Plastered? Stone wall covering in Spanish vernacular architecture

Andoni Alonso, Inaki Arzoz, and Nicanor Ursua don’t provide sources for any of their often startling claims in this piece on “neo-vernacular” architecture in Navarre, so there’s no way of checking up on their thesis that Franco was responsible for the destruction of 75% of what they refer to as “genuine vernacular architecture”, damaging “profoundly and unnecessarily the ethnic identity of the Basque culture without offering anything valuable in exchange.” That they are being less than straightforward about their “ethnic identity” is evident from phrases like “typical Basque pelota courts”: pelota played up against the wall is a nineteenth century innovation, something of which they are surely aware. However, the notion that exteriors were modified in response to state intervention and market forces is interesting:

whitewashing, painting, or covering external walls with plaster of Paris [blah blah] In Franco’s mind, it was clear that foreign visitors should not be allowed to see adobe or clay walls, which had been characteristic of the flat, non-stony region in the south of Navarre. For him this was a clear sign of dirtiness, of the precarious life typical of Africa. Therefore he ordered a thick whitewashing of all external walls.

I’m not familiar with Navarre, but I believe nothing of the kind of happened in the central and eastern Pyrenees: historical photographs and untouched facades suggest that the plastering and often highly decorative painting of house walls was well established long before Manuel Fraga found out that Spain was different. Apart from the aesthetics, there are obvious practical reasons for this: plaster over stone prevents beasties from lurking (José Matos Mar, Erasmo Muñoz, yanacón del valle de Chancay (1974, biographical): “Las paredes sin enlucir están cubiertas de telas de araña y polvo”), lime washes are disinfectant (as well as lots of other good things), and plastered and painted walls stand up better to sun, rain and wind. On the other hand, barns were left to fend for themselves.
I suspect the real stone house craze–which leads to late nineteenth century facade decoration being stripped in order to reveal low quality stonework–is far less historically evocative than purchasers think. However, it would be nice to know more before we start mounting nocturnal raids to replaster and -paint real stone second homes in Huesca.

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