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RETORNO AL EDÉN DE PACO ROCA.
Un viatge a la València de postguerra

© Paco Roca
© Paco Roca

 

 

 

We are nothing without a past. Life is a constant struggle against oblivion, trying to erase the old days.

We created drawing and writing...

Also photography, capable of retaining a glimmer of existence.

Paco Roca, "Retorno al Edén", 2020

 

 

It is the summer of 1946 and Antonia goes with her mother and siblings to spend the day on the beach at Nazareth. A photograph was taken by one of those itinerant portrait photographers (known as minuteros because of the time it took them to deliver a copy), immortalised the moment of the meal. That photograph, the only graphic memory Antonia will have of her mother, is used by Paco Roca to travel and delve into her family’s past and, incidentally, to dissect the society that survived in those years under Franco’s regime. 

 

The country had recently emerged from a bloody war that had put an end to the Republic’s plans for progress. But the post-war period never seemed to end. Lack of freedoms, imprisonment, executions and a failed autarkic economy, copied from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, kept the majority of the population in fear and under miserable living conditions for almost two decades. Unemployment was high and wages fell to half their pre-war level. It is estimated that across the country during the early post-war years, around 200,000 people died, directly or indirectly, due to lack of food. Access to necessities, meat, sugar, oil... became an odyssey and was only possible on the black market, provided one had enough money.

 

Antonia’s eyes and her family’s experience humanise the story and show how the Franco dictatorship was experienced at street level, in a neighbourhood of Valencia. Hunger and estraperlo (illegal activity consisting of trading in state-controlled or taxed goods), the fear of speaking out, the arrogance of a Church allied to the regime, the loss of women’s rights and even their accepted mistreatment, the overcrowding caused by the lack of housing, the illnesses aggravated by poor nutrition, precarious work and the acceptance of a destiny that seemed like God’s will, made up the atmosphere of those years.

 

Although the majority chose to forget all that, and the history of those years has barely transcended, this exhibition aims to recover the memory of a period that, today more than ever, needs to be known.