Barcelona – A Vision of the City
As a proud Glaswegian I have always had a keen interest in the historic links to the cities Red Clydesiders and the social change that they tried so hard to achieve. From the events of Black Friday 1919 in George Square to the Poll Tax and Gulf War demonstrations, Glasgow has never hidden from its right to protest or challenge oppression here in the UK or abroad. There are a number of reminders around our great city that keep those passions burning brightly, including the Visions of the City display at the Peoples Palace, the controversially renamed Nelson Mandela place and the monuments to the volunteers of the International Brigades who left the city to fight for democracy in the Spanish Civil War.
Those stories of the International Brigaders who travelled to Barcelona to help the fledgling rainbow government of Spain in their time of need has always resonated with me. In 2014 I made the journey to Madrid for the annual commemoration of the battle of Jarama, touring the battle sites of the protracted war for control the Spanish capital. I had to wait another 3 years before making my pilgrimage to the Catalan capital to walk amongst the echoes of the struggle that scar the cities architecture.
I joined a Spanish Civil War tour of the city during a summer break to Barcelona. The tour is led by writer and military historian Nick Lloyd. Starting from the Plaça de Catalunya, a multicultural group hailing from America, Germany, Sweden & Scotland congregated for an early morning reminder of the origins of the struggle for Spain. Amongst the traffic noise and hum of a confident modern megacity I began to recognise the iconic landmarks of the many pictures captured during the battle, perhaps most famously the image of Marina Ginesta standing with rifle strapped to her back overlooking the fragile city.
The tour takes you on a wander around the old streets and lanes which straddle the magnificent La Rambla. Moving from the busy thoroughfare to the beautiful hidden cobbled lanes the wounds from the close quarter clashes can be seen on buildings and churches. We are reminded of the propaganda so heavily used during the conflict & the power that these images and stories still hold today.
Exploring the area surrounding La Rambla taking in many of the sites critical to the Civil War in Barcelona, Nick provides a deep insight into the complicated and deadly make up of the different factions of the Republican movement, which although at war with the nationalist fascist forces, could still find time to inflict greater damage on their allies in the struggle.
The excursion comes to an end at Bar La Llibertària, which displays posters & pictures of the war. There is plenty of time to chat over a beer or a coffee and to gain a better understanding of the power of the female influence on the conflict as well as the ultimate fall of the new government in Spain.
It is easy to visit Barcelona and enjoy the shopping, architecture, cafes and of course the Camp Nou, but the Civil War tour offers a different view on a wonderful city and a clear understanding of the continued desire for an alternative future for Catalonia.