For the Spain they believed to be better: in coll de Belitres
According to the MUME / Museu Memorial de l’Exili (www.museuexili.cat) “on 26 January 1939 the rebel troops of General Franco occupied Barcelona. The Spanish Civil War had practically come to an end and the victory of the rebel army was imminent. However, for all those who had fought on the side of the democratic legality that the Republic embodied, a period marked by repression and silence was beginning. In order to avoid this situation, thousands of citizens – both soldiers and civilians (men, women and children) – had to flee and leave behind their work, home and family.
It is estimated that between late January and early February 1939 some 350,000 people fled to France through El Pertús, Portbou and other parts of the district of Alt Empordà. If we add the rest of the citizens who crossed the border using routes in the districts of La Cerdanya and El Ripollès, the number of people who went into exile reaches almost half a million. Once they had crossed the border, a journey marked by uncertainty, cold, hunger, fear and death began.
Owing to the measures taken by the French government, which basically consisted of internment in unsafe concentration camps that did not provide the most basic habitation or health conditions, despair and frustration overwhelmed the Catalan and Spanish refugees. It was not long before half of them returned to Franco’s New Spain.
Those who remained in exile – some 200,000 – suffered the effects of the Second World War and, in some cases, even deportation to the Nazis’ camps. In the end, the majority of the exiled Republicans established themselves in France and also, to a lesser extent, in the Soviet Union and other European countries. However, some significant groups ended up in various countries of America.”
The Democratic Memorial signposting project consist in bringuing together the villages and sites in the district of Alt Empordà that were most important at the time of the great Republican exodus.
According to the MUME “Some of the most significant places to which reference is made are the pass of El Pertús (La Jonquera); the pass of Els Belitres (Portbou); Perxés Farm(Agullana), which was the last seat of the Government of Catalonia; the pass of Manrella (Agullana); the pass of Lli (La Vajol), where the heads of the Republican government crossed; the farm Can Barris (La Vajol), headquarters of the President of the Republic; Sant Ferran de Figueres Castle; Peralada Castle and D’en Negrín Mine, where the Republic kept its works of art during the Civil War (La Vajol).”
These photos were taken in August 2019 and show some images of the pass of Els Belitres in Portbou.