Maria Cobarsí and ‘Temps de flors’

The yearly flower exhibition ‘Girona Temps de flors’ (‘Girona Flower Season’) should have been inaugurated today, but for obvious reasons has been cancelled.

This show began in 1954 with a small, informal display organized by a group of friends. Over the years it has developed into an event that has been recognized all over the world, for example by the prestigious magazine National Geographic.

One of the driving forces behind it was Maria Cobarsí (d. 2013). She grew up on a farm, surrounded by nature. In an interview she once confessed that she intensely lived every season, especially spring. Each year she marveled when the flowers appeared and she smelled their aroma.

Years later this experience leads her to take the initiative for an exhibition that would turn into one of the jewels on Girona’s crown.

Historian Rosa Maria Alabrús

Rosa Maria Alabrús, born on this day in 1960, is a historian who focuses her studies on the social history of Early Modern Spain.

She has published various essays and books, for example the one in which she analyzes the significance of Catalan women who took part in the War of the Spanish Succession on the Habsburg side, from 1706 to 1714. She characterizes this article as ‘an attempt of social history on the role of women in early eighteenth century Catalan society’.

Subjects related to women and religion are also a focus of her studies, such as ‘The suffering of domestic violence and the convent as a space for freedom: the case of Suor Angela Serafina’.

Her latest book ‘Razones y emociones femeninas’ (‘Female Reasons and Emotions’) concerns nun Hipólita de Rocabertí and Catalan religious women in the 16th and 17th century.

Photo: UAO CEU

Rosa Serra, sculptor

Rosa Serra‘s sports sculptures, well-known for her Olympic work (Seoul, Barcelona), are praised by critics for having force and motion.

Over the years she simplified the forms of her figures who now show a certain allegoric abstraction. Like ‘Plougense’, to be found at the Club Natació Banyoles (Swimming Club of Banyoles) honouring the club’s many volunteers.

Her Olympic work can be admired at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne (Switzerland), to be reopened on 8 June. She also made a statue of Tiger Woods in Oregon commissioned by Nike.

‘Either you rebel or you submit. If you submit, it is possible that you no longer suffer, but for me submittal means distress.’

Núria Pompeia, a pioneer feminist cartoonist, depicted collective experiences and denounced the discrimination of women in all spheres.

Rosa Obradors, teacher

In the 1920’s Rosa Obradors created her own academy where girls could study subjects like commercial arithmetic and accounting.

But she is mainly known for her manual of Catalan ortography, a summary of the ‘Normes ortogràfics’ (Institute for Catalan Studies).

She was born on 3 May 1900.

Will the memory of evil be erased or will I carry it always with me as an illnes of the soul?

Author Mercè Rodoreda (1908 – 1983) who wrote The Time of the Doves and Broken Mirror.

Fearless

‘The Heroine of Peralada‘, a painting by Antoni Caba (1864), represents the legend of Na Mercadera of Peralada during the Aragonese Crusade (1285). Is it really a legend or is the story true?

What happened

It is 1285 and the region of the Empordà with its cornfields and the Pyrenees as a background, is everything but idyllic. The life of a farmer’s family is hard, and because of its strategic position near France the area often is the scenery of tension and battles.

The mercenary and chronicler Ramon Muntaner, born at Peralada in the Alt Empordà, recorded his life and adventures as a commander of the Catalan Company. In one of the best known episodes he tells the story of a townswoman whom he personally knows: people call her Na Mercadera (the Merchant). He describes her as a strong, tall and resolute woman who does not let herself be bullied, not even by noblemen. She is determined to lead a normal life, what is more: she aims to make the most of the situation. This results in what Muntaner in his Chronicle calles a ‘marvellous fact’.

Ramon Muntaner (anonymous painter)

War and siege
In those days Catalonia was involved in a crusade against the Crown of Aragon instigated by the new Pope Martí IV after the House of Anjou had been thrown out of Sicily by its inhabitants with the help of Pere III of Aragon, the ‘Great’, against the Pope’s wishes. One of the many incidents during this conflict took place in Peralada, where king Pere had taken up his general quarters while the French enemy forces had besieged the town.

Of course this blockade makes daily life of the inhabitants nearly impossible. For example, they cannot safely work their plots that are situated in the outskirts of the town. But Na Mercadera is determined to give it a try. She dresses up like a man, and armed with a spear, a sword and a shield, she leaves the village to harvest the cabbages she needs.

Hotel manager against all odds

It was in the news this week: hotel rooms are converted into hospital wards to house convalescent Covid-19 patients. One of these hotels is the historic Hotel Trias in Palamós (Costa Brava). Few people know that this establishment has been built up by a girl of 17 who, despite repeated setbacks, turned a small inn into a prestigious business.

We are talking about Maria Trias Joan who was an only child born to Francisco and Matilde on 29 July 1892 in Sant Joan de Palamós. At the age of fourteen she becomes an orphan and just two years later she decides to take over the family business: the inn founded in 1900.

The hotel in 1913

Maria, and educated woman who speaks French and plays the piano, marries the veterinary Lluís Colomer Moret. He sadly dies when she is expecting their second child, already having lost another one. But she perseveres educating the two children and building up the enterprise all by herself. And not without success, for in 1924 she already is awarded an important touristic prize largely due to her great working capacity, genial character and humanity that attracts many faithful customers. So Fonda Trias becomes a hotel that is a meeting place of international importance.

Maria Trias with her two nieces and waiter Siset Corominola
Destruction, rebuilding and Truman Capote

'Spring'

I have abandoned on the shore

-oh, fear, the fear!-

the tender nursing spirit

-fragrance and care.

For those who stole our spring

there can be no forgiveness.

Say it is so,

say it is no.

The once-lively flowers

-April and satin-

languish like our lives

with no direction,

not even fearless in dreams

-though once intrepid.

Too often I say no,

too often, yes.

The fogginess that haunts us,

-oh, for the sun!-

loses battles, wins battles,

-just hear the din!

Spring seems strange to us,

and the yes and the no.

Those who robbed us of spring

can know no mercy.

Clementina Arderiu (1889-1976)

Translation: Mary Ann Newman

For World Poetry Day (21 March).

Mari Pepa Colomer, pilot

A girl, just seven years old, has but one dream: to fly! As she is living on the second floor, she concludes that she can easily fulfill this dream. So she takes an umbrella and jumps from the balcony with the open umbrella by way of a parachute. Of course, this cannot end well, as she is no Mary Poppins. Instead of taking off, she crashes and breaks both legs. Nine years later she has a second try, now with a better result. This is the story of Maria Josep Colomer i Luque, better known as Mari Pepa Colomer (1913-2004).

The young Mari Pepa
As a young girl she already has a very strong bond with her father Josep, a liberal and bohemian textile industrialist, who is a personal friend of Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí, among others, and linked to the famous café Els Quatre Gats in Barcelona. He sees to it that she can study at the ‘Institut de Cultura i Biblioteca Popular de la Dona‘, a modern and innovative institute in Catalonia’s capital founded in 1909 by Francesca Bonnemaison aiming to give working class women the opportunity of enjoying a good training and learning a trade, so that they could earn their own living.

and then…

To pilot a plane is like riding a bicycle. Once you have learnt it, you will never forget it.

Mari Pepa Colomer (1913-2004), Catalonia’s first woman pilot.

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