History of Galician workers in the United Kingdom

A ceramic tea set is not just a porcelain tea set. Objects compile history, act as metaphors, and spread meanings in multiple directions. Based on this idea, the writer Xesús Fraga curated the exhibition As xerations Montserrat, which examines the emotional memory of more than 240,000 Galician workers who immigrated to the UK between 1960 and 1974 using objects and photographs. In front of all these materials appears a ship Montserrat“Like the mythical animal” that is with its twin Begonia For decades it was responsible for covering the route between Galicia and Great Britain. Incidentally, the ceramic tea set is the core of one of the 12 stories that make up the exhibition, organized by Consello da Cultura Galega, with a design by Pepe Barro and open at the Alfonso Kiosk in A Coruña until January 2019. Next year.

Pieces of tableware made up the dowry prepared by a woman from Betanzos (A Coruña) for her wedding. She did so from London, where she emigrated while her fiancé was in the army, spending two years in Spain at the end of the dictatorship. The correspondence they pass through serves as a mirror to the impact of displacement. “One of the things she said to her friend was that she had never been in any building with central heating before. Fraga also explains how women’s liberation fascinates her. In the UK, they demanded women, and Galician women often migrated on their own, ‘without submitting to a man.'” And when he finished His military service required him to move to England. He answers: “No, if we marry, you will return to Galicia.” He returned with a porcelain tea set he had received in the British capital as a dowry.

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Separation is, specifically, one of the themes As xerations Montserrat. “I realize that sea voyage, the one in which the immigrants traveled on the ship Montserrat also Begonia, like crossing, a liminal space. “You are neither at the place of birth nor are you at the place of arrival,” says Fraga. Something like that is migration, of which the curator himself is a product: he was born in London in 1971, although his family hails from Betanzos. Virtues (and secrets) (Galaxia, 2020; in Spanish, Zurdica), which earned him the National Fiction Award, is narrated in a kind of documentary novel about the low voices of Galician migration. “For me, thinking about my grandmother and London was the same thing,” she says regarding Virtues, who went to work in the UK at the age of 27 and left three daughters in Galicia, “but I never questioned how I had gotten there, especially the situation.” Social and political.” From this curiosity, the book was born, and three years later, the exhibition was born.

Objects that acquire the status of metaphors

Fraga was interested, however, in new perspectives on the phenomenon of Galician migration. “Demographics, economics and traffic numbers have been studied more. I want to focus on their emotional memory,” he points out. More than two million people crossed the Atlantic Ocean toward America between 1836 and 1960, according to historian Antonio Iras Ruel. Half a million people in Europe already did so in the second half of the twentieth century. The writer understands that his emotions are stored in letters, photographs, and everyday objects. And also the most humble. “At the archaeological site, what was waste becomes a goldmine for researchers. The same thing happens with objects, they acquire the status of metaphors and symbols. It happens with a porcelain tea set, or with the Beatles, or with two volumes of Agatha Christie, one in English and one in Spanish, that another immigrant reads to learn the language of the host country while sailing on the ship. Monserrat.

“Immigrants to the UK could not bring young children. They had to sign a paper saying that they did not do so. A couple left their newborn daughter in Galicia. In London they bought a camera and spent the summer with the girl. Until they could no longer bear the separation, he says They came back and gave the camera to their daughter.” It can be seen in one of dozens of display tables organizing the exhibition, designated for a person, a couple or a family. It contains photos, objects and a QR code through which you can access an audio clip of Fraga himself that expands on the details of each story. Among them is the last captain of Montserrat, Carlos Peña, a native of Santander who still lives in Madrid. He is 89 years old. The writer came in contact with the last chief engineer, Tomás Rodríguez Mosquera, who took him to the scrap yard in Castellón, but he died before the opening As xerations Monserrat.

Fraga took the ship’s name into the exhibition’s title in an echo of the Windrush Generation, the generation of early Caribbean immigrants in London in the 1950s, named after the ship that in 1948 transported 492 Caribbean nationals to the English port of Tilbury. “he Montserrat Or the Begonia They are like animals from another era. It also represents the hinge in which the path of the Galician migration differs. In the middle of the last century, Galician workers replaced America with the burgeoning capitalism of postwar Europe. In the north there is a shortage of labor and they go there. The impact of this saga has not yet been erased. “Migrations are always an exchange of things and ideas. “Over the years, the UK has been experimenting with what would become a cultural community, and the Galicians have been part of that puzzle,” says Fraga. “In two generations, Galicia has gone from paying for forums to impregnated [medida de volumen] of wheat to go to university, and we owe it to the fact that my grandmother, and thousands of others like her, immigrated.

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