1976 was a period of great change and renewal around the world (Punk in the UK, the death of Mao Zedong in China and the death of Francisco Franco in Spain the previous year). I have been based in the latter since late 2018 and have been grateful for the fascinating journey it has given me from Barcelona right down the Mediterranean coast to Alicante and inwards to Elche and… Orihuela.
Sometimes you find yourself in a place you’ve never heard of and are glad for the experience. The story goes that in 1976 after the Spanish Civil War, the people in Orihuela were feeling invigorated and felt the need to colour their neighbourhood, the poor and marginalised north western suburb of San Isidro. Some say its gypsy vibe is off-putting but I loved it and what better way to spend a grey spring morning than perusing its amazing urban art.
The Police at the time were not too enthused and tried to stop this celebration, much in honour of local born poet Miguel Hernández who was incarcerated for his liberal political views and died in horrendous circumstances in 1942. Fortunately the people won out and the paintings of San Isidro were born. Not surprisingly some are political in nature and some feature quotes from the late poet, ensuring his cultural and creative legacy.
In 2012 while newly based in China myself, the town hall of Orihuela decided to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the poet’s death with an extensive restoration project and the creation of new works. The result as told by Alicante Today in 2013 is ‘a cascade of colour running down the hillside streets.’ And it’s wonderful to see, especially on a grey day.
My thanks to those hosting me during my stay.
See the videos of the Holy Week Procession on my You Tube channel (short but nice).