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Dear Graciela, From Catalonia
Dear Graciela, From Catalonia

Dear Graciela, From Catalonia


The year is 1937. The Spanish nationalist forces have once again tried to silence us.

Dear Graciela,
Now that I can think clearly it’s time I speak to you again.

I hope your life in the United States has been good. I heard there’s a lot of booming industry, growth and expansion since the depression ended. You tell me all about it, and I wish I could see you there some time… living… experiencing the world.

Catalonia is nothing but chaos and death since the nationalists tried to shut down our little… uprising. Have you read it? That news rots quickly. I haven’t had a chance to talk in years, so please also listen my truth.

You trained me well on the farm. Actually, not you, but Miguel. His expertise and dedication was clear on the fields, even clearer in the streets and the world of business. Since the farms was taken, I don’t know how I stay alive without him.

He was taken for war recently… the nationalist army has been searching any ‘disobedient’ regions and powerful taking anybody fit enough to replace their dead men after Morocco. They need men, after all, to fight the uprisings. But the we need their men here, too… our industries is failing – steel and iron nowhere, and what’s left is taken by the nationalists to make shotguns. Our maize farms has been mostly trod by rebels and nationalists, and what’s left is almost only rationed to the men ‘protecting’ us. They have cut our wages crazy. Miguel has done nothing about this… I think he was deployed outside the country in forces meant to defend and secure the nationalist alliances with Germany and Italy. I do hope that somewhere, deep inside, his fighting spirit and loyalty to Catalonia stay, and that one day he may come back and free us from this terrifying conflict.

Right now, military officials are demanding our weapons and firearms. They want to create an ‘impartial police force’ to supervise this troublesome region. I don’t know what those words mean, but George says they be friendly to everybody and won’t hurt us. Every worker here knows what that really mean, so we’re fighting ‘till the end. We ain’t got much more to lose, huh.

Sometimes I think about how corrupt this world is becoming (that’s a word George taught me! ‘corrupt...’), and if I was a poet or a writer, just imagine how important my memories (that’s another word George taught me, but he said it in French) would become! That might be a future for him, but for a lower-class, Catalonian-born farmer, I doubt I ever be in such a high-status group. I haven’t told you about George yet, haven’t I? He comes from America. He’s been telling us all about political theory and his feelings about the ‘American Dream’. Have you had an ‘American Dream’ yet? I am stuck in this ‘Spanish Nightmare’ … ha ha!

(A pause)

Defending your now near-worthless farm is hard work. George’s politics is very fascinating. He talks about Russia and America and even the works of some ‘political theorists’ from old Germany, and how they want equality and they want to give everybody fair prospects. I think it sounds a lot like the ‘American Dream’, but he insists that it’s on the complete opposite side. What’s your ‘American Dream’ like?

Who am I kidding? If your dream had arrived, you’d have written to me by now. Inviting me to your industrial apartment in the moneyed part of New York City where the Statue of Liberty is all you need to defend your freedom. What’s her flaming torch like? I’d imagine far neater than our makeshift hay-strewn pitchforks and our guns that hardly spark no more. Is your liberty always burning?

Is it really liberty? I recall your fear when father sent you across the sea. You feared that you would never see Catalonia again. You feared that you would never see me again. You feared that you wouldn’t see light again.

One of those happened. One of those caused the other two.

I’ve heard about the working conditions in America. George came here after seeing how corrupt the wealthy factory owners were, how badly they treated their employees, how they cut their wages… and… broke their tools… if they talked back about anything. I’m glad that mother taught us to speak out anyway... George, he wanted a new beginning. He is making one here, for himself, for all of us.

The sun is setting. The military forces have gone, sent to the next town where a bunch of Soviet reinforcements arrived to defend our freedom, our equality. I think you would like what we’ve done to the place – it is now a place where women can work! You could get a job at the old steel factory; you could help rebuild it once this is all over.

Please, say something.

(There is no response.)

Author Notes: Revolutionary Catalonia was a fascinating time and period, and I wrote this to expand my understanding of American Modernism with relation to the rest of the world (especially politically). This piece is an edited stream-of-consciousness.

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6 Oct, 2019
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