|Gaudí was born during the Industrial Revolution|
|When Gaudí was born, in 1852, Catalonia counted out a population of some 1.600.000 inhabitants, in constant autonomous growth, without a significant immigration; on the contrary, many Catalans emigrated in Cuba and in other Latin-American countries.|
The feeding had improved along the century; the last hunger with deaths for starvation had been in 1812, in full Napoleonic war. The epidemics of smallpox, typhus and cholera were constant, but every time less severe. The child mortality was approximately from 50% and the illiteracy went around 40%.
The rural population diminished progressively, while the city of Barcelona grew, that it went already from the 200.000 inhabitants and that it would continue increasing speedily during the life of Gaudí. In 1854 the walls were demolished and in 1859 the urban plan of the Eixample devised by Idelfons Cerdà was approved.
Barcelona, resulted from the common effort of the Catalans, accumulated the material and spiritual energies of all the regions of the country; it melted down like a melting pot the Catalonia of mountain, which goes down from the Pyrenees, and that of the coast, bathed by the Mediterranean. It aspired to be again the European capital that it had been in the Middle Ages, of the hand of its entrepreneurial bourgeoisie, the most emblematic building of which was the Big Theater of the Liceu, opened on 4 April of 1847.
The standard of living of Catalonia was |upper to that of Spain, which remained on the fringe of the industrialization, and face in that of France. Balmes wrote in 1843: "Catalonia is the only province that participates fully speaking about the European industrial movement. (...) In going from Catalonia towards France it is not observed that it is not a species of continuation of the one that has been seen there; it would be said that the journey is made in the same nation, of one in another province; but in going out from Catalonia towards Spain then it seems that really the homeland has been left and people enter in strange countries".
The first steam engine of Barcelona had been installed in 1833. The coal was imported from England and the cotton of the United States of America; the workers came from the Catalan field and the first inverting capitals were from the rural owners or from the urban medium classes, or had been obtained in colonial businesses in Cuba. The Bank of Barcelona was set up in 1844. The first railway had been opened between Barcelona and Mataró in 1848.
The census of 1850 counted out 37.301 looms. Among 1850 and 1854, the import of cotton fluctuated between 15.000 and 16.000 annual tons, and they worked 54.800 weavers and 18.200 spinners. With minor dimension, the metallurgical, chemical industries were developed, electrical and of the cork.
Also in the agriculture technical and economical changes were produced. One introduced transports, machines -the modern plow, that it| substituted the Roman-, fertilizers and new crops; and one undertook big hydraulic works, like the canal of Urgell, finished in 1861, which duplicated the irrigated area.
It was a matter of an authentic revolution, which provoked great changes not only demographic, but also social and cultural. Of her new groups appeared:
a) A big industrial and financial bourgeoisie (this denomination will not be used until the Revolution of 1868) -the Girona, Güell, Comillas, Batlló, etc -, that lived in Barcelona.
b) A very wide medium -known in a historical way like "Catalan bourgeoisie" and formed by many thousands of families- that connected with the rural owners (who embodied the model "idealized" of Catalonia) and the medium classes recycled.
c) Beside the industrial and commercial bourgeoisie, a professional and intellectual bourgeoisie was developed: doctors, lawyers, architects, teachers, etc, who would exercise their university profession.
d) A number agreement proletariat, very similar to that of the rest of Europe, stacked in the suburbs in precarious conditions. In Barcelona there were some 54.000 workers, of which one could consider educated and well clothed 6.500; and "misers" were the rest|, without fixed| work. In the other industrial cities, like Reus, the situation was worse.
e) Finally, in Cuba and in Puerto Rico -the only colonies that the Spanish Monarchy had preserved after the recent American emancipation- the slavery was legal. In Cuba it increased constantly -with the effective intervention of some Catalan owners and dealers-, until the persons of color attained the third part of the population. To the United States neighbors, Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860 and, after the war of Secession (1861-1865), the slavery was abolished.
Simultaneously, the hegemony of the groups that since the Middle Ages had marked the social life of Catalonia disappeared. The aristocracy had integrated into the Court of Madrid. The well-to-do farmers and the most entrepreneurial workmen converted themselves, through the saving, the constant work and the effort, in new employers. The rest went to enlarging the rows of the proletariat.
This process -from the farmer or the artisan until the worker or the bourgeois- lasted two or in general three generations, also with two geographical jumps: of the village in the capital of region, and of there in Barcelona.
In short, Gaudí was born in the period of the Industrial Revolution: of the emergency of the bourgeoisie and of the formation of the proletariat, of the exodus of the field and of the growth of the big city.
The strategy of the family Gaudí i Cornet, with culture but without capital, would be to sell the patrimony and to make great sacrifices to endow the sons barons (Francesc and Anton) of university career and, with this lever, to emigrate to Barcelona.
|Josep Maria Tarragona, October 29, 2006||