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…

Teresa Pàmies: celebrating a centenary

One hundred years ago on 8 October 1919 author, journalist and political activist Teresa Pàmies was born in Balaguer (Lleida). Her work, consisting of novels, diary prose, narrative and article, is an alive witness of the Spanish Civil War and exile and has an autobiographical background.

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Apart from her literary work, Teresa collaborated in radio and press as well as in scientific and cultural magazines; she was also active in politics. For example, she joined the Unified Socialist Youth of Catalonia (1937), of which she would become the leader.

At the end of the Civil War that meant the Republican’s defeat two years later she marched into exile with her father, only to return in 1971 thanks to a visa to receive the Josep Pla Award for Testament in Prague (Testament a Praga).

This book contains a transcription of autobiographical memoires of her father Tomàs Pàmies, a Marxist politicial leader, alternated with messages and texts in which she is reflecting on communism, especially related to the Prague Spring (1968).

The English translation by Melissa Stewart titled Testament in Prague was published in 2005 by University Press of the South, New Orleans.

For more information on Teresa Pàmies, click here.

How women rocked the foundations of universities

Just as in most European countries, Catalan women had to fight their way into university. However, the possibilities in which women could shape their lives were clearly determined by the course of Spanish history.

The first students
In the beginning women entered univeristy by enrolling in medical studies; later on they chose exact sciences. The first woman ever to set foot in a Catalan university classroom was Elena Maseras who enrolled in the Medicine Faculty of the University of Barcelona in 1872 (see pictures below). Allegedly she was applauded when she made her appearance in the lecture room. Some six years later she finished her studies and requested to be examined in order to obtain her degree.

This seemingly simple petition threw the bureaucratic organs of the university into a state of great confusion. It took them three years to sort things out and in February 1889 she finally got permission to present herself at the exams where she obtained the qualification ‘excellent’. Nevertheless, these obstacles had disheartened her, and she decided not to continue her medical studies and gave up her aspirations of becoming a doctor. During the three years of bureaucratic silence she had followed a teacher training and worked in this capacity in secondary institutions till her death.

Reactions
The fact that a woman was studying at university raised a whole range of issues, as this phenomena rocked moral principles of a society that was not prepared to let men and women share the same classsroom. Also ideologic and economic principles were at stake, or so it was believed, when reality sank in: studying women not only wanted to acquire knowledge, but they also intended to exercize a profession.

About insults and what followed

Literary route: Colometa and ‘The Time of the Doves’

Colometa, The ‘Pigeon Girl’, is the principal character of the novel “Plaça del Diamant’ (translated into English with the title of The Time of the Doves). Mercè Rodoreda wrote this novel in 1962 while she was in exile in Geneva, Switzerland, after the Spanish Civil War. This war and its aftermath play a big part in the book as well as Colometa’s struggle to find her independence.

The Foundation dedicated to the memory of author Rodoreda offers various literary routes; one of them visits the square “Plaça del Diamant’, the scene of the greater part of this novel.

The itinerary also includes the adjoining streets and squares that are the background of the lives of Colometa, Quimet, the chemist and so many other characters of this great work of Catalan as well as world literature. Wander through this area called ‘barri de Gràcia’ and imagine the scenes of the Civil War and post-war years, described in the book.

Other routes on this website take you to the area of Sant Gervasi and Rodoreda’s childhood, or the Rambla and its surroundings for an even better understanding of her books. Interesting guides for an entertaining morning or afternoon!

Photo: sculpture on the Plaça del Diamant depicting Colometa, the leading character in The Time of the Doves.

Who is she?

For quite some time the photo Falling Soldier, allegedly taken by Robert Capa in 1936, has been the emblematic picture of the Spanish Civil War. The authenticity debate around this picture is still going on.

But there is another iconic picture taken in the same year, in this case of a confident young girl looking defiantly into the camera. She is clearly standing on top of a roof. Who is she, where is she standing and what is the context of the photo?

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All these questions will shortly be answered, so stay tuned!

Dolors Sala, entrepreneur

Freixenet, now world leader in the cava sector, would never have occupied this position without the input and talent of Dolors Sala. She was the critical success factor from the foundation of the company right till her death. Freixenet’s story is Dolors’ story.

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Dolors Sala and her husband Pere Ferrer

Origins
When Dolors Sala Vivé and her husband Pere Ferrer Bosch found the company of sparkling wines in 1914 shortly after their marriage, she knows what she is talking about. Dolors is the daughter and granddaughter of specialists in still wines of the old Casa Sala established in 1861 by Francesc Sala Ferrés, her grandfather.

This family business was the first brand to export wines from Sant Sadurní d’Anoia  (Alt Penedès) halfway through the 19th century. Therefore she has an extensive knowledge of oenology. In blind taste tests she can easily distinguish the wines from Sant Sadurní, Subirats and Mediona that are grown around her home.

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Mansion La Freixeneda

Pere in his turn belongs to the Ferrer family which for 18 generations has held the property called ‘La Freixeneda’ (meaning ‘the forest of ash trees’), a 13th-century wine producing estate in Sant Quintí de Mediona. He is the youngest son, hence the nickname ‘Freixenet’ (‘small ash tree’).

Therefore the circumstances seem ideal for this pair. But were they? Continue reading “Dolors Sala, entrepreneur”

Josefina Torrents, sports pioneer and swimmer

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Josefina Torrents at the time of the 1932 race.

19 September 1932. On the quays of the port of Barcelona many people have assembled to watch the sixth edition of the crossing of the port organized by the swimming club Club Natació Barcelona. Some have been able to see the start of the race from the quay of Martell, others enjoy a terrific sight from boats that are anchored in the harbour or witness the arrival on the quay near the Barceloneta and the Palau del Mar (now Museum of the History of Catalonia).

Temperatures are beginning to get lower now that autumn is near, but that did not deter the nearly three hundred swimmers. One of them is Josefina Torrents i Illa, with her 30 years a veteran in perfect shape.

In an article covering the events newspaper La Vanguardia wrote that she had a ‘great mastery of style’, which enabled her to arrive in 50 minutes and 46 secons, the first of the four woman swimmers and sixth in the final rankings. President Macià and his wife Eugènia Lamarca who had witnessed the contest personally congratulated her with this feat. It was one of Torrents’ big successes, but certainly not her only one.

More about Josefina Torrents

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