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'Uncomfortable memory' tour faces Barcelona slave history


City tours are often a compilation of the most famous, the biggest, most historic, most beautiful—but they seldom address the history of how they got that way unless it involves some colorfully bloody legend. But a new walking tour of Barcelona takes a different tack: exploring the slave-generated wealth that paid for many of the famous sights.

According to historian Oriol  López “Es una memoria incómoda – an uncomfortable memory...It’s not taught in schools here and it’s still not something some those in authority want to look at.” López's organization, the European Observatory of Memories, created the tour, which focuses on slavery.

Along the way, it points out that perhaps 10% of the population in medieval times were slaves, and that in the 19th century, much of the new wealth that built Barcelona's moderniste masterpieces came from families whose members had made fortunes from slavery in Cuba and other areas and brought the money home. That includes the Guell family, responsible for several of Gaudi's projects.

Of course, Barcelona is far from the only city whose growth and wealth came through slave-based fortunes. In some places, including Colonial Williamsburg, Liverpool, England and more, there have been serious efforts to explore and explain; in others it's still an "uncomfortable memory."

Photo: In Parc Guell, one of Gaudi's masterpieces.

For more details on this topic, from The Guardian (UK), click HERE


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The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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It is good that a people face up to and learn from the past.  We must learn from the lessons of history, but I do hope this will not become a "self-flagellation" exercise.  At the end of the 18th century, everyone had slaves.  Every people, every race, every culture, every country participated in the buying, selling and owning of other people.  It was the norm.  Fortunately, with a few rare exceptions, modern society has become enlightened and the rights of individuals is now a central focus of most peoples.  Slavery still exists and ending these pockets of slavery should be what we as a modern people should focus on.

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

'Presentism' is always a danger for historians, but in this case, there's a real issue of interest based on the late-in-the-day entry into slave-owning by the later Catalan grandees; they went into it when all European countries had already abolished it, and when it had been abolished in many colonial areas. Sadly, not Cuba, Brazil, or, at the beginning of that period, the United States.

One of the reasons it's important to consider these past things is because they do enter into the present, and shape how we think about peoples, countries and regions. Imagine, for example, trying to understand why New England "gentlemen of property and standing" opposed the Abolitionist movement without knowing that their grandfathers and fathers had owned the slave ships and made the money with which they, themselves, built the mills that made cloth of slave-grown cotton. Makes it a lot clearer, no?

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

Slavery is just part of a long cruel history. Wherever there is chance to make money, people of any race or creed will gladly join in.

Even the African warlords who sold the "prisoners" to the slave ships played their parts in this piece of history.

Even today fortunes are made by sending young men to die in the name of "Defence". Money has no morals.

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