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“We Are All Armenian”

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

In 1998, I was fortunate enough to be assigned by the Department of State to the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan, Armenia, as the deputy chief of mission. Thanks to my studies, I was somewhat aware of the important role Armenia played in the history of Europe, Russia, and the Middle East. However, my academic knowledge in no way prepared me for what I discovered.

Early on, I made the acquaintance of Dr. Boris Gasparyan and his scientific colleagues. We began to travel systematically around Armenia, in the hope of building a database of archeological and paleontological sites to lay a foundation for future research.

What we saw on my travels astonished me. We visited historic and prehistoric sites abundant in number, richness, and variety, from medieval cathedrals, fortresses, and towns to Hellenistic cities and Bronze Age tombs. I realized that Armenia is not merely a small country in the Caucasus that regained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  It is one of the wellsprings of world civilization, on the same level as Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Italy. 

The traveler in Armenia encounters marvels at every turn through the countryside: hills crowned with Bronze Age fortresses, numberless caves containing early hominid sites, hillsides covered with thousands of ancient stone tools, vast monasteries and ruined cathedrals decorated with delicate bas reliefs.

Boris Gasparyan
Dr. Boris Gasparyan with ancient grape varietals.
Photo by Michael Gfoeller
Dimitri Arakelyan and Souren Kessedjian
Archeologists Dimitri Arakelyan and Souren Kessedjian on a field survey.
Photo by Michael Gfoeller
Ambassador Michael Gfoeller in Armenia
Michael Gfoeller in an ancient vineyard near the Areni cave.
Photo courtesy of Michael Gfoeller

Our discoveries over the last seventeen years via the Gfoeller Foundation have confirmed and expanded our initial understanding of Armenia’s prodigious role in cultural history. In fact, Armenia is the home of many fundamental arts and technologies that form the core of our civilization. Here we find the earliest form of domesticated wheat, the earliest large-scale wine producing complex yet discovered, some of the earliest centers of metallurgy, the earliest known textile and clothing production, the oldest shoes ever discovered in an archeological excavation, and the earliest known sites related to the domestication of horses. 

These arts and technologies developed in ancient Armenia impact the lives of every inhabitant of our planet today. Whoever bakes or eats bread, makes or drinks wine, uses metal tools or jewelry, or wears clothing and shoes is tied by invisible bonds of cultural inheritance to Armenia. In this sense, we are all Armenians.

Early-hominid sites in Armenia, resembling Olduvai Gorge in Kenya and Dimanisi in the Republic of Georgia, indicate that the initial stages of human evolution took place in the Caucasus region, as well as in East Africa. Along with Ethiopia, Armenia is one of the few places in the world where one can trace the pageant of human evolution continuously, from two million BP (before present) to historical times.

Areni mountains in Armenia
Areni mountains
Photo by Michael Gfoeller
Mount Aragats
Mt. Aragats, north of Yerevan
Photo by Michael Gfoeller
Areni, Armenia
Areni landscape
Photo by Michael Gfoeller

Armenia occupies a unique position between East and West. It can be called with equal justification the oldest country in both Europe and the Middle East. The Armenian historical chronicles begin in the twenty-fifth century BCE, many centuries before “Europe” came into existence as a concept. The Armenian capital, Yerevan, was founded in the eighth century BCE as the fortress of Erebuni. The Babylonian Map of the World, dating to the fifth century BCE, contains Armenia. In fact, it is the only country on the map that still exists.

Armenia played a key role in the evolution of world civilization, becoming the first country to adopt Christianity as the state religion in the year 301 AD. Following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, Armenian scholars preserved and disseminated the knowledge and wisdom of the classical tradition. When literacy nearly died out in Europe, Armenian scholarship flourished in a dense network of monasteries and universities, which welcomed students from all over Europe. In more recent times, Armenian scientists and researchers have made fundamental contributions to human knowledge.

More than a small country on the frontier between Europe and the Near East, Armenia is one of the centers of human evolution. It is one of the richest sources of world civilization. It is the memory of our common origins. It is a symbol of the ability of human culture and dignity to survive the harshest tests of history. It is the common inheritance of humanity.  

Ambassador Michael Gfoeller in Armenia
Photo courtesy of Michael Gfoeller

Ambassador Michael Gfoeller served as a U.S. diplomat from 1984 until his retirement in 2010 in Armenia, Bahrain, Belgium, Iraq, Moldova, Poland, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.

“My Goodness We Were Hungry!” An Immigrant’s Voyage to Catalonia

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Llegiu aquest article en català

Maria Àngels Córdoba tells me her story in steady Catalan, but when she wants to emphasize a feeling, like these ferocious hunger pangs, she quickly switches to Spanish.

“In the morning, we had some café con leche [half coffee, half milk]—well, it was brown, but it wasn’t coffee—and sopitas, slices of day-old dry bread. For lunch, chickpeas, olives, corn, grapes. Meanwhile the señoritos owned mountains, forests, creeks, rivers, entire towns even, but they didn’t pay the day’s wages in good time. My dad protested—he had five children to feed and one on the way. He worked days and nights and still owed the daily bread. He didn’t want to leave. He’d been stationed in Catalonia during the Civil War, and he didn’t want to return to Catalonia... but in Catalonia there were jobs and regular weekly wages. In the end, we left.”

In 1963, when Maria Àngels left Salinas, Córdoba, for Navas, Catalonia, she was thirteen years old. What she didn’t realize until she attempted to get in the train with the family mattress on her back was that their journey was a common one. So prevalent, in fact, that between the early 1950s and 1975, Catalonia’s population increased by 2,222,812 people. Maria Àngels is considered an immigrant, even though she was a Spaniard moving to another part of Spain.

“Our train came from Granada, and it was packed with people, belongings of all kinds. The air was thick. We pushed to get in. Grandma and Mama, round as a watermelon, sat down. We, kids crowded on the mattresses on the corridor. It was fun!” says Maria Àngels, looking both excited and sad.

Mora la Nova train station
The packed train in the station of Mora la Nova in the 1960s.
Photo courtesy of Museu d’història de la Immigració de Catalunya

It took them two full days to get to Catalonia—nowadays it takes half a day. They shared games, stories, food, and dreams.

Then, “I saw the sea! It was so big and blue. It hurt my eyes to look.” The sea was, to Maria Àngels, the promise of the good things to come.

In Navas, Maria Àngels went to school for a month, but soon she found a job in a factory in Ametlla de Merola. She remembers the peals of laughter from the teenage girls working next to her. It was there, over the noise of the loud textile machinery, that she realized her manager, Mr. Ton, spoke another language.

He gave her an order, and Maria Àngels stood there dumbfounded. She asked for clarification in Spanish, but he responded in Catalan. She discovered later that he didn’t understand Spanish. She was sure she would be fired. But, in what she interprets as an act of kindess, Mr. Ton approached her and, speaking slowly, showed her what he had asked her to do. This is how she began to learn Catalan.

While Maria Àngels took language lessons with Mr. Ton, other Andalusian immigrants who, like her, escaped hunger or political persecution, weren’t so lucky. Since the 1950s immigration wave took place during Francisco Franco’s dictatorial regime, many Catalans misinterpreted the arrival of 100,000 Andalusian inhabitants per year as an attempt to erase Catalan identity, according to Imma Boj, curator at the History of Immigration in Catalonia Museum. Franco declared these immigrants illegal, and many were even deported. Many immigrants felt not only uprooted but also rejected by many Catalans, as their presence was seen as a form of political occupation.

Workers at the factory of Ametlla de Merola
Maria Àngels (right) with her pals during a break in front of the factory of Ametlla de Merola.
Photo courtesy of Maria Àngels

Meanwhile, Maria Àngels’ family moved as much in Catalonia as it had in Andalusia, looking for a place to settle. “We were like snails” she jokes, because they carried their possessions with them from one house to another. “We stayed in Navas for five years, but then moved to Ribes de Freser. There the bell rang to call the workers to the factory. On winter Sundays, we went to the movies, and in the summers, we hiked the Taga [Mountain]. Life had changed.

“One good day, the director of the Tolrà factory from Castellar del Vallès came to Ribes. He was looking for large families, so the Pérez, Pinilla, Gallardo, Jurado, and Córdoba families moved to Castellar. We were given a new appartment to live in, and we all started to work at the Tolrà factory.”

Founded in 1856, the Tolrà textile factory took advantage of the rugged landscape of Castellar del Vallès by installing two hydraulic wheels in the Ripoll River to generate energy to move the looms. The looms were renowned for two reasons: 1) the quality of the product, with the bright white cotton fabric winning international awards, and 2) the quality of life for the workers. The managers established a daycare center and several schools for children of employees. They gave workers regular holidays and a retirement pension before it was required by the law. They built housing, laundry facilities, a church, a coffee shop, a soccer field, a theater, and a supermarket. The Tolrà patronage is a paradigmatic example of how Catalan industries behaved in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Tolrà looms
Heavy textile machinery of the Tolrà looms in the 1960s.
Photo courtesy of Arxiu d’Història de Castellar

“In Tolrà, my father continued to be an unskilled laborer, but I wasn’t. I worked in the salvage team—there were three of us. The chemical products we worked with were so dangerous that once I saw a cat disappear when it fell, accidentally, into one of the tanks. But what fabrics we produced! Nothing like it today, nothing at all,” Maria Àngels explains melancholically, remembering how the Tolrà looms shut down in 1995.

“It was there that I met Jordi, a handsome industrial master. I kind of had to hurry and learn Catalan well. But, you know, Jordi helped me!” she jokes.

According to geographer Anna Cabré, Catalonia was a pioneer in a new model of population growth, with immigration rather than procreation at its center. Between 1787 and 1887, Catalonia went from having the highest matrimonial fertility rate in Spain to the lowest. This transition paved the way for the capitalist transformation of the Catalan economy. The industry offered tempting job opportunities and higher salaries—just what immigrants sought.

So in the late nineteenth century, immigrants began to arrive from Aragon, Valencia, and the Balearic Islands. In the 1900s, they came from Murcia, Alicante, and Almeria, and in the 1950s, from Andalusia. By 1975, 38.4 percent of the Catalan population had been born outside Catalan territory.

As was common in Catalonia in the 1970s, Maria Àngels stopped working when she got pregnant with her first daughter. In her living room hangs a painting of the Salinas house her father sold to purchase the train tickets, but she has never been back. She would like to, but there was never time or money. Anyway, she found a place to settle and call home a long time ago.

Meritxell Martín-Pardo is a research associate for the Catalonia program at the 2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. She studied philosophy at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and earned her PhD in religious studies at the University of Virginia.

«¡Que hambre había, madre mía!»
El viatge a Catalunya d’una immigrant

La Maria Àngels Córdoba m’explica la seva història en català, però de seguida canvia al castellà quan vol emfasitzar sentiments i sensacions, com aquella gana ferotge i punyent que passava.

«Al matí, preníem cafè amb llet —bé, era de color marró, però no era cafè— i sopitas, llesques de pa sec del dia abans. Per dinar, menjàvem cigrons, olives, blat de moro, raïm... Mentrestant, els señoritos eren els amos de muntanyes, boscos, rius i torrents, fins i tot de pobles sencers, però no pagaven els jornals puntualment. El meu pare protestava, tenia cinc fills per mantenir i un altre en camí. Treballava nit i dia per guanyar-se el pa. No volia marxar. Durant la Guerra Civil havia estat destinat a Catalunya, i no hi volia tornar..., però a Catalunya hi havia feina i es podia cobrar una paga setmanal amb regularitat, de manera que, finalment, vam marxar.»

El 1963, amb tretze anys, la Maria Àngels va deixar el poble cordovès de Salinas per anar a Navàs. Quan va intentar pujar al tren amb el matalàs a l’esquena, es va adonar que el seu era un viatge força comú. De fet, era tan comú que, entre principis de la dècada del 1950 i el 1975, la població catalana va augmentar en 2.222.812 habitants. La Maria Àngels és considerada una immigrant, encara que fos una espanyola que es traslladava a una altra part d’Espanya.

«El nostre tren venia des de Granada i anava ple com un ou. Els viatgers duien tota mena d’efectes personals, les seves pertinences. L’ambient estava carregat. Vam entrar al vagó a empentes. L’àvia i la mare, molt grasses, seien, mentre que els nens ens atapeíem sobre els matalassos al passadís. Era divertit», explica la Maria Àngels, amb una barreja d’emoció i tristor al rostre.

Van tardar dos dies sencers a arribar a Catalunya —avui tardarien mig dia. Compartien jocs, històries, menjar i somnis.
«Vaig veure el mar! Era tan gran i tan blau que feia mal als ulls.» Per a la Maria Àngels, el mar era com la promesa de les coses bones que havien de venir.

A Navàs, la Maria Àngels va anar a l’escola un mes, però aviat va trobar feina en una fàbrica de l’Ametlla de Merola. Recorda les riallades de les seves companyes de feina adolescents. Va ser allà on, amb el brogit de la maquinària tèxtil de fons, es va adonar que el seu cap, el senyor Ton, parlava en una altra llengua.

Li va donar una ordre, i la Maria Àngels es va quedar esbalaïda. Va demanar que li ho expliqués en castellà, però ell va respondre en català. Més tard va descobrir que ell no entenia el castellà. Estava convençuda que la despatxarien, però, en el que ella interpreta com un acte d’amabilitat, el senyor Ton se li va acostar i, parlant a poc a poc, li va ensenyar el que li havia demanat que fes. Així va ser com va començar a aprendre català.

Mentre la Maria Àngels aprenia català amb el senyor Ton, altres immigrants andalusos que, com ella, fugien de la fam o de la persecució política, no eren tan afortunats. Segons Imma Boj, directora del Museu d’Història de la Immigració a Catalunya, com que l’onada d’immigració de la dècada del 1950 va tenir lloc durant la dictadura de Franco, molts catalans van interpretar l’arribada de 100.000 habitants andalusos a l’any com un intent d’esborrar la identitat catalana. Franco va declarar aquells immigrants il·legals, i molts fins i tot van ser deportats. Molts d’aquells immigrants es van sentir no tan sols desarrelats, sinó també rebutjats per molts catalans, perquè la seva presència es percebia com una forma d’ocupació política.

Mentrestant, la família de la Maria Àngels recorria Catalunya com havia recorregut Andalusia, a la recerca d’un lloc on establir-se. «Fèiem com els cargols», comenta rient, perquè s’enduien totes les seves pertinences d’una casa a una altra. «Vam quedar-nos cinc anys a Navàs, però després ens vam mudar a Ribes de Freser. Allà la campana tocava per avisar els treballadors per anar a la fàbrica. Els diumenges d’hivern anàvem al cinema, i a l’estiu, fèiem excursions al Taga. La vida havia canviat.

«Un bon dia, el director de la fàbrica Tolrà de Castellar del Vallès es va presentar a Ribes. Buscava famílies grans, i així va ser com els Pérez, els Pinilla, els Gallardo, els Jurado i els Córdoba ens vam traslladar a Castellar. Ens van donar un pis nou per viure-hi i tots vam entrar a treballar a la Tolrà.»

La fàbrica tèxtil Tolrà va ser fundada el 1856. Aprofitant el terreny accidentat de Castellar del Vallès, van instal·lar al riu Ripoll dos molins per generar energia per fer anar els telers. La fàbrica tenia molta anomenada per dos motius: per una banda, la qualitat dels seus productes (les seves peces de roba blanca de cotó havien guanyat premis internacionals), i per una altra, la qualitat de vida dels treballadors. Els responsables de la fàbrica van obrir una llar d’infants i escoles per als fills dels treballadors. Els empleats tenien dret a vacances periòdiques i a una pensió de jubilació abans que ho exigís la llei. La Tolrà havia construït habitatges, safareigs, una església, un cafè, un camp de futbol, un teatre i un economat. El patronat Tolrà és un exemple paradigmàtic del comportament dels industrials catalans als segles xix i xx.

«A la Tolrà, el meu pare seguia sent un treballador no qualificat, però jo no. Treballava a l’equip de socors —érem tres. Els productes químics amb què treballàvem eren tan perillosos que una vegada vaig veure com desapareixia un gat que va caure per accident en un dels dipòsits. Però quins teixits que fèiem! Avui dia no es fa res semblant, res», explica la Maria Àngels amb malenconia, recordant el tancament de la Tolrà, el 1995.
«Allà vaig conèixer en Jordi, un capatàs molt ben plantat. Vaig haver d’espavilar-me i aprendre bé el català, però en Jordi m’hi va ajudar!», diu rient.

Segons la geògrafa Anna Cabré, Catalunya fou pionera en un nou model de creixement de la població, basat en la immigració, més que no pas en la procreació. Entre el 1787 i el 1887, Catalunya va passar de tenir l’índex més elevat de fecunditat matrimonial d’Espanya a tenir el més baix. Aquesta transició va propiciar la transformació capitalista de l’economia catalana. La indústria oferia oportunitats laborals atractives i salaris més elevats, justament el que buscaven els immigrants.

A finals del segle xix, van començar a arribar immigrants des d’Aragó, València i les illes Balears. A la dècada del 1900, van venir de Múrcia, Alacant i Almeria, i a la del 1950, d’Andalusia. L’any 1975, el 38,4 % de la població catalana ja havia nascut fora del territori català.

Com era habitual a Catalunya als anys setanta, la Maria Àngels va deixar la feina quan es va quedar embarassada de la seva primera filla. Al menjador té penjat un quadre on es reprodueix la casa Salinas, la casa que el seu pare va vendre per comprar els bitllets de tren. No hi ha tornat mai. Li hauria agradat, però no ho ha fet per falta de temps o per falta de diners. En qualsevol cas, fa temps que la Maria Àngels va trobar un lloc on instal·lar-se, una llar.

Meritxell Martín-Pardo és investigadora associada per al programa de Catalunya de l’Smithsonian Folklife Festival del 2018. És llicenciada en filosofia per la Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona i doctora en estudis religiosos per la Universitat de Virgínia.

“We Were Trained to Be Democrats”: The Power of Montserrat

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

“After I graduated from Vienna’s Conservatory, I moved to Cape Town to conduct the Cape Town Opera Chorus,” explains Daniel Mestre, the conductor of the chamber, choir, and orchestra of the Superior Conservatory of the Liceu in Barcelona and professor and conductor of the Opera Atelier at the ESMUC. “Cape Town became home to me for many reasons, but an important one was the Tafelberg, the flat-topped mountain that overlooks the city. The aerial cable car reminded me of a landmark: it reminded me of Montserrat.”

To say that Catalonia’s Montserrat, or “saw-cut mountain,” is unique is perhaps to belittle it. Its cliffs accentuate a jagged silhouette; its summits, like needles, defy gravity; its whimsical reliefs allow us to spot a gorilla here and an elephant there amid the evergreen oaks (Quercus ilex). The vertical cleavages in the colossal rock adhered by natural cement make this mountain range twelve miles outside Barcelona unusual. At its side, the Llobregat River obligingly meanders around it. The massif is 6.2 miles long and 3.1 miles wide, but despite its size and peculiar composition, the power of Montserrat lies elsewhere.

For over one thousand years, Montserrat and its community have shaped Catalonia. In 875 and 876, the Counts of Barcelona, who had just taken the mountain back from the Saracens, donated the mountain’s four chapels to the Benedictine Abbey of Ripoll, the most important center of prayer in the area at the time.

Under the leadership of Abbot Oliba (1008–1046), the chapel of Holy Mary in Montserrat grew into a small monastery. Because the number of pilgrims drawn to the mountain continued to increase, it became an abbey in 1409. In 1493, Pope Alexander VI annexed Montserrat to the Congregation of St. Benedict of Valladolid.

Montserrat gorilla and elephant
Montserrat was declared a natural park in 1987. There are cable cars, funicular railways, roads, and hiking paths connecting to valleys to the abbey and other points in the mountain range. On the way from the Sant Joan Funicular Station (3,185 feet) to Sant Jeroni (4,055 feet), the highest summit of Montserrat, one can see the heads of a gorilla and an elephant in the cliff face. Can you?
Photo courtesy of Meritxell Martín-Pardo

The influence of the abbey continued to grow steadily; however, the War of the French (1808–1812) and the ecclesiastical confiscations of 1835–1837 brought about its closure. The devotion to Our Lady and her proclamation as Patron Saint of Catalonia soon restored monastic life, but at the beginning of the Civil War (1936), after seeing churches burning at the foot of the mountain, the monks dispersed to protect themselves. Twenty-three were killed.

In the wake of so much turbulence, the community around Montserrat continued to grow and create. Daniel Mestre has fond memories of his musical beginnings in the abbey. Starting in 1983 at age ten, he sang in the escolania (boys’ choir) until he was fourteen.

“Those were perhaps the most formative and decisive years of my life,” he reflects, glowing. “One afternoon, I sang for Leonard Bernstein, and on another I met the 1985 Barça team when they came to offer the National League Cup to the Virgin. The quality of education was excellent. When I left, I always felt prepared. The monks are scholars who love knowledge.”

The first written mention of boys’ choir dates to 1307, so it is possibly the oldest institution of its kind in Europe. After the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, Abbot Escarré and Father Segarra reshaped the school, deeming it was imperative to provide excellent academic training in addition to musical education.

For years, Mestre had seen Montserrat at a distance from his bedroom window in Igualada. Once he passed the entrance exams required to join the choir, his ties to the landscape became social. Boys and monks hiked together every Thursday, because the abbot believed they should be in touch with nature. To him, being part of the organization was an honorable distinction.

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“Every Sunday we got to go home for the day. I took the cable car. I showed the number on my sock, 217, because in this way they knew I was a choirboy. I mean, they knew who I was, but we were boys and thought it was the coolest thing to do,” he chuckles.

The most joyful time for the students is the period called Bisbetó, or the Little Bishop. Falling between Santa Cecilia (November 22) and Saint Nicholas (December 6), these festivities turn life in the abbey upside down. The first-year students each hold a political campaign, vying to play the roles of the Vicar, the Secretary, and—the most coveted—the Little Bishop in the Saint Nicholas play.

“This is a very old tradition, and I’ve been told that even during the forty years of the dictatorship, the monks maintained it,” Mestre says. “We were trained to be democrats.”

Later on in his musical career, when he was offered the extraordinary opportunity of assisting the conductor in the historic production of Fidelio at the Robben Island Prison to mark the tenth anniversary of South African democracy, Mestre understood the magnitude of the honor.

Without a doubt, the abbey is a center of cultural resistance that invites the visitor to transcend political differences. People are united by their devotion to Our Lady of Montserrat, widely known as La Moreneta (“the Dark One”). Many miracles are attributed to her, but the first one remains key to the Catalan imaginary: in 880, a shepherd saw a light in a cave. Upon entering it, he saw Our Lady of Montserrat. He tried taking her to Manresa, but she wouldn’t be moved. She resisted. The three-foot-tall image that now stands behind the altar in the basilica is a twelfth-century Romanesque polychrome carving.

La Moreneta
La Moreneta, seated in majesty, holding the Christ Child, both wearing crowns. In her right hand, she holds the globe; her left hand rests upon the child’s shoulder. The Christ Child’s right hand is raised in blessing and his left hand holds a pinecone, a symbol of everlasting life.
Photo courtesy of Meritxell Martín-Pardo
Boys Choir of Montserrat
Back row, left to right: Daniel Mestre, vicar; Pau Badia, secretary. Front row, left to right: Ernest Saura, helper; Bernat Vivancos, little bishop; Marc Marcet, the baton carrier, and Jordi Casals, helper. Bernat Vivancos is now a renowned composer, who served as the musical director of the Boys Choir of Montserrat from 2007 to 2014. Jordi Casals is the co-director of the Arnold Schönberg Choir of Vienna. Daniel Mestre has also become a professional musician. While the monks and teachers of the escolania insist that they are not there to churn out professional musicians, in the end, many become professional musicians.
Photo courtesy of Daniel Mestre

In the fall of 1940, five days after Catalan President Lluís Companys had been executed, German Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler arrived in Montserrat. Denizens of the abbey were already uncomfortable with Francisco Franco’s regime appropriating Catholicism as an instrument to legitimize fascist policy. Franco’s fascism was Catholic, but Catholicism wasn’t fascism. This was the line the monks had to draw to effectively communicate that Montserrat was for all Catalans.

So instead of receiving Himmler himself, Abbot Escarré had Fathers Ripol and Estrada, who spoke German, show him around. It turned out that Himmler thought Montserrat was Richard Wagner’s Montsalvat, and he was looking for the Holy Grail.

With the visitor gone, Abbot Escarré returned to business. Following the rule of hospitality that defines the Benedictine order, he transformed the abbey into an oasis for all spiritual seekers and intellectuals. This task culminated on April 27, 1947, with a pilgrimage to reconcile Catalans who had fought on opposite sides in the Civil War. Father Franquesa and Josep Benet weaved anew what the war had torn apart: a fabric of Catalan cultural associations. Thousands attended. The mass was officiated in Catalan for the first time since before the war. From the Gorro Frigi, one of the spires overlooking the abbey, they waved a Senyera, the Catalan flag.

A few days later, the governor of Catalonia was dismissed. On May 20, 1947, Franco visited Catalonia to assert his control over the territory.

“It may seem that Montserrat is well off the beaten path, but it’s actually quite the opposite,” Mestre says. Montserrat is the heart of Catalonia.

Despite all the happy memories, Mestre recalls one catastrophe at Montserrat.

“In 1986, I lived through the dramatic forest fire. I saw the flames climbing toward the monastery. We were quickly evacuated. It was devastating.”

For eleven days, the winds were so strong that firefighting planes were useless. Working together, audacious monks, army men, volunteers, policemen, scouts, and firemen contained six fire lines. Folks transcended themselves; the abbey endured.

That is Montserrat’s power.

Class of choir boys
On April 27, 1947, from the Gorro Frigi, the thickest spire all the way to the right, waved a Senyera, the Catalan flag. This is the view from the Plaça of Santa María.
Photo courtesy of Meritxell Martín-Pardo

Meritxell Martín-Pardo is a research associate for the 2018 Folklife Festival’s Catalonia program. She studied philosophy at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and earned her PhD in religious studies at the University of Virginia.

References
Crexell, Joan ed.Miscel·lània d’homenatge a Josep Benet. Barcelona: Publicacions Abadia de Montserrat, 1991.
Dalmau, Bernabé. Cercar Déu a Montserrat. Barcelona: Publicacions Abadia de Montserrat, 2012.
Todó, Joan. Respirar el segle: Un perfil de Gregori Estrada. Barcelona: Publicacions Abadia de Montserrat, 2017.

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Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
A woman on a pier is holding a parasol. Behind her is a medallion shaped motif of a mountainous landscape.

painting

National Museum of American History
A color sumi-e painting of a small garden in a Japanese American prison camp by Chiura Obata (1885-1975). The image depicts three trees with vibrant foliage next to a tōrō, a Japanese stone lantern, in a small plot with a barren tree on the bottom right, a building in the background on the left, and mountains in the distance. The dominant colors of the image are pink, gray, and the green of the trees. The back of the image has “Prof. Chiura Obata” written in the bottom left corner.

Born Zoroku Obata in Okayama-ken, Japan in 1885, Obata moved to California in 1903 and was one of the earliest Japanese artists to live and work in the United States. Obata was the first artist of Japanese descent to be a faculty member at UC Berkeley, where he started teaching in 1932. In 1942 he and his family were removed from Berkeley and imprisoned at the Tanforan temporary detention center and Topaz Japanese American incarceration camp under Executive Order 9066. At Tanforan, Obata started an art school with George Matsusaburo Hibi which he continued upon transfer to Topaz, teaching hundreds of students and creating a large body of artwork depicting everyday life in the camps and surrounding landscapes. Obata became a naturalized citizen in 1954, a year after retiring as Professor Emeritus from UC Berkeley. He spent the rest of his life traveling widely, lecturing and demonstrating Japanese brush painting. Obata is most well-known for his signature style of painting which blends Japanese and Western techniques and his large-scale landscapes. He also created an award-winning series of color woodblock prints at the Takamizawa Print Works in Japan inspired by his 1927 trip to Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Nevada. Chiura Obata died on October 6, 1975 at age 89.

painting

National Museum of American History
A black and white sumi-e painting of mountain crags and sky, likely done by Chiura Obata (1885-1975) or one of his students in his art class in a Japanese American prison camp during WWII. The upper right hand corner has a shape in different color ink that could be the sun.

Born Zoroku Obata in Okayama-ken, Japan in 1885, Obata moved to California in 1903 and was one of the earliest Japanese artists to live and work in the United States. Obata was the first artist of Japanese descent to be a faculty member at UC Berkeley, where he started teaching in 1932. In 1942 he and his family were removed from Berkeley and imprisoned at the Tanforan temporary detention center and Topaz Japanese American incarceration camp under Executive Order 9066. At Tanforan, Obata started an art school with George Matsusaburo Hibi which he continued upon transfer to Topaz, teaching hundreds of students and creating a large body of artwork depicting everyday life in the camps and surrounding landscapes. Obata became a naturalized citizen in 1954, a year after retiring as Professor Emeritus from UC Berkeley. He spent the rest of his life traveling widely, lecturing and demonstrating Japanese brush painting. Obata is most well-known for his signature style of painting which blends Japanese and Western techniques and his large-scale landscapes. He also created an award-winning series of color woodblock prints at the Takamizawa Print Works in Japan inspired by his 1927 trip to Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Nevada. Chiura Obata died on October 6, 1975 at age 89.

painting

National Museum of American History
A sumi-e painting of camp life by Chiura Obata (1885-1975) at the Topaz Japanese American incarceration camp. The image depicts camp buildings with mountains in the background and figures playing a game in the foreground. The brush strokes are almost impressionistic and create a sense of movement and dust in the figures.

Born Zoroku Obata in Okayama-ken, Japan in 1885, Obata moved to California in 1903 and was one of the earliest Japanese artists to live and work in the United States. Obata was the first artist of Japanese descent to be a faculty member at UC Berkeley, where he started teaching in 1932. In 1942 he and his family were removed from Berkeley and imprisoned at the Tanforan temporary detention center and Topaz Japanese American incarceration camp under Executive Order 9066. At Tanforan, Obata started an art school with George Matsusaburo Hibi which he continued upon transfer to Topaz, teaching hundreds of students and creating a large body of artwork depicting everyday life in the camps and surrounding landscapes. Obata became a naturalized citizen in 1954, a year after retiring as Professor Emeritus from UC Berkeley. He spent the rest of his life traveling widely, lecturing and demonstrating Japanese brush painting. Obata is most well-known for his signature style of painting which blends Japanese and Western techniques and his large-scale landscapes. He also created an award-winning series of color woodblock prints at the Takamizawa Print Works in Japan inspired by his 1927 trip to Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Nevada. Chiura Obata died on October 6, 1975 at age 89.

painting

National Museum of American History
A black and white sumi-e painting of a tree by Chiura Obata (1885-1975) at Topaz Japanese American prison camp during World War II. The image is somewhat abstract with a gnarled tree with a single branch of foliage in front of rocks or mountains. The back of the image is labeled “Chiura Obata sensei.”

Born Zoroku Obata in Okayama-ken, Japan in 1885, Obata moved to California in 1903 and was one of the earliest Japanese artists to live and work in the United States. Obata was the first artist of Japanese descent to be a faculty member at UC Berkeley, where he started teaching in 1932. In 1942 he and his family were removed from Berkeley and imprisoned at the Tanforan temporary detention center and Topaz Japanese American incarceration camp under Executive Order 9066. At Tanforan, Obata started an art school with George Matsusaburo Hibi which he continued upon transfer to Topaz, teaching hundreds of students and creating a large body of artwork depicting everyday life in the camps and surrounding landscapes. Obata became a naturalized citizen in 1954, a year after retiring as Professor Emeritus from UC Berkeley. He spent the rest of his life traveling widely, lecturing and demonstrating Japanese brush painting. Obata is most well-known for his signature style of painting which blends Japanese and Western techniques and his large-scale landscapes. He also created an award-winning series of color woodblock prints at the Takamizawa Print Works in Japan inspired by his 1927 trip to Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Nevada. Chiura Obata died on October 6, 1975 at age 89.

painting

National Museum of American History
Colorful landscape painting of a dark desert with a few barren, dead trees in the foreground and bright blue mountains in the background without any barracks or evidence of the Japanese American incarceration camps. The back of the painting has Japanese characters lower right-hand corner along with the name "Koho".

This is a sumi-e (Japanese ink wash) painting by Koho Yamamoto. Born in California as Masako Yamamoto in 1922, she and her family were incarcerated at the Japanese American incarceration camp in Topaz, Utah during World War II. Koho became the star pupil of Chiura Obata (1885-1975), a master sumi-e artist and calligrapher who was also a Professor Emeritus of Art at the University of California, Berkeley. Koho received her name, meaning “Red Harbor,” from Chiura whose name translates to “Thousand Harbors,” as a symbol of spiritual succession to teach the art of Japanese brush painting. After the war, Koho moved to New York City and made a successful career exhibiting and lecturing as an artist. She founded and was the sole instructor of the Koho School of Sumi-e until it closed in 2010.

painting

National Museum of American History
A black and white sumi-e painting of a mountain landscape by Chiura Obata (1885-1975) or one of his students in direct imitation of his style, at the Topaz prison camp during World War II. The image depicts mountains and vegetation with confidant brushstrokes in Obata’s distinct style.

Born Zoroku Obata in Okayama-ken, Japan in 1885, Obata moved to California in 1903 and was one of the earliest Japanese artists to live and work in the United States. Obata was the first artist of Japanese descent to be a faculty member at UC Berkeley, where he started teaching in 1932. In 1942 he and his family were removed from Berkeley and imprisoned at the Tanforan temporary detention center and Topaz Japanese American incarceration camp under Executive Order 9066. At Tanforan, Obata started an art school with George Matsusaburo Hibi which he continued upon transfer to Topaz, teaching hundreds of students and creating a large body of artwork depicting everyday life in the camps and surrounding landscapes. Obata became a naturalized citizen in 1954, a year after retiring as Professor Emeritus from UC Berkeley. He spent the rest of his life traveling widely, lecturing and demonstrating Japanese brush painting. Obata is most well-known for his signature style of painting which blends Japanese and Western techniques and his large-scale landscapes. He also created an award-winning series of color woodblock prints at the Takamizawa Print Works in Japan inspired by his 1927 trip to Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Nevada. Chiura Obata died on October 6, 1975 at age 89.

painting

National Museum of American History
A color landscape painting of a Japanese American prison camp. The painting depicts hills, mountains, and plants, with the bordering fence in the foreground. The painting is unsigned and is likely by Chiura Obata (1885-1975) or one of his students.

Born Zoroku Obata in Okayama-ken, Japan in 1885, Obata moved to California in 1903 and was one of the earliest Japanese artists to live and work in the United States. Obata was the first artist of Japanese descent to be a faculty member at UC Berkeley, where he started teaching in 1932. In 1942 he and his family were removed from Berkeley and imprisoned at the Tanforan temporary detention center and Topaz Japanese American incarceration camp under Executive Order 9066. At Tanforan, Obata started an art school with George Matsusaburo Hibi which he continued upon transfer to Topaz, teaching hundreds of students and creating a large body of artwork depicting everyday life in the camps and surrounding landscapes. Obata became a naturalized citizen in 1954, a year after retiring as Professor Emeritus from UC Berkeley. He spent the rest of his life traveling widely, lecturing and demonstrating Japanese brush painting. Obata is most well-known for his signature style of painting which blends Japanese and Western techniques and his large-scale landscapes. He also created an award-winning series of color woodblock prints at the Takamizawa Print Works in Japan inspired by his 1927 trip to Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Nevada. Chiura Obata died on October 6, 1975 at age 89.

painting

National Museum of American History
This work of art shows that not every painting that was made in the camps was focused on the somber imprisonment. The Japanese American captives still managed to find beauty, and express that in creative ways like art. This painting was done by Obata or one of his students at the camps, and shows a beautiful twisted tree trunk. This painting showcases the Japanese sumi-e style that Obata was famous for.

A black and white sumi-e painting of a tree, likely done by a Chiura Obata (1885-1975) or one of his students at a Japanese American prison camp during World War II. The painting is composed with traditional sumi-e brushwork technique and depicts a tree with a twisted trunk and foliage at an angle on the side of a mountain.

Born Zoroku Obata in Okayama-ken, Japan in 1885, Obata moved to California in 1903 and was one of the earliest Japanese artists to live and work in the United States. Obata was the first artist of Japanese descent to be a faculty member at UC Berkeley, where he started teaching in 1932. In 1942 he and his family were removed from Berkeley and imprisoned at the Tanforan temporary detention center and Topaz Japanese American incarceration camp under Executive Order 9066. At Tanforan, Obata started an art school with George Matsusaburo Hibi which he continued upon transfer to Topaz, teaching hundreds of students and creating a large body of artwork depicting everyday life in the camps and surrounding landscapes. Obata became a naturalized citizen in 1954, a year after retiring as Professor Emeritus from UC Berkeley. He spent the rest of his life traveling widely, lecturing and demonstrating Japanese brush painting. Obata is most well-known for his signature style of painting which blends Japanese and Western techniques and his large-scale landscapes. He also created an award-winning series of color woodblock prints at the Takamizawa Print Works in Japan inspired by his 1927 trip to Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Nevada. Chiura Obata died on October 6, 1975 at age 89.

landscape of shoreline and mountains

National Museum of American History

Zurich

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Zhongli Quan Seeking the Dao

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Zermatt

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Zermatt

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Zama Vanessa Helder

Archives of American Art
1 photographic print : b&w ; 15 x 9 cm.

Zama Vanessa Helder seated on a rock wall overlooking mountainous landscape.

Yvette Mimieux

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Yoshiwara, Fuji, Rear View, in The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road (Tokaido Gojusan Tsugi-no Uchi)

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Horse with three women in balanced saddle, led by man, pass along road edged with pine trees. Left, Fuji in distance. Right, peaks of other mountains.

Yosemite Falls from the Upper House, 3177 feet

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Landscape featuring large waterfall from mountain in the background; foreground of meadow and forest.
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