In Madrid, on the cross roads between Avenida de Pablo Iglesias and Avenida de Reina in the barrio of Chamberi lies a reproduction bust of Pablo Iglesias Posse. Founder of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) and the General Workers Union, he is to some one of the most important figures in modern Spanish history.
The reproduction was unveiled in 2001 and had a mixed reception from locals. The original however has one hell of a story. One I intend to tell now. The bust was first inaugurated in 1936 in Parque de Oeste with a ceremony awash in revolutionary fanfare with red flags, emotional speeches and rousing hymns. Designed and built by the sculpture Emiliano Barral, the bust was a powerful symbol in a time of great political upheaval throughout Spain.
Shrapnel, Stray Bullets and Dynamite
The Civil War had just begun and much of Madrid was torn between competing sides and and deep rooted ideologies. Families, towns and cities split by divisive loyalties in a fight for ultimate control of Spain. The area surrounding the original bust was the site of many skirmishes between Republican and Nationalist troops and the monument endured both shrapnel blasts and stray bullets.
In 1939, with the Civil War was coming to an end after three years of fighting, victorious Nationalist forces attempted to blow up the sculpture with dynamite. They failed, and instead the 1500 kg bust was transported to Parque del Retiro to be broken up by stonemasons and used as building material for a stone wall.
A Long Wait for Pablo to See the Daylight Again
This would have been the end of the story were it not for the actions of José Pradal, a draftsman for the City of Madrid. Arriving at work that day inside Parque del Retiro José approached a group of workers who were about to begin work on breaking up the head. After a short conversation he was able to convince them that the stone from the bust would be useless as material for a wall. So the workers moved onto another job.
Later that night Pradal returned with two friends and managed to move the bust to one of the many gardens in Parque del Retiro. Together they dug a pit and buried the bust. Noting the coordinates they drew a map so as to return at some later date.
José Pradal kept the map for 17 years. But in 1957, aware of the potential danger of keeping it in his possession, he travelled to Toulouse and deposited the map with his brother Gabriel who was living in exile in France.
On his deathbed Gabriel then gave the map to his children Mercedes and Carlos. It wasn’t until 1979, 40 years after the burial, that the Pradal family contacted Alfonso Guerra, then Deputy Secretary of the recently reformed PSOE.
Symbolic and Historical Significance
In February of that same year the bust was recovered by a group of workers. Despite some serious damage to the face what remained of the bust was placed in the entrance to the PSOE party headquarters on Calle Ferraz. Many sculptors at the time offered to restore the bust to it’s original form, however it was felt that the damage had a strong symbolic and historical significance.
Later, in 2001 the Pablo Iglesias Foundation decided to return a reproduction of the same bust to the streets of Madrid. A copy of the undamaged original bust made by Pepe Noja was placed on a large granite block on the Avenida Pablo Iglesias in Chamberi. The location of the monument is certainly off the beaten track and you would be best to get the metro to Cuatro Caminos. Even now, 80 years after the death of Pablo Iglesias Posse, the monument is a site for protest, vandalism and graffiti.
[one_half]Opening Hours: Reproduction: Outside and always open – Original: 9am to 8pm[/one_half][one_half_last]Address: Reproduction: Av. de Pablo Iglesias, 15, 28003 Madrid – Original: Calle de Ferraz, 70, 28008 Madrid[/one_half_last]
[one_half]Price: Free at both of the locations[/one_half][one_half_last]Website: http://www.psoe.es/[/one_half_last]
Photo credit: Photo 1, 2 and 3 by Andy.