Monday, May 1, 2017


It's been a while, hasn't it?
In some ways, not that much has happened. In other ways, of course, lots has happened.

The various crises which beset us last month have resolved to varying degrees.

Kodiak's school situation is certainly better than it was a month ago. He no longer protests attending school, and seems genuinely happy at the end of the school-day, but his acquisition of Spanish continues to be slow. Either...
• his brain is different and he's not picking it up the way many 6-year olds do,
• he is rebelling in some way against being here by intentionally resisting the language,
• he is actually picking it up, but not letting on to his parents, or
• I worry too much.

Our housing situation remains unchanged. I actually have come to enjoy living in the Raval, in the city center... but I am in the minority. Christina and Kodiak both seem to want more space with less people, so I'll go with the flow. We are looking for a new place... looking in the Collserola, Gracia, maybe in Sants or Montjuic... but we haven't seen anything too inspiring yet.

Our efforts to get the Hand of Man over to Europe have resolved fairly well, although with plenty of lingering uncertainty, for good measure...
Festival A (on whom I was depending for transatlantic shipping, but who was seeming to suffer from some sort of ongoing internal implosion) ended up coming up short of what was needed to make the whole thing possible. Since Festival B (which I can now identify as Maker Faire Berlin) was saying all along that they also didn't have enough money, it looked like it was all going to fall through. When I put it in those clear terms, Maker Faire Berlin figured out how to find a bit more money. It's enough to get the piece over to Berlin, and back to Barcelona... but not back to the US! Ha ha, what a risk I am taking!! Well, I hope to book enough more shows here in Europe to get it home one day! Already there is at least one other show starting to show a bit of promise, so we will see...

All along, in this here blog, I've been talking about the idea that a place like Barcelona offers a different set of resources than a place like New Mexico, and that I hope to take advantage of those resource while here. Among the more easily identified of these resources would be things like museums and other kinds of cultural resources, educational opportunities, retail availability, the beach. But another thing you find here, as in most of Europe I would guess, is history.

About a week ago, joined by our friends Kate and Sam and Brent and Sarah, all visiting from the US, we finally took the highly recommended Barcelona Civil War Tour, offered by Nick Lloyd. It was, actually, amazing. Nick has lived in Barcelona for 25 years and is obviously passionate about its history. His tour is a walk around the old town in which the importance of various actual locations during the war is illuminated and discussed. In many instances there is extant physical evidence, such as painted signs or gunshot damage in the stone walls. He is incredibly knowledgable on the topic of the war and its prelude, and has actually written a book which I think functions something like the-tour-in-book-form, although presumably much expanded.

Bomb damage from Plaça Sant Felip Neri which killed about 3 dozen orphans, photo taken in my first weeks here in Barcelona

The tour absolutely increased my understanding of the dynamics that led to the war, as well as the history and the meaning of the war itself. Before I go any further, I must insert the following caveat: The Spanish Civil War was immensely complex, and I am sure that I am among the least qualified people to discuss it, and any comments I make are probably wrong in at least some small way. I'm not hoping to start a conversation here on Geopolitics. All I hope to do is comment on a few points that Nick's tour brought to light, and perhaps share an opinion or two.

The strongest impression I have coming away from the tour and the limited reading I've done is the immense cruelty and injustice done to the Spanish people at the hands of a small but powerful military cadre which was motivated by fear of change and fear of liberalism. Starting in 1931 Spain began a process of liberalization which included elections, typically won in those years by left-leaning candidates and causes. Although it was still a painfully hierarchical and divided country, Spain was beginning to come out of the shadow of the Monarchy and into the 20th century. Cataluña was flourishing. And then, in July of 1936, a group of battle-hardened Spanish generals, fresh from fighting in Morocco, decided they didn't like all this "communism" going on in Spain, and attempted a rebellion. The rebellion was only half successful; they took some parts of Spain but not all of it. Thus... the Civil War. This is of course a gross oversimplification, but that's basically how it started. It's crazy.

The war split the country between the right, or the Nationalists (aligned with land-owners, employers, the rich, the church, and about half the military) and the left, or the Republicans (aligned with workers, anarchists, most of the youth, and the other half of the military).

"Mujeres Libres," Republican women, from La Llibertária, a bar on Carrer Talleres

Things looked good for the Republicans initially, but it didn't last. Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy supported Franco's Nationalists generously, while the US, England, and the rest of the world refused to weigh in. Russia helped the Republicans a bit, but not officially. The Italian Air Force and the German Luftwaffe used Spain to get their pilots accustomed to dropping bombs on civilians.

Bombing of Gran Via de Corts Catalanes, Barcelona by Italian pilots, 1938, Wikipedia

So the war was won by the backwards-looking conservatives with the help of Europe's budding fascist regimes, who crushed the forward-looking liberal side, and then subjugated them for 36 years. To ensure conformity, Franco killed hundreds of thousands and outlawed every political party but his own. He famously claimed that he would kill half of Spain if he needed to. Nationalists killed in the war were given proper funerals and commemorated by plaques, fallen Republicans were buried in roadside ditches. When World War II ended, the Allies liberated Germany and Italy, but not Spain... in part because the oppressed Left in Spain was always associated with communism.

When Franco died of natural causes in November 1975, Spain transitioned easily into democracy. It seems they'd had enough of the Fascist experiment. Since that time, spaniards live by the "pact of forgetting," which is what it sounds like. It's all too painful to talk about or think about, so they consciously choose not to.

This is obviously a huge topic and I don't pretend to be an authority, but its fascinating. And it's a tribute to Nick's tour that I know as much as I do, or care. At the end of his tour, Nick is visibly wiped out; he puts so much of himself into it. Highly recommended.

From the cover of a book at Rosa de Foc, Communist Bookstore, Barcelona

Footnotes: My sources of information for this post are: Nick's tour, Wikipedia, Homage to Barcelona, and Ghosts of Spain.


  1. very interesting about the Civil War tour - I will have to take it !!! and the photo is very eerie ! I thought you were going to make the comparison of the political climate in the US now ( backward conservatives vs. forward-looking liberals )- could be a fore-warning !

  2. thanks ristow...saw picasso's guernicia online the other day.......eole with power and greed have sure fucked up the world for the rest of us....

  3. Yes indeed, Kate... yes indeed!
    Its enough to make you angry!