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Pueblo Viejo de Belchite - La memoria histórica

There are actually two Belchites: the pueblo nuevo and the pueblo viejo, the new and the old village. The story of this site is the perfect example of the terrible consequences of a civil war. In August 1937, one year after the beginning of the Spanish war, the Republican forces tried to regain Belchite as a part of an offensive which should allow them to recover the city of Zaragoza, about 50 km away and capital of the region.

There are actually two Belchites: the pueblo nuevo and the pueblo viejo, the new and the old village. The story of this site is the perfect example of the terrible consequences of a civil war. In August 1937, one year after the beginning of the Spanish war, the Republican forces tried to regain Belchite as a part of an offensive which should allow them to recover the city of Zaragoza, about 50 km away and capital of the region.

Franco’s fascists troops resisted the siege for a couple of weeks before giving up the city, which by then was reduced to ruins due to the fighting that caused a great number of victims among the inhabitants. However, the Republic never managed to win Zaragoza back and in 1938 they were forced to retreat from Belchite, which was again occupied by rebel General Franco.

After the war finished in 1939, Franco, now a dictator, decided to leave the ruins of Belchite untouched as a symbol of his victory over the Republic and he ordered the construction of a new village next to the old one. Between 1940 and 1945 the Pueblo Nuevo de Belchite was built mainly by political prisoners in conditions very close to slavery. The new houses, all similar and with a military style, were intended for the villagers who had lost their homes. The last inhabitants of the ruins left in 1964.

In the meantime, the Pueblo Viejo has crumbled down almost completely. During the democratic transition after Franco’s dead, they were considered some sort of taboo and were left unprotected against erosion and theft. Only recently Spain has timidly started to look back at its recent past and to make some efforts to regain its historic memory and to rehabilitate those who stayed loyal to the democratic elected Republic. In this context, some measures have been taken in order to prevent what little is left of the bombed buildings from completely collapsing.

When you visit Belchite you feel overwhelmed by emotions. You can feel History and breathe the past, imagine vividly the horrors of war, so many shuttered lives and hopes. The special atmosphere and magnetism of the site has not left indifferent many artists, especially photographers and filmmakers. To end on a lighter note, I’ll just mention Monty Python’s member Terry Gilliam, who filmed here “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” back in 1987 and more recently Guillermo del Toro also chose Belchite for his film “Pan’s Labyrinth”.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Belchite_
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belchite
http://usuarios.lycos.es/antoniomarinlopera/belchite.htm

written by jelga

2 comments

  1. d_i_d

    d_i_d

    They say that at night the spirits of the victims are still walking these streets!
    So watch out!
    Amazing shoots, very nice review! Congrats!

    almost 6 years ago · report as spam
  2. rater

    rater

    Thanks for sharing this, in my next trip back home I will try go visit this place, part of the recent history that has been tried to be forgotten... and your photos are great.

    over 5 years ago · report as spam

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This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Spanish.