Rosa dels Vents has had the very applauded idea of launching a literary collection that she has subtitled ‘Dies que ha fet Catalunya’, something like laying down on the psychiatric couch a city, country or society to remember its life, that is, those moments that have forged his character, his philias, his phobias and even his persecutory manias. It is a type of therapy that has had notable editorial success in other places where it has been tried, such as Italy and France, and that here, coordinated by Agustí Alcoberro, this publishing label has just taken off the press two first titles about the always disconcerting Barcelona, a city of peace, some politicians ridiculously say, but in truth a metropolis subscribed to violence, not to say directly to ‘gore’. In the next two paragraphs, the proof of nine of such a thick statement.
The general Pere Nolasc de Bassa He tried to defend himself in his office with his sword, but could do nothing against the four bullets that the hunchback fired at him Josep Massanet. In the first installment of the adventures of Indiana Jones There is a scene more or less like this, very funny because it is unexpected, but what happened in Barcelona on August 6, 1835 in Barcelona, as the climax of a noise of several days that began on July 25 after a terrible bullfighting afternoon, was in reality of pathological brutality. Low he died in his office, in Pla de Palau. The highest governmental authority in Barcelona then had its headquarters there. He was only the second in command. Manuel LlauderCaptain General of Catalonia, he was not as foolish as Low and it remained outside the city while convents and churches burned or, as is sometimes said, the needles of the Barcelona urban planning clock turned at high speed so that where there were convents, markets such as La Boqueria and Santa Caterina and operatic coliseums such as the Liceu.
The assailants dumped the body of Low by the balcony. They tied his feet and, like a bull after the bullfight, they dragged him to the Plaza de Sant Sebastià, today Antonio López. From there the humiliating parade continued along Ample street, then Regomir, Sant Jaume square, Call street, Avinyó, Ferran, took Nou de la Rambla (formerly Conde del Asalto) to Sant Ramon and then turned right into Sant Pau. Finally on the Rambla, the corpse burned at a stake.
Other chapters could be chosen to highlight the excellent documentation work that historians Jordi Roca Y Núria Miquel have carried out to write ‘La bullanga de Barcelona’, but it is undeniable that this episode greatly underlines that the book does not lack details to narrate and contextualize an episode as crucial as this in the history of Barcelona and, nevertheless, often scorned. In reality, the entire 19th century is often bordered by collective memory and, a bit also, by not a few historians, very addicted to the epic of 1714 and the misfortune of the civil war of 1936, but refractory to that intermediate century, the XIX, germinal of many of the hidden traumas that this city drags. This, as it says AlcoberroIt is a country with a certain indulgence of historical days and the Rosa dels Vents collection is, depending on how you look at it, a highly desirable Alka-Seltzer.
In that noise, an expression coined years later in a derogatory way, but that some like to use as a flag, the Vapor Bonaplata also burned, the first firm step that Barcelona took to enter the industrial era. This does not appear in a book, that is, it is a gift from this section, ‘Barceloneando’, but those who set fire to that factory interpreted that clergy and steam engines were part of the same creed. What a mistake. In that year, the chair of San Pedro occupied it Gregory XVI, one of many potatoes anchored in the past. In his case, he considered the steam engine a work of the devil, to the point that he tried to excommunicate the railway, which in a pun that must be accepted as ingenious, he called ‘chemins d’enfer’, the paths of the hell.
The second title with which the collection starts is another marvel of reading, ‘The tram strike’, a story in ‘crescendo’ by the historian Francesc Vilanova about the most ingenious and effective of the protests carried out in Barcelona, when, at the moment of not knowing yet who, the people of Barcelona opposed the increase in the price of public transport with the simple method of going everywhere on foot. On Sunday March 4, 1951, the fourth day of the protest, to take one day as an example, Barça beat Santander with more pain than glory in the middle of a stormy deluge, but at the end of the game, contrary to what they had foreseen Franco’s authorities, the culerada ‘returned home on foot.
That strike, which was actually two, one for the trams and, 15 days later, another general, is sometimes said to have been the battle in which, 12 years late, Barcelona stood up to the entry of Franco’s troops from the January 26, 1939.
Actually, according to Vilanova, that was more a protest of fed up due to the misery suffered by the people of Barcelona every day (well not all of course), since half the bread was consumed than in 1936, a fifth of the potatoes of that time and a sixth of rice. So poor was the diet that it was in those years, by the way, when the Franco regime tried to convince the Spanish that whale meat was a delicacy, and even considered it fish so that it could be sold on Fridays and thus not upset the priests.
Surprisingly little has been written historiographically about the tram strike. The last time he says Vilanova, did Fèlix Fanés in 1970, and that continues to be a riddle, because it is unknown who filled the mailboxes of half the city with typewritten texts that encouraged to support a strike that, what things are, even enjoyed the sympathy of a part of the Falange. In some police, government or private archive, the definitive clue of this historical cluedo may still be revealed, come on, the name of one or those anonymous heroes who risked their souls to put a kneeling city on its feet and who, year after year, it went from bad to worse. “Survival turned into activism,” Vilanova explains in the book. And it contextualizes it perfectly. Sometimes it is forgotten, but in 1951 the Barcelona City Council had a department with a truly Orwellian name, the Barraquismo Repression Service.
It was, it must be emphasized, a victory that some, no matter how few, paid with their lives. Heads rolled, among others, that of the civil governor himself, Eduardo Baeza Alegria, in case he hadn’t had enough for the people of Barcelona to walk around the city those days with a lily in their hand, to ridicule him of his supposed love affair with Carmen de Lirio, the biggest star of the moment and, according to a collegiate decision of who knows what experts, the most beautiful woman in Spain.
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What was said. Rosa dels Vents has just published two excellent Alka-Seltzer. More, please.