by J.M. Huertas and J. Fabre
A decade of
hunger and reconstruction.
At the beginning of the nineteen forties, the city was slowly
awaking from the nightmare of the Civil War which had left deep,
indelible marks in its streets and on the skin of its inhabitants...
Repression rose to the greatest heights throughout that decade
and the infamous "Camp de la Bota" was the setting of
daily executions until the holding of the Eucharistic Congress
in 1952. The food shortage and hunger that had plagued the city
in the period of time preceding the end of the war lasted for
the whole following decade, until the authorities cancelled the
ration cards, also on the eve of the Eucharistic Congress. The
reconstruction of the city was the fundamental factor determining
municipal policies over that decade in which the city, under mayors
Miquel Mateu and Josep Maria Albert, experienced some interesting
changes which contrast with the mediocrity that would mark later
The work carried
out by the "Lliga" at the City Council in the nineteen
The nineteen forties proved to be full of contradictions. While
Franco's regime was still striving to consolidate itself, situations
arose that would later be unthinkable in the following two decades.
One of these aspects was the role played in the political life
of Catalonia by men who had been involved in the "Lliga"
movement before the outbreak of the Civil War and who were able
to continue to do certain pieces of public work in the early post-war
years. And it was in Barcelona's municipal schools that the effects
of their presence were most strongly felt. (...)
The urge to
In the book he wrote with the title "Barcelonas", Manuel
Vázquez Montalbán describes the atmosphere of the
Barcelona of the nineteen forties as a mixture of grief, fear
and desire to escape from reality. "The city was surviving
and pretending not to hear the shots of the firing squads, not
to notice either the queues at the doors of the "Modelo"
prison or the systematic destruction of its identity".
People from old wealthy families and nouveaux-riches alike wanted
to forget all about the hardness of life in wartime (although
some of them did not really have such a hard time). Workers wanted
to forget that nightmare which had caused the death of parents
and friends and all but destroyed their sense of self-respect.
The middle classes chose to look ahead with hope and faith in
a better future. All of them ended up withdrawing into their respective
private spaces given that the public space available was very
after the bombings
The current pleasant appearance of the avenue that streches at
the foot of the Cathedral's stairs is the result of the renovation
works that were carried out in 1990, after the construction of
an underground car park. It is not a very old open space. Before
the Civil War, it used to be occupied by houses. The repeated
air raids by Franco's bombers on the area surrounding the harbour
reached as far as the Cathedral neighbourhood, severely damaging
the houses that had been erected against the old Roman walls.
This later allowed the post-war City Councils to implement the
second stage of the remodelling works detailed in the Baixeras
Plan without too much hindrance. (...)
monuments and street names
With regards to streets, it was officially decided that, basically,
"all the thoroughfares and squares of our city would recover
the name they had prior to April 14th, 1931", thus getting
back to the nomenclature in force under Primo de Rivera's ditatorship.
Besides, approximately forty new names, all of them closely linked
with the "National Movement", from "Generalísimo"
Franco to the Alcázar of Toledo, appeared on the new street
maps in the early nineteen forties to christen either recently
created urban spaces or streets the older names of which (i.e.
Revolution or Autonomy) were no longer considered politically
creation of a new urban space gives the starting signal to a change
The decade was coming to an end when the creation of a new urban
space dazzled the people of Barcelona, giving the starting signal
to a series of transformations that would be carried out over
the first two years of the following decade in view of the Eucharistic
Congress that was to be held in our city. On the site where the
Marianao Palace used to stand, at the cross-roads between Paseo
de Gràcia and Gran Via, they started to erect the skyscraper
that would house the "Banco Vitalicio", a towering building
the inordinate height of which struck Barcelona residents as an
awesomely unusual sight. The only skyscraper they had ever had
a chance to see before the war was the rather unobtrusive one
that had been built under the Republican government on the corner
of the calle Jonqueres and the calle Trafalgar.