An old photo to reconstruct the harsh post-war period at the University of Valencia

A family photo taken in 1946 on the beach of Nazareth was the starting point for a comic, 'Return to Eden', published by paco rock in 2020, and now an exhibition "on memory and the reconstruction of memory", as defined by its author, that next Tuesday will inaugurate La Nau from the University of Valencia.

For decades, the mother of the Valencian cartoonist kept that image in which she appears with her brothers and her mother under the glass that covered the bedside table in her room. Now that we have become accustomed to easily immortalizing any moment of our lives, it is worth remembering that for that generation a photograph "was a revered object, a unique object that if you lost it could mean losing the only image you had of your loved ones" , says the cartoonist as he completes the exhibition together with the curator José María Azkárraga.

But the exposure which can be visited until April 24, more than bringing 'Return to Eden' to the walls of the General Study of the Nau, What he does is use comics -and the old photography that gave rise to them- to recount the post-war period through objects, texts, newspapers, posters, booklets, films and images that helped Paco Roca enter that era and carry out his work .

I return to Eden.

The Nau exhibition follows the thread that the cartoonist himself began when he published 'The furrows of chance', his 2015 comic dedicated to 'La Nueve', the company made up of Spanish republicans that liberated Paris in World War II. In that case, the comic also led to an exhibition at Las Naves that recounted the context of that historical moment, that of the Civil War and the fight against fascism.

Roca assures that this historical continuity between both comics and both exhibitions is not intended but it is not accidental either. "All this recent past shaped by the Civil war, the Francoism, repression is like a black hole in which you enter and you can no longer get out because you find a thousand interesting stories that have not been treated in excess -he explains-. We are an amnesiac society. It is intended that we forget the past because we seem unable to look back, reflect or debate without opening wounds. It is an absurd fear that certain sectors have made us believe."

Roca anticipates that the exhibition will be divided into several sections, such as the one dedicated to the importance of photography as a precious object for memory and identity, two concepts that for him "always go together". The exploration of the collective and family past that he carries out in 'Los furrows of chance' or 'Regreso al Edén', but also in 'The house' or 'The cartoonist's winter', it serves, in his opinion, "to know who we are and to understand a society as particular as ours".

Like the comic, the Nau exhibition focuses on those little "Edens" of happiness that were public spaces such as the beach or cinemas during the post-war period. "Not everyone had a radio, and of course no one had television," Roca points out. "The majority of Spanish citizens were illiterate or did not read very well. And that is why the cinema became so important. There was a studio which said that in the 40s or 50s Spain was the country in the world after the United States where more people went to the movies. It was an escape from reality and the only leisure that most people could afford".

I return to Eden. Juan Martinez the Higuera

The main protagonists of 'Regreso al Eden' are Paco Roca's mother and grandmother. Through them, the cartoonist traces the subjugation that women suffered during the Franco regime, something that in the exhibition we can see through the numerous "behavior guides" that were published in the 40s and 50s. "Women like my mother and grandmother were almost illiterate. If the family had to pay for some studies, that investment was for the children. If the destiny of women was to work at home, why would they go to study? This created a number of women who, unless they were intellectually restless, ended up acquiring a rather naïve world view. The only education they received came through religion or a macho state that deprived them of freedoms and rights."

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