Port of Call
Barcelona, Spain: Facing the suppressed history of Catalonia, May 30, 2011
Guest educator Inigo Arbiol
Peace Boat's Global University (GU) is an intensive peace education programme consisting of seminars, lectures and exposure programmes in ports. The 33 GU students onboard the 73rd Global Voyage were joined by guest educator Inigo Arbiol at the port of Piraeus. From the Basque region, Mr Arbiol is a former conflict mediator who currently works as a contemporary history lecturer at the University of Deusto. Onboard he led a series of workshops about the history of the Spanish Civil war in preparation for visiting the port of Barcelona. There, GU students participated in a study programme devoted to addressing the true history of the civil war in Catalonia, that until recent years has been suppressed.

Local historian Cinta Cantrarell shows a photograph of the damage to the building behind her after the bombings of 1938.
Granollers, 26 kilometers northeast of Barcelona in the state of Catalonia, was the third most bombed city of the Spanish Civil War, and the first to be bombed indiscriminately. On May 31 in 1938, Italian and German Air forces supporting General Francisco Franco's dictatorship dropped around forty 100 kilogram bombs. In just one minute 224 people were killed and 700 injured. Although the military objectives were a power plant, weaponry factories and an aerodrome located on the outskirts of the town, the bombs were dropped on the city center in a form of terrorism to scare the local populace into complacency. Facts like this have long been suppressed in Spain due to Franco's long dictatorship, painful memories and other personal and political factors. However in recent years thanks to brave individuals, civil society organisations, and the Historical Memory Law instated in 2008, the truth is finally emerging, becoming gradually less taboo and having more presence in the mainstream conscience.

GU Students descend into an underground shelter built in 1938 to protect Granollers from fascist air raids.
Walking through the restored Granollers town center can nowadays serve as an important history lesson. The city has prioritized the acknowledgment of history in order to learn from its mistakes and install in its citizens an awareness of the importance of peace. Local historian Cinta Cantrarell led the GU students around town, tracing sites affected by the bombings of 1938 while showing disturbing photographs of the destruction. Next to a school, in what at first glance is now a rather ordinary looking square, huge mechanical trap doors opened to reveal the entrance to an underground shelter. Ms Canrarell explained that the shelter was built in 1938 after the first bombing. The shelter became a grim place of refuge for the town's citizens, especially for the children of the adjacent school. Descending into the dark concrete and stone chambers, Ms Canrerell retold the harsh conditions those in the shelter had to endure. "Conditions were very difficult, many people actually lived here during the war. There was no place to sit, no toilets, no infirmary and a scarcity of food and water."

Peace Boat Communication Coordinator Arai Takahiro interprets Lola Gadea Vila's firsthand account of the 1938 air raid.
Climbing back into the light of day, GU students then headed to the nearby Centr de Cultura per la Pau (Center for a Culture of Peace), a community building devoted to the reflecting the truth of the war's history. There, 73 year old Lola Gadea Vila shared her firsthand account of the air raid. Though just 8 years old at the time, she still harbors vivid memories of the attack and destruction it bought to Granollers. She acknowledged that though these things are terrible for her to speak about, it is important that we don't forget and recognize our pasts.

Local youths active in opening dialogue about the war converse with GU students at the Centr de Cultura per la Pau.
The Global University students were then joined by a group of local youths that together have been working to regain Granollers' history. The youths, though just in their mid-teens, are taking an active role in encouraging dialogue about the war - traditionally a social taboo. Conversing with them, GU students were obviously impressed and inspired by the group's action. One GU student remarked, "you are so courageous despite your age. After meeting you all, I'm inspired to be more active when I return to Japan."

GU students visit the grave of 1717 people killed during Franco's regime.
After the discussion with the young activists, the Peace Boat participants left Centr de Cultura per la Pau and headed to a mass grave site on a hilltop in the outskirts of Barcelona. The site was opened in 2008, the resting place of 1717 dead. During Franco's rule, many people against his regime were killed in either fighting or as victims of execution. In 2008, the bodies that had been left without proper burial or recognition were consolidated on this hilltop , commemorated with a simple monument and surrounded by calm park-like grounds.

The 33 students of Global University onboard Peace Boat's 73rd Voyage in Barcelona.
For more than 70 years the people of Granollers and Catalonia have been struggling to with their collective memory in order to install an understanding of the importance of peace into present and future generations. Thanks to initiatives by such groups as the Centr de Cultura per la Pau, survivors willing to tell their tales and active young people, we now have a much more tangible understanding of what happened during the civil war and years of dictatorship that followed. Peace Boat's Global University students were given a chance to think about why we need to face history, even after more than 70 years, with lessons highly relevant to their own lives and histories in Asia.