Today I took my class for a cultural walk in Barcelona. There were people from 14 different coutries…a cultural mosaic proper of a cosmopolitan city of many charms.
Away from the tourist herds, one can still enjoy half-forgotten corners at the very heart of Barcelona’s Barri Gòtic (Medieval Quarter). Plaça Sant Felip Neri is one such place…an oasis of tranquility located only a few meters away from the maddening crowds. Behind the peaceful ambiance lies a horrible memory, one that remains engraved in the scarred walls of the Baroque church at the Plaça: it was here that, during the Spanish Civil War, Italian aircrafts bombarded the city, killing over 40 people (mostly children) back in 1938.
Franco, the Spanish dictator that led the Nationalists against the Republicans, had allied himself to Fascist Italy and to Nazi Germany, and literally asked them to bombard Spanish cities like Guernica and Barcelona in order to crush the resistance. He emerged victorious in 1939, but the tragedy remains immortal in the memory of stone (like the walls of the Church of Sant Felip Neri) and in the visual memory of art (like the painting of Guernica by Picasso).
During the Spanish Civil War, several great literary figures joined on the Republican side, writing their memoirs and describing their firsthand experience. George Orwell had much to say, and I leave with some quotes from his novel ‘A Homage to Catalonia’ that we read during today’s walk:
“All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.”
“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”
“The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it.”