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A trabucaire (tra-boo-ka-ee-rah) can be described as an “ancient Catalan bandit armed with a blunderbuss

Catalan bandits already had a strong importance in the sixteenth century. It’s banditry from ‘the humble’ because of poverty, individuals living on the edges of rural societies by robbing and plundering the rich, who are often seen by ordinary people as heroes or beacons of popular resistance. As an important social phenomenon Catalan banditry was mainly conditioned by the economic crisis, that is, the lack of correlation between socio-economic structures and the demographic increase. Later, many of these bandits became part of the private armies of the lords of the land. In fact, one could correlate this with today’s gangs or illegal organisations such as the Mafia in Italy or the Bratva in Eastern Europe.

The point about social bandits is that they are peasant outlaws whom the lord and state regard as criminals, but who remain within peasant society, and are considered by their people as heroes, as champions, avengers, fighters for justice, perhaps even leaders of liberation, and in any case as men to be admired, helped and supported. This relation between the ordinary peasant and the rebel, outlaw and robber is what makes social banditry interesting and significant … Social banditry of this kind is one of the most universal social phenomena known to history. Many other regions in Europe have also their famous local bandits too, the Hajduk in Central and Easter Europe, the Betyárs in Hungary, the Klepht in Greece, the Rapparee in Ireland… and one of the better known, Robin Hood in England!

Because of this admiration by the ‘regular folks’, the figure of the trabucaire became embedded in Catalan folk celebrations and there are quite a few towns and cities in Catalonia having their ‘colla trabucaire’ (or ‘blunderbuss gang’ in English -note, the word gang is not used here in the sense of illegal organisation but as group of people sharing the same interest/hobby) that performs in their Festa Major, roughly translated as The Major Festival, a sort of annual street party celebrated in most cities, neighbourhoods, towns and villages throughout Catalonia. These are some of the colles trabucaires across Catalonia.

If you happen to be in Barcelona late in early April, the neighbourhood of Gràcia celebrates the “Revolta de la Quinta of 1870” (Revolt of the Conscripts of 1870) and the colla de trabucaires de Gràcia and a few others invited from other towns offer a loud and rowdy show at the Plaça Vila de Gràcia, one of its main squares. This show is offered within an open-air theatrical performance -shown in the video- commemorating the popular uprising occurred in 1870 as a result of a forced attempt of conscription by the Spanish army in Gràcia and neighbouring towns here in Catalonia.

By now you might or might not be aware that Catalans and Spanish have never gotten along, especially since the war of 1701-1715 which resulted in the occupation and submission of Catalonia by the Spanish Bourbon dynasty, ancestor of the current Spanish King, Felipe VI. The Spanish government arisen from the Revolution of 1868 promised to put an end to the current system of conscription by which the rich could avoid serving by paying a levy. However, it did not honour such promise and proceed to forcibly conscript the young men of several Catalan towns. In the morning of April 4th, the women of Gràcia assaulted and occupied the Town Hall -located in the square- in order to stop the ongoing conscription process. The Spanish army set siege to Gràcia and after six days of tense negotiations, general Eduardo Gaminde ordered a bombardment of the town after which heavily-armed units of the army crushed the revolt resulting in many deaths and indiscriminate looting of many homes.

WHEN?beginning of April

More information:

Gràcia neighbourhood town council – or if Barcelona, call 010 for citizen information -some excellent pictures of trabucaires -in Catalan only.

The audio is in Catalan as it’s from the news cast of TV Gràcia, the neighbourhood local TV station, but one can see different bits and pieces of this performance across the video.

Video: © TV Gràcia

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