Academic journal article Hispanic Review

Leisure and Agrarian Reform: Liberal Governance in the Traveling Museums of Spanish Misiones Pedagógicas (1931-1933)

Academic journal article Hispanic Review

Leisure and Agrarian Reform: Liberal Governance in the Traveling Museums of Spanish Misiones Pedagógicas (1931-1933)

Article excerpt

In May 1931, the provisional government of Spain's Second Republic created the Patronato de Misiones Pedagógicas with the purpose of promoting general education in the rural regions. Reporting to the Ministry of Public Instruction and Fine Arts, the Patronato financed the work of young middleclass men and women from the cities volunteering to bring to villages libraries, cinemas, theaters, and puppet shows and to organize lectures and workshops. Two moving art exhibitions that received the names of "itinerant museums," "traveling museums," or, officially, the Museo del Pueblo were incorporated into the program in October and December of 1932. As with the Misiones themselves, they were conceived by Manuel Bartolomé de Cossío (1857-1935), prominent art critic and educator who presided over the Patronato.

The Misiones Pedagógicas were designed to bring to Spain's rural zones the agenda of educational reform promoted since the end of the nineteenth century by the institucionistas: faculty and alumnae of the Institución Libre de Enseñanza (Paucker 234-39; Otero Urtaza, Las Misiones Pedagógicas 7379). This private school, opened in Madrid thanks to the efforts of Cossio's teacher Francisco Giner de los Ríos (1839-1915), had coordinated the transformations of secondary and higher education since 1876, while the National Pedagogical Museum, founded in 1882 and directed by Cossío, had acted as the headquarters for the reform of elementary education. The institucionista reformers had been particularly successful with a new generation of Spain's urban elites comprising the Republic's first ("reformist") governments of 1931-1933, for which Cossío remained the highest authority until his death in September of 1935. This is why the period between 1931 and the end of 1933 brought to reality his most far-reaching ideas on education, which he had drafted in the nineteenth century. Educational reform in the rural areas was one of them.

Given Cossio's influence among the first post-monarchical governments, it is important to remember that he viewed the Republic as a realization of two nineteenth-century intellectual programs: 1) trade unionism and socialism, and 2) educational reform. In lune 1931 Cossío was reported to have summarized his vision in the following words: "La España actual - dice - es obra de Pablo Iglesias y de D. Francisco [Giner]. No lo olvide. Educación desde la escuela. Disciplina y educación en las masas" (Llopis). When Rodolfo Llopis, Minister of Primary Education, reminded him about the importance of agrarian reform - at the time the subject of the Provisional Government's legislative efforts (Malefakis 165-68) - Cossío did not fail to acknowledge loaquin Costa's (1846-1911) xegeneracionismo but insisted that these ideas also belonged to Giner: "vClaro! vLo de Costa! Allí, en esa misma mesa - añadió - escribí yo, hace años, el programa de Costa. Lo escribí yo. Me lo dictaba D. Francisco. Lo defendía Costa" (Llopis; punctuation in the original). Thus in Cossío's view, agrarian reform, which historians consider the stumbling block of the Republic's policy and the hidden cause of the Civil War, was subsumed under a nineteenth-century program of disciplining and educating the masses.

The educational policy of the Second Republic has recently received attention from cultural historians who have argued that the Misiones constituted a new phase in the development of civil society, since for the first time in the nation's history, peasants were addressed as citizens (Holguin; Otero Urtaza, Las Misiones Pedagógicas 65-72). Moreover, the Misiones not only brought modern technology into the villages, but also allowed urbanités to familiarize themselves with the peasantry through continuous photographic coverage (Mendelson 93-100). These studies shed important light on the reform's political implications in the framework of the Republic's agenda of social peace and cohesion.

Yet a number of questions have yet to be addressed. …

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