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Commemoration of La Retirada

7th February 2023 - 19th February 2023

La Retirada…….Remembering the refugees of the Franco regime

Dictionary definition
Retirada – (catalan) withdrawal of troops to a more favourable position to escape the enemy’s superior forces or after a defeat

In memory of the Retirada of February 8, 1939, when the French military set up camps on the beach in Argelès sur Mer to detain between 70,000 and 90,000 Spanish Republican refugees, the town pays homage to these men and women, freedom fighters and victims of fascism in exile, who continued the fight for republican values and democracy.
“We had been fighting for freedom from Fascism for three years. We expected to be
given a hero’’s welcome”

But they were not welcomed with open arms into the Pyrénées-Orientales. Dubbed as the “Reds”, they were admitted as “foreign undesirables”, meaning they could be imprisoned legally. Women and children were initially sent to accommodation centres, men were at first refused entry entirely before eventually being herded into internment camps on the beach at Argelès-sur-Mer, behind barbed wire fences, exposed to the elements, unspeakable squalour, food and water shortage, dysentery and rats.

La Retirada

The repression of the exiles intensified under the German occupation. Thousands of Spanish Republicans perished in the Nazi gas chambers, especially at Mauthausen. Many others, despite their treatment in France, joined the French Resistance and, as ‘Guerilleros Espagnols’, contributed substantially to the Liberation in 1944.

On 15th March 1945 the exiles were finally granted the official status of ‘Political Refugees’ and today a third of the Languedoc-Roussillon’s present-day population are descendants of these Spanish refugees.

Find out more here.[/vc_column_text]


Tuesday 7th – Sunday 12th, Céret

Exhibition (Capelleta): Les couleurs de la liberté
Saturday 11th, 3pm (Salle de l’Union) Film screening: Mourir à Madrid
Saturday 11th, 5pm (Salle de l’Union) Musical theatre: Il était une fois la Retirada

Thursday 16th – Sunday 19th, Argelès sur Mer

Exhibition (Galerie Mariane): Les couleurs de la liberté – open until 18th March
Thursday 16th, 6.30pm (Espace Jean Carrère) Film preview: Las cartas perdidas
Saturday 18th, 3pm (Espace Jean Carrère) Theatre: Mémoires de sable

Full Argelès programme here.

Check out the small Mémorial du camp d’Argelès-sur-Mer on the Ave de la Libération, a stark reminder of darker times in this bright and dynamic resort.

Rivesaltes Memorial Museum

La Jonquera Mémorial Museum


Laurie Lee, English Poet

“I believe we shared something else… the chance to make one grand and uncomplicated gesture of personal sacrifice and faith, which might never occur again … few of us yet knew that we had come to a war… to be led by brave but bewildered amateurs. But for the moment there were no half-truths and hesitations, we had found a new freedom, almost a new morality, and discovered a new Satan- fascism.”


7th February 2023
19th February 2023
Event Category:


France + Google Map
04 68 81 10 15