Half a century 'embracing' the memory of twelve Riudoms travelers

More than a thousand kilometers separate Riudoms from the Italian capital. A feasible distance today, but 50 years ago it was a real journey. Twelve locals embarked on it with the intention of recovering the remains of Beat Bonaventura, the most illustrious resident of the municipality.

Miquel Baptista Gran, from Calle de la Butxaca, born at the beginning of the 17th century, was beatified many decades later for his work as a Franciscan friar and the foundation of the convent of San Bonaventura al Palatino, among others. Previously, he had been to Sant Miquel d'Escornalbou and other places of worship in Tarragona, but his path began in Riudoms and, therefore, it was a milestone for the town that a group of 'travellers' dared to go to Rome to return home with the remains of Beat Bonaventura. Due to his courage and commitment, since 1972, popular devotion to the religious has its raison d'être in the chapel of the Parish of Sant Jaume Apòstol.

There were six couples who undertook the journey from Riudoms: Josefina Casadó and Salvador Pellisé, María Dolores Salvat and José María Pellisé, María Teresa Guinjoan and António Gispert, María Teresa Llaberia and Juan Anton Martí, María Dolores Benavent and José María Torrell, and María Dolores Domingo and Lluís Torrell, who was the mayor at the time. Distributed in a Simca, a Seat 1800 and, most importantly, a van brand new for the occasion, they reached Barcelona and there they boarded the ship with which they would cross the Mediterranean to the Italian coast.

The challenge of the twelve riudomenses was more complicated than it seemed at first. Maria Lluïsa Torrell, daughter of Lluís Torrell and Maria Dolors Domingo, remembers that "they were there for several days because they caused them a lot of problems, but in the end they were able to bring it and it was a milestone for everyone." On their return, several coaches of fellow citizens went to receive them in Barcelona and, on the way to Riudoms, they all returned escorted by the Civil Guard. "When they arrived it was a party never seen before, all the streets were decorated and the crowd was waiting for them in the square," explains Torrell.

Thus, for this month of November 2022, they began to prepare a commemorative act to celebrate and honor the anniversary: ​​50 years since the 12 travelers returned the remains of the blessed to his hometown. "We feel very much ours, even though he is far away in time, it is as if he were our contemporary," says Monsignor Rafael Serra, rector of the Riudoms parish.

A meeting between yesterday and today

50 years of the arrival of the remains of Blessed Bonaventura: memories of a trip. Under this title, the Confraria del Beat i L'Om-FemSafareig.cat organized the commemoration, with the collaboration of the City Council, for last Friday. "A year ago we began to propose an act of gratitude to the people who went, it is important for many people who lived that moment and their memory is very beautiful," says Margarida Mallafrè, one of the promoters of the initiative from the brotherhood. .

His coordination with the local media was key during all those months to achieve the final editing, from the interviews with different testimonies, the recovery of the archive images and the chronological selection of each fragment of his story. "I am one more witness, I explained what I remembered, because I was 13 years old at the time, and above all I was able to provide many photographs of the trip," explains Maria Lluïsa Torrell. "I spoke with many people from the town and they were excited to remember him again in this act," Mari Lis Torrell also affirms.

With this, the Casal Riudomenc filled its capacity thanks to acquaintances, relatives and a multitude of locals willing to keep the memory of Beat Bonaventura alive. The journalists Paula Montalvo and Lluís Bages were the hosts of the presentation, through a narration that alternated with images of the trip and the voices of its protagonists. Such was the emotion of the public that the interaction between the screen and the spectator seemed real, something only justifiable with a shared past and memories 'recounted' from generation to generation.

During the commemoration, Salvador Pellisé, driver of the van, recalled the hard sea crossing due to rough seas and the overwhelming emotion upon entering the Church Square again. The bells of Sant Jaume were already being heard and there were 11 days left behind on the trip to Rome, round trip, and numerous anecdotes, from a traffic ticket to discovering the French Riviera or going hungry in convents. And, above all, a reaffirmation that goes beyond time: "they asked that it be returned, that it would only be 6 years and 50 have passed", in the words of Maria Teresa Guinjoan.

In addition, the presentation included unpublished images of the twelve travelers recorded in 1972, recovered both from family archives and from the Fons Documental de Catalunya. Despite the quality of the image, the impact of capturing the right moment -and the relevance it had for an entire town- demonstrates its function with regard to the historical, religious and popular memory of Riudoms still to this day.

The welcome 'home' of Beat Bonaventura was a unanimous cry of faith and fidelity, more than 314 years after his departure for Rome. In turn, it was a historic event in the province of Tarragona. "That day, Riudoms changed, his return consolidated his presence in the popular imagination and put a new stone in everyone's mental construction," says Sergi Pedret, mayor of the municipality.

"The joy that was experienced that day, with the arrival of the van at the square, is something that has remained in the memory of the people," concludes Mosen Serra. What's more, the figure of Miquel Baptista Gran remains in people's conversations, the white and brown banner 'dresses' the balconies -for festive events and throughout the year- and the traditions in his name shape the feeling of belonging of all loud

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