This is what Mayoral said about the minute in which the city he governs was bombed by Italian planes (31 May 1938), in the middle of the Spanish Civil War resulting in many victims.
Granollers has rescued its memory dignifying it, incorporating it into the city, in its streets, in its daily life, with the aim of never again repeating that barbarism, while committing to dialogue and peace.
Mayoral is also actively working for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
The municipality of Granollers (Barcelona) has been awarded the Francisco A. Muñoz Muñoz prize, “which aims to publicly recognise individuals, civil society organisations, institutions, cities, research groups or academic works that have contributed or are contributing in a relevant way to the construction and promotion of peace”. The prize was given to its mayor, Josep Mayoral, during the II World Forum on Urban Violence and Education for Coexistence and Peace, which was held in Madrid in early November, by former UNESCO Director General Federico Mayor Zaragoza.
Josep Mayoral (Catalonia Socialist Party) has been mayor since 2004 and is a member of the Executive Committee of Mayors for Peace, the network of mayors from around the world, which almost 400 Spanish municipalities have joined and whose headquarters are in Hiroshima.
We wanted to interview Josep Mayoral, Mayor of Granollers, because of this prize and his commitment to peace and dialogue in the face of violence.
Pressenza: With this prize, the history of Granollers in favour of peace is recognised… We imagine that this is an important boost in the City Council’s work in this direction.
Josep Mayoral: I see it, we see it as a prize for the city, for our history. I have explained it on other occasions, this city – as a poet from Granollers says – is the result of one minute. This minute when Italian planes bombarded Granollers. This minute in which 224 people died almost at the same time. This minute when they destroyed the city. We are children of this minute because our parents and grandparents were there and could have died, as so many people did, and the cities that have seen blood on their streets, that have seen the effects of an absolutely incomprehensible bombing from a city that was 300 km away… Those cities have the obligation to watch over our dead but also, to think of them, to think of all the suffering, to work so that bombings like this never happen again, never again in our city and never again anywhere in the world.
This story has been constructed, first from the silences, silences that we suffered in our homes in Franco’s time, in which we couldn’t talk about these things, we couldn’t talk about situations provoked by this barbaric, fascist and anti-democratic situation of those who rose up against the Spanish Republic. Of silence but also of the first movements that were generated among young people, even underground, to remember this tragic minute, this tragic day. And the commitment that was also assumed in a public and collective way when in 1988 representatives of democracy, councillors of the city, its mayor, accompanied by people who suffered from the bombing, decided to commemorate the bombing in an explicit way, in a very powerful way, and already in ’88 this first commemoration, formally institutionalized, had an essential axis that was educational.
In ’88 many children who are fathers and mothers planted an olive tree, and unveiled a plaque with the commitment “Never again”. So, the work is long, and education is an essential element in schools, but beyond schools, the connection between people of different generations, grandparents with grandchildren, in the city, in every space, in every institution… is this reflection. If you walk through our streets, you will see that there are some red and white tiles, these are the points where the bombs landed. A city that makes its memory public every day, that remembers children, young people, every year, where they play, where they walk, where they fall in love, there were people who died, there was blood.
This is the commitment of a city that is built in a very collective way, in which the City Council is only the spokesman, the coordinator of a story that necessarily belongs to the city as a whole.
PZ: So, the message would be “Never again!”?
JM: The message is never here again, and never anywhere else! The message is dialogue, words, not bombs, not violence, let’s build a world out of dialogue.
PZ: Is the issue of nuclear weapons on the agenda at the moment?
JM: The nuclear issue is not a frequent topic, but the reflection on “never again” leads you to weapons and obviously to the extreme weaponry that is nuclear weapons.
This city has an intense relationship with Hiroshima and Nagasaki through Mayors for Peace. We are members of the Executive Council of Mayors for Peace, which met here in 2011 and this relationship has meant that when the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs was commemorated, Granollers led the action and reflection not only on what happened but also on what could happen. So this City Council together with the Hiroshima Peace Museum built an exhibition that has toured all over Catalonia, in which we put on the table the need for the abolition of nuclear weapons and obviously our work plan, the work plan of the city.
We will start with ourselves and work with others in a network, addressing the President of the government to move in the direction of signing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
PZ: As a City Council, what role do you play or can you play in order to influence other town halls and other regional and state institutions… so that they sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons?
JM: We must start with our own commitment by the city, which we expressed at the Madrid Forum barely three weeks ago, and which we ratified today at the meeting we had with the people of ICAN. We already have a consensual document with ICAN and Fundipau that we will take to the plenary next Tuesday (November 27) for its approval. The first action is our own.
From here, Granollers plays a role as a city that coordinates Mayors for Peace in Catalonia and promotes Mayors for Peace in Spain. What we will do is explain to our associated municipalities of Mayors for Peace the agreement that we will adopt and, from there, we will reinforce the work of the network and, with this collective voice, we will address the President of the Government so that he can move forward – it seems to me transcendental – in the direction of signing this Treaty so that nuclear weapons are eliminated.
PZ: Within your party [Socialist Party], too?
JM: Of course! -He says very seriously and forcefully-. My voice is unique within each and every one of the areas in which I move, both as mayor and party activist, and I exercise this obligation to express myself clearly in all areas and in a regular manner.
PZ: There is a proposal that has been raised from ICAN, which is the divestment by institutions and companies in what has been called armed banking, has Granollers City Council considered reviewing in which banks it has its accounts?
JM: We are going to be consistent with what we approve and we are going to initiate ways to be in line with the proposals on the table. These are processes that must be carried out. We will be there.
PZ: How do you think the issue could be worked on; perhaps, in conjunction with social movements so that the rejection of nuclear weapons is in the hearts and minds of citizens?
JM: We are convinced that from the local level, local councils, because of their proximity, they are fantastic elements for strengthening citizen dialogue. We understand that it is essential for citizens to speak, to express themselves, especially in times when there are governments that are silent and some are too silent, and some speak, and it would be better if they didn’t, but others are silent and when there are silences, the voice citizens’ must be heard and the commitment of the local level must necessarily be that space of relationship, that space of democratic strengthening, that space that allows us to move society forward towards a fairer and freer world.
I aim to be persistent… and work for a world that is committed to resolving its conflicts through dialogue.
PZ: And with respect to that fairer and freer world, which is in the future but which is also being built in certain areas. Are you optimistic? How do you see it from the present moment?
JM: Optimism is of the soul.
PZ: But the soul is important, it’s fundamental…
JM: What I prefer is to be persistent and seek commitment… and I look back [pointing his head and hand in reference to the Portxada in the Town Hall square, which is behind him and which was bombed that 31st May 1938] and I remember the images I have seen a thousand times and I remember everything destroyed and the dead, and I remember the people who have lost their lives because of outrages… and that is the commitment so that these outrages never exist again.
They talk about utopia and we probably have to walk towards this space. It is difficult for me to express myself with optimism, but I am not pessimistic either, but I do like to insist on persistence. It is essential to defend coherent programmes, visions and clear directions. In this case, to work for a world that is committed to resolving its conflicts through dialogue, without violence and, from here on, we must – with the prudence that we want but also with the continuity and persistence that are essential – move forward, bearing in mind that there are a thousand obstacles but they must be overcome.