¡Viva la República!There are probably some people in other countries who believe that the Spanish Civil War ended in 1939. Here in Spain everybody knows that it is still going on. Last Thursday (August 20), Paco Ibáñez came to Carboneras to sing two songs and thus assist our mayor in dedicating a new memorial to the sons of Carboneras who died during that bloody period or later, because of it.
Actually, I was surprised to learn from the mayor’s little introductory speech in the Parque Andaluz, before a scant crowd of a few hundred survivors, survivors’ descendants and sympathizers, nobody was killed in Carboneras during the hostilities. The names on the plaque were of sons of Carboneras who had sacrificed in battles elsewhere. This is such a little village, and was so much littler then, and so remote – not on the way to a larger city -- that the combatants never bothered to fight for it.
Our mayor, Cristóbal Fernández, Socialist, has been in office for all but one term since 1982, when the PSOE first won nationwide. What “socialism” might mean in Carboneras has little to do overthrowing capitalism or revolutionary mobilization of the working class, which besides fishermen now includes restaurant workers and other tourist service workers, the staffs of the big cement plant and of the electric power plant, and all the municipal employees. with the day-to-day running of a village. But socialism, even at the village government level, does mean, sentimentally, a reverence for the tradition of struggle, and, pragmatically, the belief that public policy can make life a little better for all people – these days, the emphasis is on ecology and protecting the rights of women, and attempts to accommodate and assist in assimilating the immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa, Ecuador, Eastern Europe and other places who find their way even to this little place.
I got to speak with Paco Ibáñez for a few minutes after the ceremony. He is older, of course, but still recognizable from the photo on the cover of the old LP we have at home and still play. I told him how important his music had been to us, even in distant New York, as a reminder of the dignity of struggle. On that old record, as in the ceremony the other day, he sings Spanish poems, his baritone and guitar bringing them alive, as they must have been meant to be sung. On Thursday he sang one by Luis Cernuda, “Un español habla de España,” and then he sang the poem that is inscribed on the stone of the Carboneras memorial, “A galopar,” by Rafael Alberti. Our new friend, the ceramics artists Vidal Hurtado, had brought and waved a big flag of the II Republic, like the current Spanish flag but with a purple bar below the bars of yellow and red. And our little group, veterans of that and other struggles, felt a little stronger about still trying to use public policy to make life a little better for all of us.