“In Spain there is a great ignorance of contemporary art and architecture”

An idyllic childhood in a settlement town. historian and researcher Ricarda Lopez Gonzalez (Jerez, 1956) is the author, together with fellow historian Rosa María Toribio Ruiz, of the first in-depth study of the urbanism, architecture and art of the colonization towns in Andalusia. She had an idyllic childhood in La Barca de la Florida, one of the first colonization towns in Spain, whose stories she has given to write novels like those of Sebastián Rubiales. She is the daughter of a father from Jaén, who lived in the military farmhouse of Garrapilos (Jerez), and a mother from Cádiz (El Bosque). Years later they moved to Jerez. She graduated in Geography and History between Cádiz and Seville. She taught for more than three decades and was director of the IES Caballero Bonald (Jerez). She has always enjoyed her work. Her passions have been travel, contemporary art, architecture and reading. She is the mother of a son.

-Why is Jerez one of the first places where colonization towns were built?

-Jerez is the territory with the most settlements of this type in Andalusia, eight in total, because its large landowners were the ones who most supported the 1936 coup d’état. One way of paying them was to multiply the value of their land, converting it from rainfed to irrigated land, and compensate them for those who dedicated themselves to the colonization process. Some have become Jerez neighborhoods, such as Guadalcacín or Estella del Marqués. Jerez is home to the first two settlement towns built in Spain: La Barca de la Florida and El Torno.

-What was the origin of these towns?

-They are part of the process of Franco’s colonization. They are a counter to the agrarian reform of the Republic. With these towns it was intended to settle the peasant population so that they would not leave the countryside to go to the city after the civil war. Second, they are centers of production in times of famine in order to multiply harvests and productivity. Third, you want to improve the lives of peasants. And finally, thank the landowners for supporting the coup. Settlers and laborers live in them who improved their living conditions by receiving a small plot to cultivate and a house that they paid for for more than 40 years.

–She grew up in a colonization town and is co-author of a study on architecture and art in these towns in Andalusia.

-It has been an arduous research task to find out the artists who had collaborated with the National Colonization Institute and their works. In Cádiz we did the first investigation of the art of the churches of the towns; there was no previous study beyond a book with photos, despite being the province where the colonization process began (click here to see more details). In other territories of the country, such as Almería, Extremadura, Aragón, the art of the churches of these towns had been studied. As a result of a study by Rosa María Toribio and I on architecture in Jerez, which included the churches of these towns, we realized the potential of the works of art that they had inside and how unknown they were and their authors. , who did not sign them as they understood that their art was integrated into architecture.

-After Cádiz, they entered their investigation in Seville

-Yes, we contacted Víctor Pérez Escolano. In Seville, the architecture and urban planning of these towns had been studied, especially by Manuel Calzada Pérez. There was also a doctoral thesis by Guillermo Martínez Salazar, unpublished at the time, on the art of these towns. The case of Seville is special (press here to access the presentation of the book in the Diputación de Sevilla). Then we study those of Córboba, which will be published soon; those of Jaén, which was presented on September 28, and now we are with Malaga. Each book has an appendix of the plans of each town extracted from the Ministry of Agriculture, abundant photos and a biography of the artists.

-The evolution of these towns after the Franco regime has been disparate.

-Those inhabited by settlers, well located and on rich land have prospered more. Those from Jerez have been very active: industries (tomato, canning…) and small crafts (winery, cheese factory) have been set up. Esquivel, very close to Seville, has become a lively dormitory town. And La Barca de la Florida today has more than 5,000 inhabitants. Some are uninhabited, as in Jaén, since in this province they were made only for day laborers. The settlers received a plot of 3 to 5 hectares, and the day laborers one of 0.5 hectares, insufficient to live on if they were not given work in the fields.

-How is it that true contemporary art museums were built in these towns in their churches?

-Thanks to the architect José Luis Fernández del Amo, first director of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Spain in Madrid. Being a time of hunger in which art was not bought, Fernández del Amo hired a wide range of artists who have shaped the avant-garde art of the second half of the 20th century. They thus get some income. there they worked Manuel Rivera, from the El Paso group; Jose Luis Sanchezone of those who introduced abstract art in Spain; Delhi Tejero, Jacqueline Canivet, Teresa Eguibar and Justa Pagés. The National Colonization Institute built the church, equipped it with pews, images and liturgical objects, a heritage that years later passed to the IARA and then to the Church.

-That artistic claim in these towns is striking

-It was the time of the Second Vatican Council. The religious currents of that time defended that art should be at the service of the liturgy and that it should be contemporary art, of the time in which it was lived. Fernández del Amo, a very religious person, strives to bring the art of the moment to churches. Architecture and art are consistent with that spirituality.

-Why has this art not been valued before?

-In Spain, in general, there is a great ignorance of contemporary art and architecture. Real barbarities have been done to tear down works of the 20th century. With our research we intend to make this unknown heritage known so that it can be valued and preserved. From a rigorous investigation our publications are attractive and informative to achieve these objectives. In 2008 we began to value the art of the churches in the towns of the Guadalquivir Valley. At the University, the subject has been dealt with by Miguel Centellas in Almería, Moisés Bazán in Extremadura, José María Alagón in Aragón and Pablo Rabasco in Córdoba. There are doctoral theses on the art of the churches projected by Fernández del Amo, such as that of Débora Bezares.

-What measures do you propose to give the place it deserves to the art of these towns?

-On the one hand, the urban protection of these towns including them in the PGOU, as Utrera has done. Sherry is trying. Second, that the Bishopric of each area preserve this heritage and its churches, some of which are in very poor condition. The Junta de Andalucía has made a brief review of these towns from the urban and architectural side, not art.

-You have also studied the Mudejar art of Jerez, why is it relevant?

Mudejar architecture in Jerez It was the first joint investigation I did with Rosa María Toribio. We compare the Mudejar of Jerez with that of Seville and Córdoba. The uniqueness of the Mudejar architecture of Jerez is its Almohad influence and the fact that it continues to this day, as there are many elements in popular architecture in which the Mudejar survives, such as the cellars, facades, patios and palaces. That continuation of the Mudejar is explained in the book Houses and palaces of Jerez, the second book we did. Mudejar is a constant in Spanish architecture and in the south it is more noticeable.

“In Spain there is a great ignorance of contemporary art and architecture”