Today is a national public holiday in Spain: Constitution Day marks the anniversary of a referendum held on December 6, 1978 where a new constitution was approved. This was an important step in Spain’s transition to becoming a constitutional monarchy and democracy, because it was the constitution that came after Franco’s dictatorship and helped the country move forward.
However, I also wanted to bring attention to another important Spanish Constitution: The 1812 Constitution of Cádiz (La Pepa).
This year, Spain celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Constitution of 1812, known affectionately as “La Pepa” because it was adopted on March 19, the feast day of St. Joseph (Joseph is “José” in Spanish, and the nickname for José is “Pepe” — so the feminine form used for the Constitution is “Pepa”). This was the same constitution I mentioned in my previous post that was surrounded by so much drama!
La Pepa established the principles of universal male suffrage, national sovereignty, constitutional monarchy and freedom of the press, and supported land reform and free enterprise. It was one of the most liberal constitutions of its time, and influenced many others! For many years, the phrase “Viva la Pepa” was politically charged and represented anti-monarchy sentiment. More recently, it has become more light-hearted, but is still used in Spain by those who oppose a monarchy. I remember during my semester in Sevilla, I would hear random shouts of, “Viva la Pepa!” by Spaniards when I’d go out at night.
Fun fact: in Latin America, a popular phrase is “Viva la Pepa!” which is used at parties and such; an exclamation of fun and carefree times and people. My mom, born and raised in El Salvador, has used this phrase her entire life; she had no idea that what they are actually referring to every time they say “Viva la Pepa!” is the Spanish Constitution! My mom said she thought it was just some random girl’s name. 😀