At the beginning of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the population of refugees increased rapidly. Among them were thousands of children who had evacuated to other European countries, such as the USSR and France, however, many stayed under the support of the Republican government of Spain. By 1937, government- funded housing welcomed refugee and orphaned communities. This poster most likely recognizes the Republic’s effort to promote residential support for children throughout the war.
Towards the bottom-left, a woman nurtures a child sitting on her lap. The woman’s position expresses the motherly care that was provided at these residences. This was an important marketing statement, and is arguably what appealed families to place their children in these homes. Most of the teachers were women who oversaw the social and personal development of the children. Nevertheless, the Republic ensured high quality living and proper protection for the children, in attempt to dissolve fears felt among families in wartime Spain. Next to the woman and child is a series of black and white photographs demonstrating the hotel exteriors and interiors, where children are seen engaging in communal activities.
The Ministry of Public Education and Health and the National Council for Evacuated Children managed the regulations of the residences. Often, more than one child was placed in one room in order to encourage cooperation among the children. They were educated about Republican values with the idea that they were to grow up as working adults in the agricultural and industrial unions, which were forming at the time. Instead of la residencia, residence, there were other options for refugee children, such as the family organization. Yet, the children preferred to be surrounded by their own, rather than be adopted by a family. In the effort of promoting a nationalistic agenda, not only did these homes provide a special refuge for children, but the housing program also educated them to become the future of Republican Spain.
Carolina Valdes-Lora is a Masters student in the History of Decorative Arts and Design program at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum/Parsons the New School for Design. With a fine art and design background from RISD and Parsons, she aspires to pursue her interests in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century American and European design. Additionally, her Cuban-Spanish heritage inspires her interests in Latin American art history. She is a MA fellow in the Drawings, Prints and Graphic Design Curatorial Department at the Cooper-Hewitt, as well as an intern at Christie’s Auction & Private Sales, 20th Century Decorative Art & Design Department.