and shared thousands of times over by several online Spanish social media sites. With so much happening in relation to the independence movement in Catalunya, the comments on the video are interesting in that people are asking themselves why anyone in Ireland should care about a topic that is barely taught in schools in Spain.
A lot of the comments have a similar theme – how can it be that a small community in Ireland can commemorate the deaths of so many Spanish people when in Spain itself, there is little awareness generally in relation to what happened to the Armada.
The news and media website Caso Aislado, where the video has been viewed nearly 150,000 times this week, is where most of the commentary has been posted. With many commenting positively on the efforts of the people of Sligo to remember the Armada’s connections, others have spoken more broadly about the politically divisive atmosphere which exists in the country in relation to the Catalan independence movement.
We produced a similar video at last year's festival, which coincided with the arrival of a Spanish Navy ship - the first Armada ship to sail into Sligo Bay since 1588, but it didn't have any great impact online, not that we really expected it to. Why this one has been watched more often is probably down to luck and timing as much as any issues around Spanish identity. But with so much online debate happening in Spain at the moment, it's interesting that a small slice of north Sligo has made its way into the conversation.