When Franco was Átila: the disasters of the war in Galicia

The Galician Guernica is not a large canvas, but a collection of prints signed by Castelao who denounce the brutal repression in their land, where there was no war, only punishment.

The artist and Republican congressman sketches in Galician martyr and Attila in Galicia —that symbolic king of the Huns, here Franksowing barbarism​​— the fascist excesses after the coup d’état of 1936.

“A brutal repression against a potentially resistant and generally unarmed civilian population,” recalls the poet Claudio Rodriguez Ferauthor of the prologue of Nós / War albumsa facsimile edition with which Akal rescues the disasters of the war.

The work is also presented by the writer Carmen Blanco, who goes back to the previous work of Usprints dated between 1916 and 1918 that reflect the abuse of the caciques and the consequences of poverty, the fuse of emigration.

In both there is pain. Perhaps it is convenient, for a chronological and even cause-effect reason, to first review some prints committed to freedom and justice that not only denounce the exploitation of a land, but of all humanity.

just as Galician martyr and Attila in Galicia allude to the misfortunes and unreasonableness of all wars, a diptych that is completed with militiamenthat civil resistance that transcends the Galician borders to extol the heroism of the Spanish people.

Because in those first two albums, Castelao was surprised by the outbreak of the conflict in Madrid, as a representative of the Galician Party for Pontevedra, for which reason he was inspired by oral and written sources to outline the violence unleashed in his country.

‘Everything for the Homeland, religion and family’, a print of ‘Attila in Galicia’, by Castelao. Akal

militiamenOn the other hand, it expands its borders to the entire State, since its impressions “recall the first months of the war, when the heroic impulse of the people stopped the march of the military and gave us time to create the Army of the Republic”, as he left. written by Castelao himself.

Beyond the implicit geographical reference in the titles, we are talking about a work of universal scope, which in Us dialogue with the oppressed peoples through satire, retranca and simple language, so that its echo reaches the enlightened and illiterate.

“A sample of humanist universalism and the brotherhood of poor people”, summarizes carmen whitewho in the prologue defines the prints as a “living classic”, underlined by the “lapidary character of his maxims as a thinker and politician”.

'A túa filla xa will be a girl, eh?', one of the prints of 'Nós', by Castelao.
“A túa filla xa will be a girl, eh?”, one of the prints of ‘Nós’, by Castelao. Akal

Thus, Castelao, at the service of popular causes, shapes his hardships with a rebellious and emancipatory zeal, aware of the yoke of the powerful but singing a song of hope. “He announces the utopia of the realization of the dreams of those people who love freedom,” adds Blanco.

A vision that contrasts—because in Castelao there is room not only for double meanings, but also for polysemy and even contradiction—with a countryman of a desolate, outraged, and sullied land, whose redemption requires political and social change.

Carmen Blanco accurately describes in the prologue the style of the artist, who puts his palette at the service of the theme, so that his original modernism derives in an expressionism that accentuates a liberating pessimism and that, in its war albumsfalls into Goyesque tenebrism.

Photo: 'Arenga', one of the prints of 'Militiamen', by Castelao.
‘Arenga’, one of the prints of ‘Militiamen’, by Castelao. Akal

“He was a magnificent publicist and communicator, a master of brevity and synthesis,” says the professor of Galician Literature at the University of Santiago, who highlights his mastery of caricature and his expressive minimalism, which connects with conceptism.

An avant-garde expression, also indebted to popular tradition, which in the face of the Francoist steamroller will be impregnated with an “expressionist symbolism of gloomy aesthetics”, in the words of Claudio Rodríguez Fer, and which in militiamen it becomes tremendous to put a stop to fascism.

“Thus, his prints have an emblematic character similar to that of guernica and to other nameless massacres”, concludes the poet and essayist, who highlights the presence of Republican women “committed to the fight” and, previously in Usof “all the possibilities of martyrdom and repression against women, including group rapes”.

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