The Director-General for Archives, Libraries, Museums and Heritage of the Autonomous Regional Government of Catalonia, Joan Pluma, formally opened the travelling exhibition "The Voice of the Industrial Colonies" at the Museum of Science and Technology of Catalonia (mNACTEC). The display features some fifteen periodical publications printed at Catalan industrial colonies over the course of the 20th century, offering a previously unseen perspective on the phenomenon of industrialisation in Catalonia.
The opening ceremony, which was also attended by the Director of the mNACTEC, Jaume Perarnau, likewise served as the presentation of the book Industrial Colonies (and Districts) of La Selva. News, evolution and protagonists, by the journalist and historian Xavier Martí Ylla, the curator of the exhibition.
"The Voice of the Industrial Colonies" presents some fifteen publications (magazines, brochures and parish newsletters), reflecting a wide range of aspects of the daily life of each colony: religious, moral and professional instruction of workers by the owners the technical and productive evolution of the factory and of the colony, and the demands and social and cultural life of the residents in each settlement (in particular from the 70s onwards).
In addition to periodic publications, "The Voice of the Industrial Colonies" exhibits contextual and bibliographical documentation about the phenomenon of industrial colonies in Catalonia.
The colonies were decisive in the industrialisation and progress of Catalonia. The "Catalan case", as it is known, is a unique phenomenon found nowhere else around the world, given its volume, diversity and concentration. Although most of the colonies were located on the Rivers Ter, Llobregat and their tributaries, they were built in all Catalan districts. Industrial textile operations benefited the most from the geographical and hydrological conditions to obtain cheap energy, while distancing themselves from the working class conflicts in major urban centres, and exerting considerable social control to guarantee production levels. But they were not the only industries: there were also agricultural, cement, hydroelectric, steelmaking, mining, paper and chemical colonies set up.
The content of the exhibition
The documents presented in the exhibition refer to 11 industrial colonies: Santa Maria – SAPHIL (Ripoll); La Farga de Bebié (Les Llosses); Borgonyà (Sant Vicenç de Torelló); Bonmatí (Sant Julià de Llor); Cal Pons (Puig-Reig); Cal Rosal (Avià); L’Ametlla de Merola (Puig-Reig); Güell (Santa Coloma de Cervelló); Fibracolor (Tordera); Llaudet (Sant Joan de les Abadesses), and La Mata de Pinyana (Alguaire).
The exhibits on display include in particular originals (and a number of reproductions) of the following publications: Sol Ixent, L'Estel and Periòdic Mural, from the Güell Colony (Santa Coloma de Cervelló); Som Petits... from the Borgonyà Colony (Sant Vicenç de Torelló); Revista Cal Pons from the Cal Pons Colony (Puig-Reig); El Brogit de l’Ametlla, from the L’Ametlla de Merola Colony (Puig-Reig); El Crit, from La Farga de Bebié (Les Llosses); SAPHIL (Saphil Terrassa and Santa Maria Colony, Ripoll), along with the parish newsletters of those colonies that had a parish church.
El Periòdic Mural from the Güell Colony is one of the most notable publications in the exhibition, as it is the only newspaper of this type to be preserved in Catalonia. These newspapers were an inherent feature of the early Franco years, and provided a kind of noticeboard positioned at the foot of bell towers or on the church walls, where different people would periodically post their output: theatre reviews, poems, various news items, sports and travel reports, etc.
Meanwhile, examples of the political and religious meaning of the industrial colonies are to be found in the publications Sol Ixent, reflecting the political thinking of Eusebi Güell, and Revista de Cal Pons, laden with religious and moral messages.
The parish newsletters offer information on aspects of huge importance regarding the industrial colonies, such as demographic movements (births, deaths, christenings, weddings, etc.) and civic and public activities (outings, pilgrimages, visits, cinema, theatre, etc.). In many cases this weekly publication was the only resource available to the settlement to contact its members.
The book Industrial Colonies (and Districts) of La Selva
The work Industrial Colonies (and Districts) of La Selva. News, evolution and protagonists, by the journalist and historian Xavier Martí Ylla, is a study of the industrial colonies and districts of La Selva, an area not normally thought of when discussing the industrial colonies of Catalonia. La Selva contained industrial complexes of this type from the last quarter of the 19th century until well into the 20th century, and in fact had the greatest variety of types of industrial colony or district: railways, hydraulic, mining, paper and textile manufacturing.
Each chapter of the book is dedicated to a particular colony or district, presenting previously unknown information: the life story of Teodor de Mas and his travels around Argentina, as well as his Vic-El Pasteral railway project; the beginnings of the Clerch Colony in Osor and the importance of its founder, Antoni Clerch i Nicolau; the earliest images and plans of the accommodation at La Burés in Anglès and the gossip-filled lives of the heirs; the first project to build a dam in Bonmatí and the lease deeds of the first industrial operators; the plans for a great railway town at the Empalme de Maçanet-Massanes junction, and the links between the Franco regime and the founders of Fibracolor.