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Tres joves davant el cartell de l'exposició de Belles Arts.
Foto Archivo General de la Administración


Y es hoy aquel mañana de ayer.
Antonio Machado




At the beginning of November 1936, almost three months after the putsch against the democratic Government of the Second Republic, Franco’s army is located just outside Madrid. As a reaction of what is perceived as the imminent fall of the capital of Spain, the government, leaded by the socialist Franciso Largo Caballero, decides to move to Valencia. The night of 6 to 7 November the members of the Government start to arrive, as well as the whole human team of the state machinery.
The next day, Valencia wakes up turned, de facto, into capital of the Republic and the first council of ministers is hold in the Palace of the Borgias (or Palacio de Benicarló). The legitimate Government lasted until the end of October 1937, when it was decided to change again the emplacement, this time to Barcelona. The fact that Valencia was capital of the Republic deeply influenced the life of this city all along the year.
Llegada a Valencia en febrero de 1937 de un camión con mujeres
y niños huidos de Málaga antes de la entrada de las tropas franquistas
Foto: Luis Vidal. Archivo Gráfico ABC
Now that it has been eight decades, this exhibition approaches to the tumultuous Valencia of the wartime, using the concept of the persistence of time, recreating from the future of that moment – our current present – the reality of 1936-37. With this temporary technology of imbrication of time it is aimed to create a space that can be experimented in the present, locating the spectator of the present in the reality of the past. An urban cartography that is a reflection of a society and a culture whose main characters, men and women, lived and acted in the midst of an ordinariness that was assaulted by a momentous episode in our collective history. Its footprint is reflected here in various fields: political dynamics, cultural action or the multiple dimensions of that everyday life in wartime.
Images and experiences are multiple and they overlap on each other in a time when, as Rafael Pérez Contel said, “everything was to be done”. All of them episodes of an intense and vibrating historical experience that it is about time we definitely integrate in the shared History of our city.
This exhibition is dedicated to all those people who lived that experience, in remind of their dreams, their hopes, their fears.
Vicente Vila Gimeno. Cartell de guerra de la Juventud Socialista
Unificada de España
. Litografia 1937. Universitat de València


From 7 November 1936 until the end of October 1937 Valencia played an institutional role unknown until that moment. It became the seat of the legitimate Government of the Second Republic and its Courts. These, for instance, were located at the City Council’s building and held plenary sessions during these months in the municipal seat and also in la Lonja. From the beginning and in a forcibly improvised way, numerous palaces, houses and buildings of the city took in the different ministries and the ensemble central administration offices, as well as the whole political apparatus (head offices of political and union organisations, embassies) that being the capital involved. All this gave Valencia a notable importance and made it become a permanent focus of the national and international attention.
Apertura de las Cortes. Valencia, 1/10/1937. La minoría comunista, en primera fila, La Pasionaria, arriba, de pie, hablando,
el Sr. Portela Valladares. Foto: Luis Vidal. Archivo Gráfico ABC
While Valencia was the capital, the political dynamics accelerated highly, in a climate of intense mobilisation in the fight against fascism. Protests, rallies, meetings, conventions, conferences and homages by different organisations (republican, socialist, communist or anarchist ones) made the streets of Valencia – many of them rechristened according to the new symbolic, revolutionary and antifascist worldview –, filled with posters and banners, as well as its theatres, cinemas and public places, authentic spaces for politics.
El President de la República Dr. Manuel Azaña durant el discurs
que pronuncià a l'Ajuntament de València.
Foto: Luis Vidal. Archivo Gráfico ABC


Targeta postal "Columna Chola". Col·lecció Esteban Monreal


The war of 1936-1939 involved notable and continued changes regarding women and their political and social prominence and, in general, in the relationships and gender roles. Surely the war context promoted strongly the female politicisation, as well as the incorporation of women to paid work and to spaces that were reserved for men before. Nevertheless, at the same time, traditional attitudes, rules and behaviours were maintained. Beyond stereotyped models such as the “militiawoman” or the “new woman” prevailing in the collective worldview, – but, in practice, a minority –, reality was far more complex and presented notable continuities in the female models – the hegemonic of the woman as a mother –, as well as in the male ones.
The revitalisation of the political participation and social mobilisation of women was evident since the beginning of the Second Republic, and it increased clearly at the beginning of the war, in a moment when a growing number of female workers had joined the labour unions CNT and UGT.
In addition, war also involved the arrival of women to the Government for the first time in our History, as a result of the appointment of Frederica Montseny as Health Minister of the Government of Largo Caballero, formed at the beginning of November 1936. Similarly, the development of specifically female organisations was encouraged, specially during the time the republican Government was located in Valencia. The organisation Mujeres Libres (Free Women) and the preponderantly communist Agrupación de Mujeres Antifascistas (Group of Antifascist Women) had an special importance.
Joves dones comunistes porten una pancarta en una manifestació femenina. Foto: Luis Vidal. Archivo Gráfico ABC


Republicanas, Socialistas, Libertarias, Comunistas, Sindicalistas, Jóvenes.
Todas unidas formemos la Alianza Nacional de la Mujer Española. 
32 x 44 cm, Valencia : Comité Provincial de Mujeres Antifascistas, secretaría de Propaganda,
Cooperativa «Artes Gráficas«. Biblioteca Històrica de la Universitat de València.


“Artificial and incredible”. That is how the soviet writer Ilya Ehrenbur qualified the improvised capital in Valencia. It is true that de complexity of the daily life in Valencia in 1936-1937 is full of images and experiences that sometimes are contradictory. On the one hand, the stereotype of the “Levante feliz” (”happy Levante”), a term used by the press from Madrid in order to define the situation of de city as an opposition to the suffering in the Spanish capital at the end of 1936; “the front of the Calle Ruzafa” (and its theatres, clubs and cabarets) or the paellas on Las Arenas beach.
In opposition to this, a reality troubled from the beginning of 1937 by the shortage of food, the ration cards or the queues for bread, where the alarmists swarmed, people who attempted to break the morale of the citizens from the inside and let news that were prejudicial to the Republic slip.
Soon the war itself arrived with all its cruelty to the streets and neighbourhoods of Valencia, with the bombardments by the Franco’s and its fascists allies marine and air forces, which from January 1937 were specially cruel with the maritime towns but also with the heart of the city itself, and forced the building and reconditioning of a great number of air-raid shelters of different kinds. At the same time, the growing influx of thousands of refugees – coming from Madrid or Málaga and other places of the Spanish Republic conquered by the rebels – became one of the most characteristic phenomena of the daily life in the wartime Valencia and increased the need to address these new food and health needs.
Alternatively, the leisure offer of this city – which wanted to forget the war as much as possible – was large and diverse, specially the offer of cinema and theatre, entertainment, cafes and nightlife – ever decreasing, due to bombs and moralisation campaigns. The fear was a reality for Valencian people during those months, not just because of the growing presence of war and bombings, but also for that people in favour of rebels or markedly conservative people. Although it was diminished, political repression continued and it was extended to the antifascist left, specially to communists militants anti-Stalinists of the POUM (Worker party of Marxist Unification).
Valencia, noviembre de 1937. Carmencita Arroyo, «Musa de la Prensa», i l'oficial de telègrafs Matías Morales
van contraure matrimoni en la Federació de Comunicacions de València. Foto: Luis Vidal. Archivo Gráfico ABC
"Carnet de Abastecimiento de Pan". Col·lecció Esteban Monreal


4 November 1936, the Government of the Frente Popular created the Ministry of Health and Social Assistance, that had no precedents, lead by the anarchist Federica Montseny. The implementation of this Ministry coincided with Valencia as a capital, and with the war. So the more ambitious projects of sanitary reorganisation and assistance were replaced by military campaigns and the need of avoiding the dissemination of epidemics, apart from the budgetary constraints of that context. On the other hand, in 1937 the National Council for Social Assistance and regional councils were founded. The private beneficence and the public social assistance were integrated in those bodies, which meant a public social protection approach never seen in Spain. The same year, the Government of the Frente Popular launched a new model of psychiatric assistance. 

Apart from the sanitary staff and devices and equipment in the front, in the rearguard it was the head of service of health, responsible of the evacuation of wounded and ill people to interior hospitals. Despite having enough stuff, sanitary material was not enough; facilities had just the minimum necessary to treat wounds (cotton, gauzes, bandages...) but, if the war had lasted too much it would be a dramatic lack of supplies, added to the lack of ambulances and means of scape in general. In the rearguard there were seventy hospitals for war wounds, the so-called blood hospitals: around 20 of them depended on the Ministry of Defence and the rest depended on the provincial authorities, the working committees and the Red Cross. The Republican government had the supervision and reports of the international medical authorities and the support of the Centrale Sanitaire Internationale d’Aide à l’Espagne Républicaine.

It was created the Health Card of the Combatant and the ministry of Montseny proposed the transformation of the conditions of hospitality, maintenance and education of abandoned children, so it put an end to the traditional concept of asylum and the proclamation of children’s rights was taken to practise. On the other hand, during the first three months of 1937, he movement of refugees increased, who were around a million and a half of people, according to official figures. In addition, around mid-1937 the antivenereal fight increased, not only with propaganda campaigns and sexual education (including the distribution of condoms), but also creating llibertaris of prostitution, for the lodging, assistance and professional orientation of prostitutes.
Congreso Nacional de Sanidad 20 de marzo de 1937.
Col·lecció cartells del Pavelló de la República
(Universitat de Barcelona) 


The war didn’t surprise Valencian artists, neither those who arrived in the city. Some of the most surprising characteristics of this period were the fast configuration of the diffusion of visual culture, the grade of collective organisation and the volume of production. It was an system imitating the one developed by artists in the Russian Revolution. It was boosted by the awareness of the social function of art and artists commitment to society. In this system participated organisms and groups like Subcurator of Propaganda, the trade union of Popular Art of Valencia, the Ministry of Public Instruction and Fine Arts, the General Direction of Fine Arts, the Alliance of Antifascist Intellectuals for the defence of the culture, the group Acción de Arte or the section of Fine Arts of the FUE, among others.
Banners, posters, leaflets, etc. The tribune and trams acted as holder of the huge artistic and graphic production. The city was politicized and was covered with the most different visual manifestations, where realism, futuristic aesthetics, expressionism, naïve plastic, regionalism, photomontage, mural newspaper and lineography were all mixed.
Cartells de propaganda. Foto: Atienza. Archivo General de la Administración (Alcalá de Henares)
Graphic magazines as Nueva Cultura, Verdad or Pasionaria played an important roll in the artistic creation. They were also important for the sculpture production for marker plates of streets or the design of ninots and iconographies for public acts, demonstrations or parades.
There were also four antifascist fallas, that replaced the hollow that the suppression of this celebration in 1937 let. There were also artistic exhibitions as the Exhibition of Mexican plastic arts: a hundred years of revolutionary art in the Ateneo Popular, with the posterior conference of the muralist Siqueiros in the Aula Magna of the Universitat de Valencia and the Exhibition pro-militias, whose benefits were destined to the maintaining of the militias, or the Exhibition of children’s antifascists drawings.
The arrival of the National Heritage to The Patriarch School and to the Serranos Towers and the campaign of preventive conservation started by the Republican Artistic Treasures Board, one of the greatest international landmarks of heritage protection.


The cultural task developed in Valencia, the capital of the Republic, was rich, varied and in many cases of great quality, thanks to the labour of artists, writers and intellectuals. Both native and refugees, proceeding from other places of Spain, and also foreigners. This production was the reflect of a popular and revolutionary conception of the culture. It was also reflect of the conception of the production as an instrument – and also symbol – of the fight against fascism, and therefore, it is difficult to distinguish it from propaganda.
The job done by the institutions was significant.  Not only by the Spanish Ministry of Public Instruction and Fine Arts, but also by other requests like Valencian Department of Culture of the Provincial Council of Valencia – whose first head was Francesc Boch i Morata, the leader of the Valencian Left-Wing Party–, with the creation of the Institute of Valencian Studies for the recovery and dissemination of Valencian cultural heritage. Or also the headquarters of Cultura Popular – an association linked with organisations of the Frente Popular–, with programmes related to book and press distribution, creation of mobile libraries and promotion of reading in fronts and hospitals, bands and camps, exhibitions, etc. Other associations were very dynamic in that period, like AIDC (Intellectual Alliance for the Culture Defence). Some of its members were Max Aub, Manuela Ballester, Ángel Gaos, Ramón Gaya, Juan Gil-Albert, Emili Gómez Nadal, Josep Renau or Carles Salvador, among others. It had sections related to literature, music, publications and plastic arts. In addition, we must highlight the presence of writers, artists and scientists evacuated from Madrid – Anonio Machado and León Felipe, among many others – that stayed at the cultural institute in Calle de la Paz (Hotel Palace), also known as the “Casal dels sabuts” (“The House of Wise People”).
On the other hand, the sessions of the Second International Congress of Writers for the Culture Defence began on 4 July 1937, in the Plenary Hall of the City Council. With the participation of prestigious intellectuals like André Malraux, Tristan Tzara, Octavio Paz, Alejo Carpentier or Pablo Neruda among others, the congress expressed the solidarity of worldwide antifascist intellectual with the Spanish Republic.
Vicente Ballester Marco. Escuela para todos.
Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica (Salamanca)


The educational initiatives were a specially highlighted area of the republican institutions and organisations during the time when Valencia was capital of the Republic. The outbreak of war implied that, since that moment, the spread of education to sectors where it had always been excluded received a bigger support (particularly by the pertinent Spanish ministry: Public Instruction and Fine Arts, led by the communist Jesús Hernández) than the one during the period of peace, with a more combative and populist spirit, as a consequence of the war context.

Among the most important actions is, for instance, the management done by the Infancia Evacuada (“Evacuated Children”), with the creation of various camps for refugee children from the war zones, specially Madrid. What also needs to be underlined is the effort at promoting culture and the elimination of illiteracy, with the launch of platforms such as Milicias de la Cultura (“Militias of Culture”) in 1937 (for soldiers of the Frente Popular) and instruments like the well-known antifascist school report card. It is estimated that these Militias managed to make literate more than 105,000 combatants. This task was complemented by the activity of flying squads that fought against illiteracy in the rearguard, with around 300,000 literate people. In addition to this, the cultural extension done autonomously by organisations of the working class, for instance, the literary movement , or the cultural activity of the CNT and anarchist movements, organised around trade unions, cultural centres or groups with the promotion of rationalist schools and libraries, or the organisation of conferences, courses and artistic festivals.

On the other hand, from November 1936 until July 1937, the Ministry built 27 one-room schools and 208 graduate schools from scratch. The department’s budget for 1937 was of 496,559,668, what represented an increase of almost 149 millions in comparison with the last year and there were 50 million available for construction of schools. Changes were also made to the secondary education after the creation of a shortened High School programme for workers between 15-35 years old and the opening of the working-class institutes to make easy the access to higher education for popular sectors, with a policy of salary-grants for the maintenance and compensations for the corresponding families of these workers. The first of these institutes was opened in Valencia, at the former Jesuit college of San José, on 31 January 1937.
L'hora de classe en la residencia infantil de Benimàmet. Foto: Luis Vidal. Archivo Gráfico ABC


Escuela Práctica mixta. Col·lecció Rafael Solaz


Due to the war, the Universitat de València’s usual teaching activity was hampered – and paralised in a great measure–, with mobilised students and teachers devoted to special services. During the academic year 1936-1937, academic activities were cancelled and, although at the beginning of the academic year 1937-1938, the University tried to opened again, the semester couldn't finish. During these years, there were no normal teaching calls, and the number of enrolled students was very low.
However, the Universitat de València played a very important role during the conflict in the republican universities, since professors of other Spanish universities were assigned and the university of Madrid was partially transferred. Furthermore, its role as public cultural institution increased by means of special courses (also very linked with the war, especially with health care and training for doctors) and other non-university activities. During the time when Valencia was capital, the UV played also a role as cultural institution (placing part of its spaces in the Ministry of Public Institution and Plastic arts) and also as library during the time of the Republic. Maria Moliner was in charge of the University’s library since September 1936.
El President de la República, Manuel Azaña, a la seua
arribada a l'Edifici Històric de la Universitat,
on va pronunciar un discurs amb motiu del primer
aniversari de la Guerra Civil. La Vanguardia, 18/7/1937


Carnet de la Federación Universitaria Escolar FUE
Carnet Biblioteca Universitaria de Valencia. Arxiu Ibán Ramón
Moreover, its students showed a great dynamism, apart from their participation in the frontline, voluntarily or as mobilised soldiers. They were gathered in the FUE (Federación Universiaria Escolar, a democratic association of students founded in the end of 1920s). They served in both the frontline and the rearguard, in different fields. They opened again the Folk high school, and assisted and expanded the school camps, and participated in the Milicias de la Cultura and in many other cultural activities: university theatre “El Búho” (directed by Max Aub), Cine-Estudio FUE, Publications (Frente Universitario, El Estudiante en Armas), elaboration of posters, leaflets and murals, conferences, etc.
The end of the war and Franco’s victory were dramatic for the Universitat, with the exile of its Principal, the Full University Professor Josep Puche, and the shooting in May of 1941 of the Full University Professor of Medicine, Joan Peset Aleixandre, who was also Principal of the University from 1932 to 1934.