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Posts Tagged ‘Spain

How and why I’ve been telling my life story here and elsewhere!

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António Damásio, Portuguese neuroscientist.
Image via Wikipedia

I like Antonio Damasio‘s thoughts about our brain and our behaviors influenced by the working of our brain, or brains!

Here is what I read by him on the Big Think web site:

we do not give the same amount of emotional significance to every event.

For some 45 years of my life I felt little emotional significance coming from my experience in Spain, France and then Canada when I was a babe in arms until I was 10 or so. It was as if I had not experienced anything but I did have nightmares and often.

And yes I remember being a fearful little boy, bigger boy and teenager. But since my birth family believed that we had to move on and not dwell on less beneficial history, I never had nor asked for, the chance to recover, consider and put behind me the frights that I lived through especially in France from September 1939 until we arrived in Canada in July 1940. I guess you could say that I had almost 12 months of little boy hell with my birth family during our prolonged “escape” during the Fall of France.

As I understand it from pieces of family recollections, my mother and my siblings lived in and around Verneuil-s-Avre about 160 kms south east of Paris during most of that time.

It must have been a reasonably quiet place until refugees from Belgium, Luxemberg and the north of France began trickling through starting around May 10, 1940 and then stampeding through after May 18 to the south and west of France chased by the German panzer tanks, infantry storm troops and terror bombing by Stuka aircraft.

But let me go back to what Damasio says about the amount of significance I must have put on those experiences, especially when my nanny, Pensa Gomez, left us to live with the Wanamaker family in France. To this day, I can’t hear some music without tears welling in my eyes. In my case that’s got nothing to do with John Boehner‘s supposed emotional outburst talking about how much he has done to protect and recover the American Dream. But I guess each of us has a right to our own significance!

Later in his discussion Damasio says that we tend to go on and change or reconstruct the narrative we tell about our life. Depending on other pleasureable or unpleasant events in our life. For myself, I cam late to the telling of the narrative of my life. I didn’t really begin until I was 65 or so.

From 4 to 65 is a long time to have left my narrative untold and unremembered. But I finally got here and now I feel better for having told my narrative, even if the first 5 years worth are mostly reconstructions from bits and pieces from my older brother, random family records and photos. At least I know what I looked like at about 8 or 9 months in Barcelona and then in Montreal and in the Pyrenees when I was 2 and after that when I was 4 in Paris in 1939.

I’ve just had a thought that I regret because I thought that I had put this stuff behind me insofar as my father was concerned. But I had another thought, and maybe Damasio is right in this way, about resenting my father’s placing more importance with his Bank and employees in France and not enough on me in my plight of feeling repeated losses too early in my short life till then. There I’ ve said it “I resent what my father did to overstay in France and Spain” just to satisfy his own interests and those of the Bank!

I will come back to this tomorrow or the days after!

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2010/11/12 at 00:26

This morning I am wearing a Soccer World Cup t-shirt with the Spain crest

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Well for one reason they won in extra time but the strike was clean one. And I was born in Barcelona all those 75 some years ago. I didn’t live there long and have not been there since but I was born in Spain. So here’s a snap from NY Times front page web site:

But the sports news is not all rose this morning for Lance. He had a bad day yesterday and is now sitting 39th in the Tour de France. He had three bad crashes yesterday during the first Alps day. Not his usual form, but he is 39. Now he says he will just “enjoy his last Tour de France”.

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2010/07/11 at 16:58

I have written here more than once about my being born in Barcelona in 1935

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Overview of the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada...
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That was less than 12 months before the  grim clouds of Spanish fascism morphed into a officer led rebellion against the liberal socialist Republic that had been voted into power in a recent election in the seesaw battle between all the opposing political forces in Spain pre-WW II.

It is with some pleasure that I read “Hemingway Reports Spain Part I” in TNR book section this morning:


It was a lovely false spring day when we started for the front this morning. Last night, coming in to Barcelona, it had been gray, foggy, dirty and sad, but today it was bright and warm, and pink almond blossoms colored the gray hills and brightened the dusty green rows of olive trees.

Then, outside of Reus, on a straight smooth highway with olive orchards on each side, the chauffeur from the rumble seat shouted, “Planes, planes!” and, rubber screeching, we stopped the car under a tree.

“They’re right over us,” the chauffeur said, and, as this correspondent dove headforward into a ditch, he looked up sideways, watching a monoplane come down and wing over and then evidently decide a single car was not worth turning his eight machine guns loose on.

Hemingway’s clear prose style gives me an indelible picture of the Spain of 1938 when my father was deciding, while enduring the onslaught of daily bombings in Barcelona by Italian aircraft from Majorca, when to leave that beleagured city.

Less then 12 months later he and the rest of our family were in Paris, which was clearly in the way of Hitler’s helter skelter plans to defeat the armies of the European democracies before undertaking the final fatal battle against the USSR.

It’s odd how writings from that time, like Hemingway’s don’t go away, They just keep popping up when and where I least expect. These writing only remind me about my unfinished writing job.

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2010/06/10 at 19:26

The Internet, the resource that keeps on giving to me!

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The photograph shows children preparing for ev...
Image via Wikipedia

How else could I find these words by Chomsky in a current issue of The Nation that offer a telling counterpoint to the  seemingly fascinating expat experience of me and my parents in Barcelona before, during and after the Spanish Civil War:

Among the most memorable of these materials is a collection of primary documents about collectivization, published in 1937 by the CNT, the anarcho-syndicalist union that is celebrating its centenary this year. One contribution has resonated in my mind ever since, by peasants of the village of Membrilla. I would like to quote parts of it:

In [the] miserable huts [of Membrilla] live the poor inhabitants of a poor province; eight thousand people, but the streets are not paved, the town has no newspaper, no cinema, neither a café nor a library…. Food, clothing and tools were distributed equitably to the whole population. Money was abolished, work collectivized, all goods passed to the community, consumption was socialized. It was, however, not a socialization of wealth but of poverty…. The whole population lived as in a large family; functionaries, delegates, the secretary of the syndicates, the members of the municipal council, all elected, acted as heads of a family. But they were controlled, because special privilege or corruption would not be tolerated. Membrilla is perhaps the poorest village of Spain, but it is the most just.

These words, by some of the most impoverished peasants in the country, capture with rare eloquence the achievements and promise of the anarchist revolution. The achievements did not, of course, spring up from nothing. They were the outcome of many decades of struggle, experiment, brutal repression – and learning. The concept of how a just society should be organized was in the minds of the population when the opportunity arose. The experiment in creating a world of freedom and justice was crushed all too soon by the combined forces of fascism, Stalinism and liberal democracy. Global power centers understood very well that they must unite to destroy this dangerous threat to subordination and discipline before turning to the secondary task of dividing up the spoils.

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2010/05/10 at 11:54

Confraternisation de militants anarchistes et d’agents de la Guardia Civil

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Confraternisation de militants anarchistes et d’agends de la Guardia Civil

Originally uploaded by rue89video

This photo is part of a recently revealed archive of photos of conflict and fraternizing between opposing fighters during the early part of the Spanish Civil war in Barcelona.

I probably l had just gotten out, or was about to get out, of Barcelona by way of a car convoy to Andorra, on the Franco-Spanish border in the High Pyrenees with my mother, siblings and nanny, Pensa Gomez.

It’s amazing how bits and pieces from that time in Spain and Europe that touch ever so slightly on my own living experiences then continue to filter out. It’s only through the ubiquity of information on the Web that I can get this stuff. The Web has helped me put together more of my own story in Barcelona in 1936 and France in 1939-40.

Image by Getty Images via Daylife
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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2009/12/06 at 09:23

Photo archive from the Spanish Civil War – Death after bombardment of Lerida

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Not an ordinary scene. Those dark objects in the background are probably dead horses. I have a picture of myself and my father next to a car, in the French Pyrenees not far from Spain, that looks a lot like the one in this photo!

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2009/12/05 at 10:30

Posted in history, photos/images

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Why did world democracies fail to help the Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War 1936-39?

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Here’s some pithy historical analysis, which must have resonated for George Orwell!

A Call to Arms

Oct 16th 2008

From The Economist print edition
We Saw Spain Die: Foreign Correspondents in the Spanish Civil War
By Paul Preston


Constable; 436 pages; £20

Buy it at


“IN SPAIN two vast world forces are testing each other out: if Franco conquers, Europe will be black or Europe will go to war as soon as Hitler and Mussolini are ready.” That was the correct prediction in 1936 of Louis Fischer, an American journalist so convinced of the dangers of Franco’s fascist rebellion that he joined the International Brigades to take up arms on behalf of the Republican government.

Fischer was hardly alone in his devotion to the Republican cause: in an excellent account of the foreign reporting of Spain’s three years of savage fratricide, Paul Preston cites an impressive list, from America’s egotistic Ernest Hemingway to Britain’s self-effacing Henry Buckley. By contrast, enthusiasts for Franco’s rebels were few (Mr Preston singles out William P. Carney of the New York Times for special, scornful mention). As Mr Preston explains, foreign correspondents were given relatively free rein by the Republicans’ press office, with easy access to the front lines. On the Francoist side they were often threatened with prison and execution.

So why did the reporting of so many pro-Republic correspondents not persuade outside powers, notably Britain, America and France, to lift their arms embargo on the hard-pressed Republicans? A prime reason was the fact that the Republicans were backed, more in materiel than men, by Stalin’s Russia: an antipathy to communism was, it seems, a good enough excuse to overlook the presence in Franco’s forces of German and Italian troops. Outside opinion was also offended by the anticlericalism of the Republican side, with its attacks on priests and vandalism of monasteries. Some of these attacks were horrible enough; others were exaggerated by Francoist sympathisers. Mr Preston notes that Carney invented many of his stories, which pro-Catholic editors at the New York Times printed despite the anguish of Herbert Matthews, its more objective correspondent on the Republican side.

Mr Preston’s own preference for the Republican cause is obvious, but it does not deter him from detailing the spying for their governments of several pro-Republic correspondents. He devotes a fascinating chapter to Russia’s Mikhail Koltsov, a Pravda correspondent for whom Republican Spain was an inspiring antidote to the terror of his homeland—and whose loyalty to Stalin was rewarded by torture and execution. Fischer, writing mainly for the Nation, was not a spy, but he was so well-connected in both Europe and America that his advice was welcomed by American and Soviet politicians alike.

One weakness of Mr Preston’s book is his concentration on the English-language press (Koltsov apart, non-Anglophone journalists are mentioned mainly in passing). Another is an overlong chapter on the dispute between Hemingway and John Dos Passos on the disappearance of Dos Passos’s friend, José Robles. But these are small criticisms. The author paints a marvellous portrait of the world of the war correspondent: the risk to life; the temptations to infidelity (Hemingway’s affair with Martha Gellhorn was hardly exceptional); and, in the days before satellite phones, the constant struggle to get the story out.

The story was tragic, not just as a prologue to the second world war but also because it condemned Spain to decades of dictatorship. Implicit in this book is the thought that, if the correspondents had been listened to, the outcome could have been different. As Mr Buckley later wrote, the outside world cared more for Spain’s art works, spirited to safety in Geneva, than for its thousands of refugees.

We Saw Spain Die: Foreign Correspondents in the Spanish Civil War.

By Paul Preston.
Constable; 436 pages; £20

Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2009/11/10 at 07:44