Is Colón already pointing the finger at the municipal warehouse?, by Carles Cols

The third day’The uncomfortable Barcelona‘ (that is, conclaves of debate and, if necessary, of proposals on what to do with the city’s most controversial monuments) was, said in hunting terms, a whole game of big game hunting. Nothing less than the silhouette of the Columbus Monument could be seen through the sight of the shotgun. The funny thing is that these debates, which are held in the old waiting room of the Modelo prison, bear the official stamp of the Barcelona City Council. They’re not binding, of course, but neither is cutting open a melon and, if it turns out good, all that’s left of it is the skin. From that third session it can be suggested that Columbus’s finger points, although it is not yet known when, in the direction of the municipal urban art repository of the Zona Franca.

That of Colón is, as is known, a Guadianesque debate, but much more than what is usually assumed at street level. The monument to the admiral was inaugurated in 1888 and in 1889 there were already requests that, after the Universal Exhibition, that atypical monument be removed. The atypical thing is not a saying to confuse. The common thing is that sculpted figures like this one are exhibited on a pedestal of standard size, not on a column of more than 50 meters, a circumstance that greatly conditions those moments of iconoclasm to which she has been so fond, albeit somewhat erratically, always Barcelona. Examples later.

The said. The Guardian. In 1898, with the loss of the last colonies, the debate was resumed. Why pay homage to what has been lost? Was he then pointing the finger in the direction of a collective shame? Columbus survived that controversy. Putting this dilemma aside, however, the truth is that the monument, little by little, became one of the postcards of the city, almost a symbol, and only in more recent times, within the framework of that ideological sepsis that has brought the 21st century, its presence has once again been questioned, but this time because it is supposed to be a pike that the most stale Spanish stuck in the center of the capital of Catalonia. Absolutely false. The debate on ‘The Inconvenient Barcelona’ opened up a powerful light on this issue.

For the occasion, the guest speaker on Wednesday was Juan José Lahuerta, architect, art historian and, as a lecturer, an effective alarm clock capable of bringing the most deeply asleep from the sleep of forgetfulness. He recalled in great detail what tends to be forgotten, that It is more than debatable that Columbus was Catalan, but what is unquestionable is that his monument in Barcelona is of a Catalan nature beyond any doubt, almost Verdaguian.

Lahuerta telegraphed that story more or less like this. The Catalan bourgeoisie of the 19th century, that’s no secret, cursed Cerdà’s Eixample, but only until it discovered that it was an extraordinary source of real estate profits (which, in a way, lasts until today) but for its most prominent representatives, Joan Güell and Antonio López, for example, the soul of Barcelona was still the same as always, the intramural. Both were Indians of gigantic fortune and with a public image to whiten. The monument to Columbus was erected with the excuse of the 1888 expo, but above all in a context in which Barcelona had become the main bastion of those who opposed the abolition of slavery in the colonies. In 1872, more than 3,000 worthy representatives of the Catalan bourgeoisie attended the Llotja at the founding of the National League, almost a slave political party.

All of this was happening at the same time that the city was being refounded urbanistically. It was necessary to decide how to tile the sidewalks, how the new lampposts should be, the design of the kiosks and, of course, with what monumentality Barcelona was presented to the world. For Lahuerta, the crucial thing about that moment is how it was decided to iconize the outer perimeter of the ancient city.

In 1888, at the corner of La Rambla and Gran Via, a monument to Joan Guell, patriarch of the saga of that surname. His statue was pulled down in 1936 and replaced (somewhat smaller and relocated a few meters further, where it still stands) in 1941.

In 1887, an equestrian tribute to General Primecontroversial figure, city ​​bomber, although not the only one. That statue was also thrown to the ground in 1936 and was restored later, during the dictatorship.

Then there is, of course, the tribute to Anthony Lopez. His monument was erected in 1884 at what would later be the starting point of the Via Laietana. In 1936 he suffered the same fate as Güell and Prim. His figure was also restored after the civil war, but today he is the only one that no longer has a monument, in his case by municipal decision, not as a result of a row, but in a planned way, something that on the same day of ‘The uncomfortable Barcelona’ was reviewed with very interesting details by the person in charge of that operation of institutional iconoclasm, Ricard Vinyes. Before returning to Colón, it is worth noting two juicy issues that he brought to the table.

First. He explained that when he was commissioned to review the monumentality of Barcelona and, consequently, propose ups and downs, Antonio López was not the first on the list. The presence of the Marquis de Comillas on top of a pedestal was not a pressing problem, but an ethical dilemma that had to be resolved, Vinyes said, but stressed that, in his opinion, even more serious is that Manuel de Amat i Junyent, viceroy of Peru, has a square and a metro stop, Virrei Amat, as if the fact that in his time he ended up becoming a character in ‘Hello!’ ‘avant la lettre’ for his love affairs will sweeten his figure.

Second and much juicier. Vinyes emphasized that the removal of the statue of Antonio López was not a punitive action, but scrupulous with respect to historical heritage. That’s how it is. The figure of that slaver rests intact in a warehouse in the Free Zone. The point is that Vinyes contrasted this way of acting with what happened in Barcelona when the monument to José Antonio Primo de Rivera was removed from Avinguda de Josep Tarradellas. It was late, in 2009! and it was executed with no intention of saving it, as it should be. The anecdote, priceless, is that the author of those philophalangist friezes, Jordi Puiggalí, attended the dismantling operations, asking the mayor Jordi Hereu that, since they did not want them, they would give them to him, since they would look very good in the villa in your son.

Having made this parenthesis, the question is what fit the tribute to Columbus had in the monumentalist decade of the 80s of the 19th century. Well, central, said Lahuerta. “By honoring Columbus, Catalonia honors its favorite sons”. That was the motto with which the collection of contributions was promoted to finance the works. Columbus was thanked for the prosperity of the ruling classes of Catalonia. He was not embraced like any other Catalan, but it was emphasized that in his transatlantic expeditions there was the crucial support of the Crown of Aragon.

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This is visible in the monument itself because two Catalans, Perer de Margarit and Jaume Ferrer de Blanes, a Valencian, Luis de Santángel, and an Aragonese, Bernat Boïl, have a special role at the base. Thus, Columbus was a sort of foundational Abraham of the nineteenth-century wealth of the Güells and Lópezs, so, in a certain way, what was left as a possible idea in the air in the days of ‘The uncomfortable Barcelona’ is that Columbus, one day, if it loses its pedestal, it is not because it sailed west but because of the ethically reprehensible context in which it was decided that it deserved a tributebecause those who promoted it were the same ones who organized levies of supposedly voluntary soldiers to fight for the interests of Barcelona’s elites overseas or in Morocco, butcher shops that were often financed by the Provincial Council, apparently paid to hire mercenaries .

Of course, the fifth character of that ‘auca’ from Barcelona 135 years ago, Jacint Verdaguer, remains in the pipeline, and we must not forget that his masterpiece, ‘L’Atlàntida’, was going to be titled in a first ‘Colón’ version and, in a second attempt also rejected, ‘La España naciente’. It is matter, perhaps, for a future second season of ‘The uncomfortable Barcelona’. for now, There is one last session of the first, next Wednesday, also in the Model. It is very promising. The uncomfortable piece up for debate will be that incomprehensible Francesc Cambó that Pasqual Maragall placed on Via Laietana in 1997. Their immediate future will be debated now that the street is undergoing renovation works and, perhaps, something that has hovered over previous conferences will be delved into, Barcelona’s deranged memory policy during three decades of socialist governments.

The shame of slavery was voted in Congress

It went unnoticed. The Congress of Deputies voted and approved on April 26 an initiative in which it is invited to honor the victims of Spain’s slave-owning past. The role of this country in this matter was not minor. It is not, either, an unknown issue. In Catalonia, for example, the approaches that the historian Martín Rodrigo Alharilla has made to this issue from an academic perspective are really very brilliant, but the problem is precisely that, that beyond the university environment, the debate has barely permeated other institutions.

The initiative had the predictable vote against Vox and the abstention of PP and Ciudadanos. In other countries with a slave past that would be inconceivable. Years ago they have begun to feel that shame. In 2008, for example, Jan Peter Balkenende, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, a country with a slave-trading past that is also impressive, presided over an institutional act of repentance. “This is a shameful episode in our history & rdquor ;, he said.

Since then, similar gestures have been reproduced in other countries. Not in Spain until last April 26. That the clock of history marks the hours late in Spain is very obvious to Rodrigo Alharilla, who underlines what was happening, for example, at Harvard that same day. The prestigious American university announced on that day that it would allocate a fund of 100 million dollars to finance slavery research.

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