of weapons in books

David Gavaldà, Carles Duran, Montse Martí and Míriam Morell have something in common. The four of them spent an important part of their youth on Avenida de Catalunya, in the space now occupied by the University Campus but which once belonged to the army.

At the General Contreras Military Barracks, David Gavaldà and Carles Duran served in the military at two different times. Montse Martí and Míriam Morell trained as lawyers in the same space years later. They were the 1999-2003 promotion of the Faculty of Legal Sciences, the first to open the Campus Catalunya of the URV.

Life in this space was very different for each other. We mention them separately in the Plaza de la Concordia, inside the University Campus. David Gavaldà had not returned, who, inspired by the moment, began to sing The Burning Warrior, the hymn of the Infantry. Check that you still remember the lyrics perfectly. He is from Reus and tears come to his eyes when he enters the Rovira and Virgili. “I am excited to visit this site 30 years later. If while I was in the military they told me that there would be a university here, I wouldn't have believed it. Now I look at the students and I see them happy with a project for the future and I think about what we experience here. Nothing to see." He is from the replacement of 89 and dressed as a soldier at 18 years old. “I just wanted it to end as soon as possible. He was a child and I am very sensitive ». Discipline, hunger, sleep, a lot of physical exercise and survival in a barracks that, according to Gavaldà, had a very bad reputation. "I had a feeling of lack of freedom."

The Italian judge and minister Antonio Di Prieto was invited to the symbolic start of the works in 1997

So did Carlos Duran. «I lost a year of my life. Three months would have been enough to learn to shoot and parade on the day of the Caudillo». He was one of the 150 young people who in 1965 and during the Franco regime entered the General Contreras facilities to carry out their military service. He was 21 years old. «In 1965 they brought us together here. The next day they transferred us to the recruit center of Sant Climent Sescebes». They were three months. Duran remembers that "it was the summer and we had a bad time because the conditions were very bad." He is from Tarragona and could go to bed every day at home, but he had to stop working. He tells shuddering anecdotes: «I was a sharpshooter but there was a colleague who without embellishing himself pointed a loaded submachine gun at the sergeant. He was very dangerous ».

Chaplin's Bar

He also served in the military at the barracks on Avenida de Catalunya Ricard Figuerola. Throughout his life he was the owner of the emblematic Chaplin bar. The business became a testimonial to the change in the "registration" of Avenida de Catalunya and served as a link between different generations of young people: first the soldiers and later the university students.

Perhaps it was fate, but Ricard Figuerola came to Tarragona to do his military service. Every day he saw Chaplin from the barracks and he also frequented it. Also, in our city he met his partner. All this prompted him to buy the bar. Now retired, Ricard Figuerola continues to be very popular, also far from there. They have recognized him when he was on vacation and pumped gasoline in Seville, in the central market of Huelva and even in La Laguna, in Tenerife. Of anecdotes, a thousand and one. In the basement of the bar, he kept the clothes of the soldiers who went on leave at six in the evening and who came to pick them up before entering the barracks. Once a young soldier "arrived so stoned that he had no hand in going up the stairs to the ground floor where he had left his uniform." Ricard Figuerola closed the bar without realizing that a boy had stayed inside. The night watchman, it was the 70s, he felt that someone was hitting the windows and warned him to reopen the place. At six o'clock in the evening the soldiers left on leave and for three quarters of an hour the rush hour was recorded at the Chaplin. The climax was repeated an hour before returning to the barracks at ten at night. «In two hours we did the work of a whole day. We prepared an average of 50 or 60 sandwiches.

Sandwiches at 3 euros

The army, the soldiers, left but it didn't take long for the first students to come. And they did it long before the Faculty of Legal Sciences was inaugurated on Avenida de Catalunya. Those who discovered the Chaplin were the students of the Faculty of Letters who went up from the building in the Plaza Imperial Tarraco.

The army needed resources and in TGN it could obtain it with the General Contreras headquarters

The sausage was the local star sandwich. According to Figuerola, "it was a quality product, with Alforja sausage that charged 3.10 euros." The last day of work before retiring he invited a group of young students who were in the bar for a round of 'cubatas'. Ricard Figuerola was very friendly behind the bar and assures that the university students made his life very easy. On Thursday nights, when the URV students went out to party, they stayed in the bar until midnight. "When I told them that I had to get up early the next day, they respected me and left Chaplin." The bar, open until recently on the sidewalk in front of the university campus, next to Rovira i Virgili street, stood out for its "very typical" decoration. Inside was the tobacco machine, the slot machine and the images of Charlot, the local icon.

The name of Chaplin, according to Ricard Figuerola, was already carried by the establishment when they transferred it to him.

First promotion of the Campus

Míriam Morell and Montse Martí have entered Chaplin a thousand times when they studied at the Faculty of Legal Sciences. The two lawyers meet at the Campus in the early afternoon, before Morell returns to the classes she teaches as an associate professor.

They were the first promotion that released the building. Both had begun in October at the Old Court, in the Plaza del Pallol. Montse Martí came from Altafulla and recounts how "the classes were given in the auditorium with the teacher on the stage and the students sitting in the seats." The transfer to Avenida de Catalunya took place halfway through the course, during the first semester exams.

"The first test we did was History." Míriam Morell points out that they did it in classroom 201. She points out that there were a hundred first-year students. «We had class from eight to two and in the afternoon, the electives. The classes were open and it's not like you have to go with a card. We took the lunch box and at noon we went in to eat.

They agree in saying that "it was a nightmare to reach the scattered spaces in the Part Alta for students who came from abroad by car." The professors of those first classes of Law were many young people. «Most of them had recently finished their studies. They came to the student parties. We grew big together," Morell says.

One of those first and young teachers was Jaume Vernet, professor of Constitutional Law and currently president of the Legal Advisory Commission of the Generalitat. At just over 30 years of age, he became the first dean of the URV Faculty of Law, between 1992 and 1996. The first course had 125 Law students and 350 Labor Relations students. There was no common building and the studios were scattered in different spaces in the Part Alta: the Fòrum Market, the Old Court, the Sefus Tower and also on Avenida de Roma.

Sitting in the Place de la Concorde, he shows me the place where the Daily on October 14, 1997. It was the symbolic beginning of the works of the new faculty with an act that counted, as a luxury guest, with the popular anti-corruption judge and Italian minister Antonio Di Prieto. Vernet looks at the buildings that surround the square and remembers all the path they took to transform a military compound into university buildings.

Transfer of the Barracks

Memory takes us to November 15, 1994. In a solemn act in the plenary hall of the Municipal Palace, the Tarragona City Council, the Generalitat and the Ministry of Defense sign the extensive agreement for the transfer of land to municipal hands from Avenida de Catalunya, which the army had occupied since 1946. The ceremony was closed by the mayor, Joan Miquel Nadal, who spoke of an "essential moment that will mark the history of the city".

Jaume Vernet assures that the City Council saw Avenida de Catalunya as a pole of attraction for local commerce and restaurants in the area. In addition, "Joan Miquel Nadal was a lawyer and was firmly committed to the new Faculty of Law". Vernet says that "we got tired of looking at plans and locations to unify the studios in a single space."

Then a great opportunity arises: the urban disaffection of the military in many cities. The army needed to obtain economic resources and in Tarragona it could obtain it if it got rid of the General Contreras barracks. It was in a very good piece of land, wide and in the center of the city. “It was an ideal and spacious site, with a 40,000-meter ceiling. There was enough space for Law but also for other Faculties».

Vernet explains that the army took money from the buildings that were built on Rovira i Virgili street. The space of the Ministry of Defense passed into the hands of the city and the City Council ceded it to the University. Thus ended the dispersion of law studies.

The Chaplin served the different generations: first, the soldiers and later, the university students

At the solemn moment of the transfer of the military lands to the city, the director of the Defense Infrastructure Management, Eduardo Villa Patiño, expressed his satisfaction that the purpose of the site was university teaching. Josep Laporte, the Commissioner for Universities of Jordi Pujol's third legislature, was present. Mayor Nadal's relations with the man from Reus had not been easy as a result of the controversy over the name of Rovira i Virgili. That day for history they met in the plenary room and also shared their interests. Laporte admitted in his speech that he did not believe in the operation at first. He had to admit that, luckily, he had been wrong.

The URV gained a common space that would be occupied first by Law students and later by Arts, Nursing and Communication students. Months before the signing of the agreement, in summer, the army took down the Spanish flag from the barracks for the last time and left the center of the city. Avenida de Catalunya said goodbye to an image completely internalized by the people of Tarragona in the last 50 years.

the new faculty

Now it was necessary to design the new university dependencies. Former dean Jaume Vernet reports that the team of architects Bardají & Teixidor was sought out to create a faculty adapted to the specific interests of the studies. There are many people from Tarragona who know the Campus Catalunya as the barcode due to the appearance of the façade seen from the motorway.

Sitting on one of the benches in the Place de la Concorde, Dr. Vernet looks up and observes the buildings that surround him. What satisfies you the most? "That I contributed a small grain of sand to make the project go well," he replies.

Thousands of students have passed through the Faculty of Law who one day, with their bachelor's degree under their arms, left for the last time through the access gate on Avenida de Catalunya. There is a graffiti on the wall that says 'Education will change the people who will change the world'.

Through that door and with a very different feeling, the young soldiers came out one day with the 'macuto' on their shoulders after completing their military service. Carles Duran did it, happy that in that place "teaching has won the battle in arms".

Here too, one afternoon in January 1990, David Gavaldà crossed the door for the last time towards freedom. In the military you couldn't cry but he confesses that that day he did.

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