No folks, I’m not talking about the American Civil War, but the Spanish Civil War.
While Barcelona is known by tourists as a bustling city, full of beautiful Art Deco… It’s important to know that there is much more to this city. That is, it was a direct area of fighting during the Spanish Civil War.
So, let me explain…
During the 19th Century, the mindset towards monarchy was rapidly changing. So much so, that in 1812 Spanish Liberals tried to form a new constitution which included universal male suffrage, national sovereignty, constitutional monarchy, freedom of press, and support for land reform and free enterprise. As it was one of the most liberal documents of its time, King Ferdinand VII quickly dissolved this document and any efforts to limit the Spanish monarchy.
Fast forward to 1936: the Spanish army in Morocco led by Francisco Ferdinand started a coup d’etat against the Republican government. The Left side consisted of the Spanish Republic Government, workers, trade unions, Socialists, Communists, and Anarchists. The Right side was supported by the rebelling factions of the army, landowners, the middle class, and the Catholic church. Between the two sides, the army was split almost evenly. Volunteers from outside of the country flooded in to fight in solidarity. Fun Fact: George Orwell was one of these Volunteers. He writes about his experience in Homage to Catalonia.
Orwell describes his experience as a soldier first hand: one memory in particular taking place in “La Rambla,” a busy street in central Barcelona. Orwell was first ordered to defend Ramblas 128, a headquarter of sorts for Anarchists. Today this building is known as Hotel Rivoli Ramblas, which Orwell and his wife were coincidentally staying in. Next door, the Republicans took Cafe Moka, which is also still there today. Later, Orwell decides to move across the street of La Rambla to gain a better shooting position and goes into a building called, Poliorama, a cinema theater. If you were to visit today, you could still look up and see the observatory deck with twin domes that Orwell placed himself at.
However, Orwell was later shot in the throat on La Rambla while trying to return the Anarchist front. While recovering, his army organization, POSM, was condemned as illegal and he became a ‘fugitive’. Luckily, he and his wife were able to flee from Barcelona back to England, where he wrote A Homage to Catalonia.
The Civil War history continues if you travel towards Montjüc. There, you will find one of the remaining air raid shelters open to the public. Side note: I took a tour of the 200 meter tunnels myself and was amazed. If you continue up the hill, you will find the Castell de Montjuïc, which was used as a prison and torture spot by both sides. It was also the spot where the President (or Generalitat) of Catalonia was shot by Franco’s men.
If you want to visit Castell de Montjuïc, you can take a cable car up the mountain!
So, as you can see, there is so much history to the beautiful city of Barcelona. I invite you to research it yourself and check it out!