Humorist takes Barcelona single-handed

Antonio Mingote claims to have walked down Muntaner in uniform the day before Barcelona was officially taken by Franco.

Here’s the story of how Antonio Mingote–a celebrated cartoonist in post-war Spain–took Barcelona on January 25 1939, one day before its official capture by Franco’s armies:

A lieutenant said to his captain that he needed to get to the city which could be discerned at the foot of Tibidabo, where his regiment was. Why? Because his mother was there, and he wanted to see her after three years of absence caused by the war. His commanding officer replied that he was mad, that the advance was not anticipated until the following day, and that he couldn’t give him leave of this nature. The lieutenant kept insisting, until finally his commander said to him what was normally said in such cases: that he had heard nothing, and that he would just forget to ask where he was at nightfall.

So the officer descended on foot via Bonanova and the whole of Muntaner Street, accompanied by his assistant who refused to be left behind. The few people they encountered looked at them and the two stars on their chests and caps in surprise, but couldn’t imagine that they might be “for real”. He arrived at the house where he expected to find his mother, and the neighbours told him that she was fine but had gone to Sitges a couple of weeks before.

Given that Sitges was already in “liberated” territory–to use the jargon of the time–the lieutenant embarked on the return journey and fortunately arrived at his position to a sigh of relief from his captain. The following day he entered Barcelona, this time officially and with bands and banners flying.

This is recounted by Fernando Díaz-Plaja in his even-handed and often highly amusing Anecdotario De La Guerra Civil Española, and it might even be true. There are still a number of nice Sunday morning walks out of central Barcelona that take you more or less along Mingote’s route; I believe the church on the square was built soon after the war.

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