Memories of a Migratory Cycle

A book by Pablo Casino who investigates the last reminders of a Spanish migratory movement in Brussels (Belgium). 

Image extracted from the book 'Barespagnol' by Pablo Casino.

Migration is part of our human condition and can be caused by political, economical, cultural, natural or social factors. From the ancestors of the Austronesian peoples spread from the South Chinese mainland to Taiwan at some time around 8,000 years ago to those who are currently displaced due to armed conflicts taking place in their countries such as Sudan, Irak or Siria. Migratory groups conform the identity of every country. Here in Europe, The First and Second World Wars, and wars, genocides, and crisis sparked by them, had an enormous impact on migration. More immigration restrictions have been developed since then, as well as diaspora cultures and myths that reflect the importance of migration to the foundation of certain nations. But the purpose of this article is not to discuss the current migratory dynamics nor the effects and consequences of them, instead I would like to focus in the structures we, as immigrants, have created to maintain a sense of belonging or to satisfy our nostalgia about particular aspects of our culture: the shops and bars.

In my neighbourhood there is a Jamaican restaurant where they do the best curry goat in the city and a Jamaican pub where you can listen local reggae players, also a Polish shop with a great variety of products including Polish dill pickles which I have become an addict to, or a corner shop run by a Pakistani family with a great variety of spices where I first introduced myself to the world of ‘Masala’. These places have become a way to know a little bit more about the cultural groups living nearby me. They are also functioning as a kind of community spots where important news are shared, or places where people go when they need help or simply for a bit of company. These structures have been contributing to the cultural richness of the country I live in.


Image extracted from the book 'Barespagnol' by Pablo Casino.

I left my home country, Spain, almost eight years ago. But since I left, there are certain memories that got frozen. One of them is the essence of a traditional Spanish ‘Bar’. The noise of the coffee machine, the voice of the owner ‘Alegria’, the radio news, the grease smell of a fried egg, the serviettes on the floor, the outdated calendar… Luis Buñuel, Spanish film director, once said: ‘’The bar is an exercise in solitude. Above all else, it must be quiet, dark, very comfortable—and, contrary to modern mores, no music of any kind, no matter how faint. In sum, there should be no more than a dozen tables, and a clientele that doesn’t like to talk.’’


Image extracted from the book 'Barespagnol' by Pablo Casino.

These feelings were brought back the first time I had a look at ‘’Barespagnol’’, the last publication of Pablo Casino, a photographer based in Valencia (Spain). This is what books can do. Casino centers the topic of his work in the bars and shops created by some of the 30.000 Spaniards who migrated to Brussels in 1970 during the Franco's dictatorship. This colony opened more than a hundred bars and shops in the city but only a handful of them are currently open.

The book in portrait orientation is wire bounded on the short edge; like those notebooks you would find next to the till in a bar or a shop. Posters with the Spanish geography, murals with landscapes, traditional games, Spanish newspaper covers pinned on the wall, lottery boards, photographs of current and former owners, pictures of traditional meals which have sadly faded with time…  are only some of the items that conform these little inaccurate museums of a particular place and a particular time, that are condemned to disappear. The clientele in the book seems quiet, sometimes even lonely, they all look contemplative, almost like if they knew that one day these places, themselves will disappear. Casino talks about nostalgia and time in a very astute way. The first time I flicked through the book I thought the black and white images were sourced from an archive but I later realised they were all taken in 2013, there is a purpose on that. It’s a book that talks about the past through the present and vice versa.


Images extracted from the book 'Barespagnol' by Pablo Casino.

There are fragments of text appearing in the book: in the first few pages we read a little testimony that help us to smell the dump of a carriage that hasn’t been used in a while because the last horse attached had died of tetanus. There is another text, which is my favourite, about an insect that is allergic to change and re-creates its original ecosystem wherever he lives, this recreation will never be exactly the same. The text establishes a magical analogy between this unique insect and the people and places in the book.

Pablo cleverly merges the ideas of community. memory and time in the book. Its simplicity and directness, but also the relevance of the topic makes ‘’Barspagnol’’ a very well resolved book, which is also beautifully produced. It's one of those books that feels good when you hold it, and its size makes it the perfect companion for a long trip.


Barspagnol by Pablo Casino

80pp 16 x 25cm

First edition 100 copies

25EUR + shipping costs

Orders to pablo@pablocasino.es

More info www.pablocasino.es 

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