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THE REPUBLICAN YEARS
by J. Fabre, J.M. Huertas and. Pradas


The decade of the nineteen thirties left a determinative imprint on the people who would live in Barcelona over the following decades. They had to live through two divergent political regimes and experience three highly different ways of life : torn away from the atmosphere of freedom created by the Republic, they suffered first the hardships of the Civil War years and, finally, the wretchedness brought about by Franco's dictatorship. In that same period of time, the city itself underwent equally momentous changes, most particularly the material transformation that had its origins in the heavy damage inflicted by the bombs dropped by the Fascist forces.
The Republican City Council did not have time to put their most significant, large-scale projects into practice. Mayors Aiguader and Pi i Sunyer had started to implement ideas that meant a significant modernization of the policies that had been traditionally pursued by their predecessors at the head of the municipal government.
They built schools and gardens, but the outbreak of the Civil War put a stop to practically all town-planning endeavours and, later, post-war Barcelona remained paralized throughout the decade of the nineteen forties. That interruption in the city's development gave rise to a period of recession Barcelona took a long time to recover from.

The prisons of Barcelona

(...) In 1939, the new regime had two large prisons at its disposal, namely the "Model" for male prisoners and the "Les Corts" jail for women. However, political repression reached such heights that those two institutions soon proved to be quite insufficient to house all the prisoners and many other buildings had to be fitted out to be used as provisional prisons. That was the case with some of the pavilions that had been erected for the 1929 International Exhibition, the "Cànem" factory in the Poblenou district, a building still under construction located on the site on which the famous "Llars Mundet" would later be built, in the Vall d'Hebron neighbourhood, along with several other big rambling houses where the prisoners often died of consumption or which they left only to be brought in front of a firing squad. Those who survived and who, in later years, had the opportunity to relate their experience of imprisonment in those places, gave overwhelming testimonies of all kinds of vexations and harsh treatment, and of a life of absolute misery in overcrowded cells. (...)

The first "Book Day"

On Sunday, 12th of April, 1931, Spain voted for the abolition of Monarchy and, on tuesday 14th of April, the country became a Republic. Barcelona came alive and there was a great deal of festive bustling about that lasted for several days. The following week, the celebrations marking the first official "Book Festival" took place on thursday 23rd, coinciding with Saint George's Day. Until that time, there had been but a few lukewarm celebrations of the "Book Day" in different parts of Spain on October 7th.

The "Dia del Libro Español", i.e. the "Spanish Book Day" as it was officially christened, had been instituted by Royal Decree on February 6th, 1926, under General Primo de Rivera's dictatorship. That decision actually was the government's riposte to a similar initiative introduced but a few years earlier by Catalan publisher Vicent Clavel i Andrès who, as a member of the "Cambra Oficial del Llibre de Barcelona" (the Barcelona Official Book Chamber), had proposed in 1922 "that a given day should be devoted every year to celebrating the "Fiesta del Libro Español" (Spanish Book Festival)", as put on record in the official Memorandum issued by the Chamber. (...)

The Turó Park, a curtailed green space
For thousands of Barcelona residents, childhood memories of the Turó Park are indissolubly associate 934, Rubió i Tudurí directed the lanscaping project thought out for the section of the Turó park that could ultimately be salvaged from speculative manoeuvring. (...)

The city under heavy bombardment
The bombing of Barcelona started in February 1937. The first attacks were launched from warships but, from the month of May onwards, they were replaced by a steady stream of air raids. The Fascist air force - more particularly the Italian troops stationed in Majorca, but also, towards the end of the934, Rubió i Tudurí directed the lanscaping project thought out for the section of the Turó park that could ultimately be salvaged from speculative manoeuvring. (...)

The city under heavy bombardment
The bombing of Barcelona started in February 1937. The first attacks were launched from warships but, from the month of May onwards, they were replaced by a steady stream of air raids. The Fascist air force - more particularly the Italian troops stationed in Majorca, but also, towards the end of the war, the German Condor Legion - kept dropping heavy bombs, launching nearly two thousands deadly attacks on the city.

Approximately 2.500 Barcelona residents died as a result of the bombing. The harshest air raids took place on the 16th, 17th and 18th of March, 1938, killing nearly one thousand people, if we include the wounded who could not be saved. The neighbourhoods that were most severely damaged by the bombing were those situated in the vicinity of the harbour - i.e. La Barceloneta, Ciutat Vella, Poble Sec, Poblenou -, but other sections of the city far away from any strategic target area also suffered the consequences of the bombardments. (...)

The 1938 aurora borealis
The "aurora borealis" is a luminescent meteor, a phenomenon that frequently happens in areas close to the North Pole and which can also be seen in rather exceptional circumstances in regions of Central Europe. So the aurora borealis that could quite clearly be seen from the Pyrenees, and even from the top of the Tibidabo hill in Barcelona, on the 25th of January 1938, was an absolutely unusual occurrence. It was in fact a unique experience. There are no known accounts of any other event of that kind at such meridional latitudes.

Furthermore, the phenomenon took place in the midst of war, thus causing terrible confusion and shock among the soldiers who were fighting on the Aragonese front. (...)