|The Ebro from its source in Catabria to the delta in Catalonia|
The river Ebro 930 kilometres long is famous for its bounteous stock of catfish and carp. As the estuary has grown over the centuries the town of Amposta which was originally a sea port in the fourth century is now several miles inland.
|Rice workers keen to have their picture taken|
We had coffee a Cortado (or literally “cut coffee”) in Corbera a town high above the Ebro where the conclusive battle of the Spanish Civil War took place. In the 115 days between 25 July and 16 November 1938 the Nationalist forces of General Franco defeated the opposition forces fighting for freedom and Republicanism. These forces included Communists, Anarchists and the International Brigades formed from volunteers from all over the world. It is widely acknowledged that Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany supported the Nationalists in spite of their apparent agreement to a non-intervention treaty.
Their unremitting aerial bombardment was decisive in its effect on the Republican forces who were also weakened by hunger and thirst in the heat of summer.
The number of people who actually took part or witnessed these events are rapidly diminishing although there are plenty of signs that the proud independent spirit of Catalonia continues.
|Young socialist organisation signposted in old part of Reus|
Although there has been a period of ignoring or trying to forget this conflict throughout Spain there are now signs that these memories will be restored. Museums have been built – “centres of interpretation” – perhaps recognising that facts cannot have meaning without interpretation.
As we stood up to pay for our coffee and go up to the old town a man came up to us to show us an old photo in a newspaper cutting from the 30s of the Republican forces gathered in the street we were standing in. He pointed up to the old town which had previously had 2,500 inhabitants before being destroyed in the bombing. He was perhaps only in his 60s and therefore born long after the end of the Spanish Civil War – however no doubt friends and members of his family had been killed in that devastating battle.
|Church of Sant Pere|
On the hill we found the remains of the church of Sant Pere – beautifully restored and its roof entirely missing but replaced by a transparent covering creating a light filled atrium.
In what seems to be a particularly Catalonian fusion of the imagination and history the church contained contemporary artists’ works conveying the concept of freedom of thought and speech.
|The church which is now an art gallery.|