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Commemoration of La Retirada
22nd February - 25th February
Remembering the refugees of the Franco regime
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.
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.
PROGRAM OF COMMEMORATION
|9pm||Muséu Memorial de l’Exili, La Jonquera||Spectacle: “Sota les cunetes. Justícia !“ Call 972 55 65 33 for info and reservations.||10€|
|4pm||Cimitière des Espagnols, Argelès||Wreath laying.|
|5pm||Mémorial du Came, Argelès||Exhibition opening: Spanish Exiles deported to the Nazi camps. followed by discussion. Exhibition open 22nd February – 30 September.|
|6pm||Cinéma Jaurès, Argelès||Le convoi des 927. Screening of the film documenting the raid of Angoulême when 927 republicans were taken prisoner and transported to the Mauthausen camp for the first time.|
|8.15am||Espace Jean Carrère||Bus (capacity 60 people) leaves for St Laurent de Cerdagnes.|
|10am||Maison du Patrimoine et de la Mémoire||Guided visit of the museum. Poetry recital from les Voix de l’Extrême France-Espagne. Departure of the commemoration walk to the camp. Return to Argelès at 12pm.|
|12pm||Espace Jean Carrère||Picnic lunch (bring your own!)|
|3.30pm||Espace Jean Carrère||Conference: “L’action pionnière du secours aux enfants dans le camp d’Argelès-sur-Mer de 1939 à 1941“|
|4.30pm||Espace Jean Carrère||Conference: “Délit de Solidarité, la criminalisation de l’aide aux réfugiés”|
|7pm||Espace Jean Carrère||Paëlla and musical theatre performance based on witness reports by children affected by the Retirada. Reservations essential. Call 06 45 98 52 83 or email email@example.com before 18th February||20€|
|9.45am||Centre Culturelle||La Retirada. Film screening.|
|10am||Centre Culturelle||Conference & poetry recital: “El poeta que vigilabanuestrosueño : Antonio Machado y la poesía española de posguerra” (in Spanish, with French subtitles)|
|10.40am||Centre Culturelle||Prize giving for college competitions.|
|11.20am||Centre Culturelle||Conference: “Antonio Machado, bueno en el buensentido” (in Spanish, with French subtitles)|
|11.50am||Centre Culturelle||Prize giving for poets.|
|12.15pm||Centre Culturelle||Memorial walk to cemetery for wreath laying|
|3.30pm||Centre Culturelle||Concert: Juan Francisco Ortiz and José de los Ríos|
“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.”
Laurie Lee, English Poet