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Commemoration of La Retirada
9th February - 21st 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.
2019 marks the 80th anniversary of La Retirada and as such, extra special commemorative services and events will be taking place across the region.
PROGRAMME OF COMMEMORATION – LE BOULOU
10.30am Installation of commemorative plaque
11am Opening of exhibitions (Maison de l’Histoire & Médiathèque)
3pm Free guided visit : The Republican Exodus (in French/Catalan- reservations at the Office de Tourisme)
6pm Conference : Les Camps créés lors de la Retirada dans les Pyrénées-Orientales et au Boulou
3pm Film screening : No passarán – album souvenir
4.15pm Presentation of film & refreshments
3pm Guided visit : The Republican Exodus (in French/Catalan – 5€- reservations at the Office de Tourisme)