As has been the case every year since 2012, when the Town Hall announced that it was launching a program to restore some of the original paintings and create new ones, hundreds of artists, both professional and amateur, both adults and children, took part in adding more to the cascade of colour and creativity which runs down the hillside streets of San Isidro. The paintings are a visual homage to the verses penned by Miguel Hernández, many of them in his prison cell, and among those collaborating in the project are not only artists, but also schools, disabled groups and other associations in the city.
These murals date back to May 1976, which was a time of great uncertainty throughout Spain. General Franco had died just six months previously, no-one could be certain whether the dictatorship would be prolonged without him or whether democracy would prevail, and different sectors of society were testing the limits of their theoretical new-found freedom.
At this time the local fiestas in the San Isidro area of Orihuela, a poor and even marginalized area in the north-west of the city, were being held, and a wave of writers, thinkers and artists converged on the area to pay tribute to local poet Miguel Hernández. Some of the painters began to create murals on the walls of the humble dwellings in the area, and officers of the Guardia Civil stepped in to prevent this expression of liberty, but they were unable to halt the momentum of the movement, and soon the streets were alive with painters and paintings.
Some of the paintings are obviously political in their content, such as a woman trying to shake barbed wire and chains out of her hair and those which feature political slogans, while others quote Miguel Hernández’s poetry. Equally, there are images which simply reflect poignant scenes from everyday life: every visitor will have his or her own favourite.