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portada de BMM


DECADES
by J.M. Huertas and J. Fabre

A decade of hunger and reconstruction.
At the beginning of the nineteen forties, the city was slowly awaking from the nightmare of the Civil War which had left deep, indelible marks in its streets and on the skin of its inhabitants... Repression rose to the greatest heights throughout that decade and the infamous "Camp de la Bota" was the setting of daily executions until the holding of the Eucharistic Congress in 1952. The food shortage and hunger that had plagued the city in the period of time preceding the end of the war lasted for the whole following decade, until the authorities cancelled the ration cards, also on the eve of the Eucharistic Congress. The reconstruction of the city was the fundamental factor determining municipal policies over that decade in which the city, under mayors Miquel Mateu and Josep Maria Albert, experienced some interesting changes which contrast with the mediocrity that would mark later years.

The work carried out by the "Lliga" at the City Council in the nineteen forties
The nineteen forties proved to be full of contradictions. While Franco's regime was still striving to consolidate itself, situations arose that would later be unthinkable in the following two decades. One of these aspects was the role played in the political life of Catalonia by men who had been involved in the "Lliga" movement before the outbreak of the Civil War and who were able to continue to do certain pieces of public work in the early post-war years. And it was in Barcelona's municipal schools that the effects of their presence were most strongly felt. (...)

The urge to survive
In the book he wrote with the title "Barcelonas", Manuel Vázquez Montalbán describes the atmosphere of the Barcelona of the nineteen forties as a mixture of grief, fear and desire to escape from reality. "The city was surviving and pretending not to hear the shots of the firing squads, not to notice either the queues at the doors of the "Modelo" prison or the systematic destruction of its identity".
People from old wealthy families and nouveaux-riches alike wanted to forget all about the hardness of life in wartime (although some of them did not really have such a hard time). Workers wanted to forget that nightmare which had caused the death of parents and friends and all but destroyed their sense of self-respect. The middle classes chose to look ahead with hope and faith in a better future. All of them ended up withdrawing into their respective private spaces given that the public space available was very strictly demarcated.

Reconstruction after the bombings
The current pleasant appearance of the avenue that streches at the foot of the Cathedral's stairs is the result of the renovation works that were carried out in 1990, after the construction of an underground car park. It is not a very old open space. Before the Civil War, it used to be occupied by houses. The repeated air raids by Franco's bombers on the area surrounding the harbour reached as far as the Cathedral neighbourhood, severely damaging the houses that had been erected against the old Roman walls. This later allowed the post-war City Councils to implement the second stage of the remodelling works detailed in the Baixeras Plan without too much hindrance. (...)

Changes of monuments and street names
With regards to streets, it was officially decided that, basically, "all the thoroughfares and squares of our city would recover the name they had prior to April 14th, 1931", thus getting back to the nomenclature in force under Primo de Rivera's ditatorship. Besides, approximately forty new names, all of them closely linked with the "National Movement", from "Generalísimo" Franco to the Alcázar of Toledo, appeared on the new street maps in the early nineteen forties to christen either recently created urban spaces or streets the older names of which (i.e. Revolution or Autonomy) were no longer considered politically convenient. (...)

The creation of a new urban space gives the starting signal to a change of air
The decade was coming to an end when the creation of a new urban space dazzled the people of Barcelona, giving the starting signal to a series of transformations that would be carried out over the first two years of the following decade in view of the Eucharistic Congress that was to be held in our city. On the site where the Marianao Palace used to stand, at the cross-roads between Paseo de Gràcia and Gran Via, they started to erect the skyscraper that would house the "Banco Vitalicio", a towering building the inordinate height of which struck Barcelona residents as an awesomely unusual sight. The only skyscraper they had ever had a chance to see before the war was the rather unobtrusive one that had been built under the Republican government on the corner of the calle Jonqueres and the calle Trafalgar.