The tale of a Catalan Boy
Repository: Brandeis University Archives and Special Collections, Waltham, Massachusetts USA
Contributor: Comissariat de Propaganda de la Generalitat de Catalunya
Fond or Collection
Spanish Civil War Poster Collection
Date Created: 1936 to 1939 (year uncertain)
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: Barcelona
Governments and political organizations on both sides used multiple means to communicate with civilian populations and to promote the values for which they were fighting. The best known are posters, especially those produced in Republican Spain, but the modern medium of radio was also very important. In Republican Spain, they also turned to an older genre, one with deep roots in Spanish popular culture: the aleluya or, as it was known in Cataluña, auca. The Auca of the Catalan boy – antifascist and humane, was one of them.
The auca was an early form of comic strip that originated in Catalonia in the 17th or 18th century and was commercialized nationally in the 1840s. In its commercial form, the aleluya measured 30 by 42 centimetres, was printed on cheap paper, and consisted of eight rows of six crudely drawn images, each accompanied by a small amount of rhyming text in a metre easily committed to memory. In a country with very high illiteracy rates, keeping text to a minimum was important. The aleluya had its heyday in the second half of the 19th century, but it remained alive in the first decades of the 20th.
During the Civil War, aleluyas were produced by the propaganda departments of the Generalitat of Catalonia, the Defence Committee of Madrid, and International Red Aid. The Generalitat produced at least twelve. Their content varied. Some, like those about General Queipo de Llano, the “Fascist Moor”, or the “Tavern of the Gentlemen and the Tavern of the Comrades”, made fun of the enemy. One taught that “the duty of a good soldier is to obey discipline” while another was even produced as part of a campaign against usury. Others, like the series devoted to the defence of Madrid, which drew a direct connection between the Nationalist coup and the Napoleonic invasion of 1808, and to the defence of the Basque Country, praised the Republic’s military accomplishments. These were two of only three with the text in Spanish.
The Auca of the Catalan boy – antifascist and humane tells the story of Germà, from his birth to his voluntary enlistment in the struggle against the Francoists. As well as antifascism, it promotes such values as secularism, education, democratic citizenship, and the dignity of work.
Germà is not baptized; instead his name is registered by a judge. His mother, not a wetnurse, breast feeds him. At school, he learns to be a citizen and to respect his classmates, one of whom is shown as Black. Even as a boy “he feels hatred for the Fascist man/tyrannical and selfish.” He becomes a carpenter, even though his mother wants him to be an engineer. Germà is “a model citizen/right out of the Encyclopedia” and his honesty and integrity lead his workmates to name him their union delegate even though he is very young.
The final three images show him during the Civil War and offer a message of antifascist unity. When he “sees Madrid in peril”, he goes there “and to the cry of ‘They shall not pass’/he fights against Franco.” The final text includes a play on his name: Germà means brother. “In the face of danger/the good Catalan is always a brother.”