Wednesday 27 October 2010

I live in Sitges, a charming, elegant resort near Barcelona, but for administrative purposes due to a kink in local government frontiers, I am registered in St Pere de Ribes, the town next door. St Pere is one of the many small towns along the Catalan coast which was a sleepy little place until the motorway arrived some fifteen years ago - and then it grew violently and abruptly, with flats and villas springing up like concrete mushrooms. Like many nondescript places, it actually has its character - you can hear intriguing gossip in the changing rooms of the municipal swimming pool /gym, and my favourite cafe has superb chocolate pastries. The most surprising is that it is plastered with political graffitti - Catalan nationalism of the most virulent sort, support for ETA, solemn pledges of solidarity with martyrs in prison for hitting policemen, and even the odd furtive fascist. Why should this be? My guess is that it's because housing is pretty cheap, and I've heard of radical communes in run-down farmhouses up in the hills.

My favourite is shown in the photo above. Translating from the Catalan, it says something like "During revolutions women were the most violent". Eh? I find this fascinating - not just because of the surprise of stumbling across a statement like that in sleepy St Pere, but because I wonder who wrote that, and for what purpose, and on what basis of evidence. Is it entirely wishful thinking, a fantasy of some hyper-radical feminist? Or are there accounts of steely-eyed female killers massacring the ruling class, that have been edited out of the official histories? There are the tricoteuses of the French Revolution ... but sitting knitting while the guillotine blade comes down doesn't seem that violent, does it?

The mystery of human beings - this wall feels like it borders on a different planet, with a different history entirely.

Tags: graffitti, politics, writing, society, Catalonia


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