Los Barros del Monje

Javier Marquerie Thomas

Los Barros del Monje is my family’s country estate. The landscapes that we grew up in are bursting with ammunition and shrapnel from the Battle of Brunete, the concluding battle of the Spanish Civil War. After years of walks with a metal detector, my uncle, Javier Marquerie Bueno, has unearthed an astounding collection. Seventy-five years after the War, I admire my uncle’s collection and walk with him along the battle grounds. The roots of our genealogy have pushed their way through pieces of rusted metal. Los Barros del Monje is a micro-epic story. The love and strength of a family, a fight for ideology involving soldiers from around the globe, Castilian grounds, battle-grounds, the smell of thyme. The decaying memory of a family mirrored in the forgotten history of a country, a story within a history.

I didn’t live the war, neither did my parents and up until now, having gone through school in Spain, I had never studied it. In Spain, the wounds of the Civil War have not yet healed. All I can do now is construct my tale. This summer I confronted the landscape, I photographed the ammunition found in it as well as the stars that link me with the soldiers. I took portraits of my family and I flew a plane in order to obtain a birds-eye view of the landscape. I observed my own biography, from below and from above.

I arrived at Los Barros with the idea of undertaking my project in the context of a dynamic family life. I came holding on to the memories of my childhood: the house in the summer, the barbecues, the swimming-pool, the walks. The reality which I found was very different. The kids are no longer kids, the parents are busy working and we no longer spend time in the countryside. Family as a structure is a myth, and like any myth, it has fallen. Love and family-union remains, but it’s stage is no longer Los Barros. I have experienced a disenchantment with the estate, in it, I have felt an emotional abandonment. Alone, in search of the trails of a war, I stumbled upon dozens of rabbit lairs, I came across unexpected images, accidental ones. Nature elapses and obscures the landscape’s history, change arrives and oblivion defies with serenity.

My grandfather passed away at the end of the summer. A few weeks before, we spent some time together at Los Barros. I photographed him next to my grandmother in an August sun-set. Not knowing it at the time, he was saying his good-byes to the countryside and I was saying my good-byes to him. My grandfather was a backbone in my family, now I feel and take on the responsibility of making his memory live on.

Under the threatening Castilian sun of the month of July, soldiers remained hopeful. A soldier is a professional optimist. And I – like any narrator – am also an optimist, with the hope that my history will be repeated and that it’s tale will be told, I have hope that the myth will rise… My children will play between oak trees and trenches, we will sweat in the sound of the cicadas and we will eat spit-roasted rabbit with thyme, like the soldiers would have done in 1936.

Javier Marquerie Thomas (2012)

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