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Salou the peaceful town that passed to the rear

Salou in the thirties of the 20th century had around 350 legal inhabitants and a similar number in fact, who, although they were not registered, lived regularly in it. It had a score of fishermen, some of whom combined the work of the sea with the work of the land.

Some hotels and cafes were already popular with the residents of Reus, Tarragona and some families from Barcelona who spent the summer on their beach. And the workers who worked in a quarry in the municipality, where stone was extracted for the construction of the quay in the port of Cambrils, animated the weekends and offered a touch of bustle on Sundays, when part of the wages were spent in the local cafes.

The first news of the insurrection was heard on the radio that existed in cal Sisquet

On a warm summer afternoon in July 1936, some vacationers were taking their baths in front of the row of booths set up on the beach. They stayed in private homes or in the Plana, Llurba or Bertomeu hotels. Others had coffee at Cal Sisquet or at Ca l’Agustí. Possibly, some others chatted with the vendors in Cal Blasi, Cal la Pepa Cassoles or Cal Fortuny after having bought food or various products. The fishing boats were already at the end of the dock, and the fishmongers were hurrying to set up their catch.

From the beach day to the nerves

Everything began to change when, through the existing radio in Cal Sisquet, the residents and vacationers of Salou received the first news of the military insurrection that was irremediably leading Spain to a new civil war. Some vacationers, especially those from Barcelona, ​​decided to return home, as was the case of Dr. Abadal who a few days later would return to Salou to flee definitively to France and thus avoid being captured by the CNT militiamen. .

Unfortunately, one of the people who helped him escape, Severiano Martínez Garriga, responsible for the Salou lighthouse, was captured by militiamen from Barcelona and shot in Morrot de Barcelona.

Salou railway station (1937-1938). PHOTO: Joan Sardina

The war situation became clear on July 22, 1936 when militiamen from Reus arrived with the intention of burning the church. The action of the neighbors prevented the sacred building from being set on fire, but they could not prevent the burning of sacramental vestments and the looting of it, as well as the capture of the parish priest Jaume Constantí, a native of Vimbodí, who would later be assassinated.

Later, the fortification of the coast arrived. Led by Commander Medrano, who for a short period of time had his headquarters in the municipality, construction work was carried out on machine gun nests, trenches and a battery at the highest point of Cape Salou.

Fortunately, different elements of these military works are preserved, forming part of an asset of historical memory and cultural heritage that is practically unique and singular among the municipalities of Tarragona.

Unique because some of these elements preserve service structures and access to them intact. And unique due to the strategic importance of Cape Salou in the contest in being, among other reasons, a fundamental element in air navigation in the area for aircraft coming from Mallorca punishing the cities and towns of the province day after day.

Air strikes

In the specific case of Salou, we are aware of at least nine aerial attacks on the municipality. In general terms, all the attacks are aimed at the existing railway structure in the area formed by the railway that linked Tarragona with Valencia and the Carrilet line, which linked Reus with Salou.

None of the attacks fully affected the stations, but their surroundings did. The most cruel attack was carried out on March 30, 1938. That day, at 10:30 in the morning, the 52nd squadron of l’Aviazione Legionaria took off from the Son Sant Joan aerodrome in Palma de Mallorca.

We are aware of at least 9 air strikes in the city, all on the train tracks.

At an altitude of 4,000 meters they dropped 20 and 100 kilo bombs. Most of them hit the railroad tracks. Others hit very close to the Pujades chalet and at the current confluence of Pins and Carril streets. The final result of this attack, apart from the material damage, was the loss of one human life and five injuries of varying degrees.

Practically coinciding with this attack, one of Líster’s divisions was camped in the Pilons and Emprius area of ​​Salou. The headquarters was established in the noble area, since the officers stayed in the different chalets that still exist today on Paseo Jaume I and Barcelona Street.

Local fishermen saw how their boats were requisitioned, without discriminating size and tonnage. These were transferred to the Ebre, where they were used to make bridges. Some fishermen, the least, perhaps more foresighted or luckier, decided and managed to expressly sink their boats and boats, which could be recovered when the war ended.

Vila-seca segregation

Within this framework, a few days after the war began, a group of neighbors formed a local anti-fascist committee, proclaiming the independence of Vila-seca and granting themselves powers of council. Among the first measures they adopted was to prohibit the payment of taxes and fees to any body other than that committee.

The public representatives of said committee were Andreu Pàmies i Dolcet with the functions of president, responsible for its economic area and coordinator of the workers’ brigades that fortified the coast; Josep Cherta i Marsal, responsible for government and justice and who would be shot at the end of the war; Anton Alcové i Pons, head of work; Natali Rivas i Barba, responsible for health and assistance; and Esteve Saltó i Gesalí, responsible for supplies and the secretary.

Likewise, some municipal employees were appointed: Sebastià Gombay Ramon, serene and who died during the war, Ramon Guinovart Curto, municipal guard and Salvador Plassa i Vallvé, maintenance worker and garbage collector.

The anti-fascist committees were dissolved in September 1936 and in Salou it was constituted as a neighborhood council with the functions of the Town Hall. Finally, Salou returned to the jurisdiction of Vila-seca although, just at the end of the war, attempts to separate from Vila-seca were reactivated, an objective that was not achieved until October 1989.

Throughout the month of April it has been possible to visit in the Torre Vella de Salou an exhibition that recounts in a visual way the civil war in the capital of the Costa Daurada. An idyllic place in the rear, which saw its progress and prosperity slow down, like so many other municipalities in Tarragona, as a result of a totalitarian military uprising.

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