Cannons and canvas

Another bustling weekend, this time in Catalonia, a few hours by car north of our base in Valencia.

In the 1930s before World War II, Spain fought a civil war that pitted fascists/aristocrats (called Nationalists) against anarchists/socialists (called Republicans). The war was long, bloody, and irregular in many ways (the first and only time anarchists as an organized collective rose up, for example). The fascists won and ushered in almost 40 years of dictatorship. And today, still, the war is a sore spot verging on taboo to discuss in Spain.

The longest, largest, most decisive battle of the Spanish Civil War took place in the valley and surrounding mountains of the Ebro River. The Battle of the Ebro, as it was called, lasted for 115 days and according to one sign in an "interpretation centre," close to 300,000 combatants participated, including "international volunteers" on the Republican side.

Thanks to Germany and Italy, fascist in those days, but also countries like France and Britain which refused to intervene, the Nationalists were stocked with more heavy firepower over the course of the fighting and the Republicans, though supported by the Soviet Union, suffered casualties two to three times as high as did the fascists, depending on the sources.

Among the reasons for wanting to see the Ebro was that family on my spouse's side died in the war, not in this battle per se but in the buildup to it, fighting for the Republican cause.

The small town of Corbera d'Ebre goes back to pre-Roman times. It was completely destroyed during the battle. We poked through the ruins. The new Corbera that was rebuilt nearby has left the old town as it was as a reminder of the war.
Trenches are still visible all over.
A map installed by the International Brigade Memorial Trust, showing the locations of the British Battalion, the American Lincoln-Washington Battalion, and the Canadian Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion. These soldiers were not conscripts as in WWII, but volunteers who went to fight fascism before it was was official or even acceptable to do so. Many faced persecution when they returned home.
If you haven't seen Ken Loach's Land and Freedom, it's a great starting point

The next day, we made our way to a town on the coast called Vila-seca, where a "pintura rĂ¡pida" contest was scheduled to take place. Was it ever a different world.

The town was celebrating its festes majors, its patron saint, and was in full party mood, despite insane heat.
We pulled in late and because the best spots had already been claimed, I was forced to work in the open sun, and in what turned out to be a funeral path, which meant I had to move elsewhere after an hour and freestyle from memory. Then a lot of drunk people were out earlier than is healthy and they threw beer at me. So, it was a frustrating experience and I didn't want  to hand in the half-finished work when it was due at 1pm.
But I did, just in case the jury was into a combination of naif and minimalism.
But no, they weren't. This got a prize.
And this, I believe, got the top prize.
Next weekend, if all goes well, I should be out at another contest and I'm already thinking about how to make it better. It will take me longer to recuperate before seeing more battle sites.

As always, check out for the latest.


  1. Hi, Ivano: I really appreciated the history lesson and the time you took to explain the photos. I really like your painting as well as the one that took top prize. I bet the artist didn't have to contend with beer-throwers, though. Zia Vilma.


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