for the Spain they believed to be better: in Argelès-sur-Mer
According to the MUME Museum / Museu Memorial de l’Exili “after the fall of Barcelona in January 1939 and the start of the end of the Civil War, around 500,000 people took the path into exile, an exodus that bears the popular name of the Retirada (Retreat). This mass arrival of people in the Eastern Pyrenees area (which at the time had a population of around 250,000 inhabitants) meant the separation and dispersion of families all over France and the construction of concentration camps in Roussillon, the most important of which were those of Argelès-sur-Mer, Saint-Cyprien, Le Barcarès and Rivesaltes.
In 1939, Argelès-sur-Mer was a small agricultural village of around 3,000 inhabitants where the French government decided to construct a concentration camp on the beach, to accommodate the Spanish Republican refugees.
Many of these refugees were civilians fleeing repression or soldiers who for three years had defended the democratically elected Spanish Republic, relatively forgotten by the western democracies due to the Non-Intervention Pact.
France had not prepared adequate accommodation for so many refugees and the most important measures were related to security and social control. In crossing the Pyrenees many families were separated and dispersed in diverse concentration camps and hostels around France. Women and children were sent all over France and the men ended up in the camps. Argelès-sur-Mer camp was the first of those built in Roussillon and in a few months it housed over 80,000 people. Nothing had been prepared for them and at first only the sand and clothes they wore offered them protection. Later, other camps were opened, such as that of Saint-Cyprien and Barcarès.”
These photos were taken on Saturday 23 February 2019 in Argelès-sur-Mer. They show part of the acts organized by the organization FFREEE / Fils et Filles de Republicains Espagnols et Enfants de l'Exode and the Council of Argelès-sur-Mer so as to celebrate the 80th Anniversary of La Retirada.
The photos were taken during the march and the visit to the Spanish Cemetery and the monolith Memorial in Argelès-sur-Mer beach. Jacqueline Payrot-president of FFREE-, Antoine Parra -the major of the village- and Gemma Domènech -director of Memòria Democràtica of the Generalitat de Catalunya participated in this act. The republican combatant and member of the French resistance Lluís Martí Bielsa (December 1921 - October 2019), who had been a prisoner in Argelès-sur-Mer also attended the act.
One of the photos shows Antonio de la Fuente y Ferraz, who crossed the border through Puigcerdà in 1939 when he was 10 and on the following years was in the camps of Argelès, Rivesaltes, Brams and Gurs. He is joined by Frederic Lorente, born in Xàtiva in 1938, with the Republican flag that his father took when crossing the border through Coll d’Ares in February 1939.