The memory of a country

Permanent exhibition

Defeat and recovery: 1940 to 1980

Once the Civil War was over, the Francoist regime (1939-1975) caused the exile of thousands of citizens and began severe repression against Catalan nationalist and left-wing movements. Proof of this is the execution by firing squad of the Catalan President, Lluís Companys. The policy of autarchy and the consequences of the war led to economic collapse and poverty.

In its initial stage, the dictatorship was similar to the fascist regimes in Italy and Germany, but in the context of the Cold War it began a discreet rapprochement with the international community and a process of increasing economic openness. The entry of foreign capital, the diversification of industry, and the arrival of tourism led to the take-off of the Catalan economy and the arrival of thousands of workers from other regions of Spain.

Opposition to the regime, which began in 1939, was reorganised and achieved a considerable presence among ordinary people by the beginning of the seventies. After the dictator’s death, a new democratic Constitution (1978) and a new Statute of Autonomy (1979), marked the beginning of the recovery of freedom and democracy.

The long post-war period

The Republican defeat had devastating consequences for Catalonia. Most of the political class, intellectuals, trade union and workers’ movement leaders, and a large number of people were forced into exile. In Catalonia, the Francoist army applied harsh repression, including the execution by firing squad in 1940 of the President of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Lluís Companys.

The symbols of the Catalan nationalist movement were persecuted, while a new political regime was imposed, inspired by fascism but with deep Catholic roots. Francisco Franco concentrated all the powers of a totalitarian State based on the existence of an official ideology and a single party. Economic poverty was suffocating the country until well into the 1960s.

Portrait of Lluís Companys, by José Chavez Morada, 1940

Portrait of Lluís Companys, by José Chavez Morada, 1940

Francoist schools

Francoist schools

National Catholicism

The school curriculum underlined the nationalist and Catholic discourse of the regime.

© de la fotografia: MHC (Gerard Ruiz Valls)


The Francoist victory brought important changes in schools. Teaching staffs were severely purged and many vacancies were filled by Francoist ex-combatants.

© de la fotografia: MHC (Gerard Ruiz Valls)


Paramilitary discipline was imposed in the classrooms, with strict separation between boys and girls.

© de la fotografia: MHC (Gerard Ruiz Valls)

The economic growth of the sixties

From the sixties onwards, the Catalan economy and society underwent far-reaching transformation. With the promulgation of the Stabilisation Plan in July 1959, the regime abandoned the model of autarchy, in force for 20 years. The liberalisation of trade and the re-establishment of the free market in foreign currency came at a time of expansion of the European economy.

Catalan industry became a supplier of consumer goods for the Spanish market and underwent tremendous growth. This led to the mass arrival of workers from other regions of Spain. Expansion took place without town planning or democratic control over the economic model. These failings continued to be felt in subsequent decades.

Standards of living and motorisation

Standards of living and motorisation

The Bar

The Bar


New equipment and appliances became part of people’s everyday lives from the sixties onwards.

Bar football

In 1937, the Republican soldier Alejandro Finisterre invented the Spanish version of bar football, known as futbolín, while convalescing from his war wounds in Montserrat. The game spread in the sixties and it became a typical feature of Spanish bars.


In 1956, television joined the communication media. In 1960, the Miramar studio in Barcelona began to produce programmes. Television sets were initially expensive and difficult to obtain, so people often went to bars to watch the most popular programmes.

The wave of immigration

The economic development and agricultural crisis generated migratory flows throughout Spain. Emigrants left the most depressed areas for various destinations. Thousands of Andalusians, Castilians, Extremadurans, Murcians and Galicians arrived in Catalonia needing to find work and facing the difficulty of adapting to new surroundings.

The arrival of these migrants had a very great impact on Catalan society, particularly in the metropolitan areas. Some towns and cities doubled their populations within a few years. Soon, the “other Catalans”, as defined by the writer Francesc Candel, began to identify with the country and make a decisive contribution to building a shared future.

Arrival of immigrants


From the sixties onwards, movements opposing the regime emerged from their isolation, uniting increasingly broad sectors of society. The incorporation of new generations who had not experienced the war and the changes experienced by the world and by Catalan society generated a plural movement demanding the return of freedom, democracy and autonomy.

Despite the opening up of the regime and the timid rapprochement with the international community, there was no doubt about the lack of civil liberties in Francoist Spain. The establishment of the Assembly of Catalonia (1971), bringing together a wide variety of anti-Francoist groups, from Communists to conservative nationalists, was vitally important for the political future of the country.



Què volen aquesta gent? Maria del Mar Bonet

Song denouncing Francoist repression, composed by Maria del Mar Bonet in 1968 based on a poem by Lluís Serrahima.

The recovery of autonomy

The first democratic elections after the death of the dictator, in June 1977, gave a majority in Catalonia to forces demanding autonomy and the re-establishment of the Generalitat. On 11 September that year, a million Catalans demonstrated with the same demand. These two factors forced the re-establishment of the provisional Generalitat and the return from exile of its President, Josep Tarradellas.

The Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia, in force since 1979, was the result of arduous negotiations between the Catalan political forces and the Spanish government. In 1979, the Spanish parliament approved the text, which was confirmed in a referendum by the Catalan people. The Spanish Constitution of 1978, also approved by a referendum, and the development of the State of the Autonomous Communities, began a new period of democracy and institutional stability.

Jordi Pujol, President of the Generalitat