Making a Scene: Reviving the Public Sphere through Sex, Drugs, and Comic Books

Saturday, March 15, 2014
Committee (Omni Shoreham)
Louie Dean Valencia-García , History, Fordham University
In the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, the newly installed Franco dictatorship prohibited the centuries-old tradition of carnival, fearful of carnivalesque tendencies that disrupted Francoist constructions of gender, religion, and class. While this largely effective ban lasted nearly four decades, in the years just before the dictator’s death in 1975, young Spaniards created an underground scene that challenged Spanish normativity vis-à-vis creative expression, clandestine gatherings, explicit comic books, street drinking, sex, drugs and punk rock, resurrecting a carnivalesque youth culture that became known as the Movida Madrileña, or Madrid Scene. During the transition to democracy, this Dionysian carnival scene sustained nearly a decade of transgressive behavior as young Spaniards revived a moribund tradition, bringing the carnivalesque into modernity as a platform to challenge patriarchal normativity with what ultimately became a capitalist consumer culture. The emergence of this youth culture engendered a period of tension between the old guard of the regime and a new generation of young people that had no memory of the Spanish Civil War—a generation that looked toward both Spanish pluralistic traditions of old and to a budding global youth culture.

More broadly, this case study analyzes the reinterpretations of suppressed histories in restructuring societal norms through exhumation of lost traditions in modern contexts. Through a study of magazines and comic books produced by young Spaniards of the period, interviews, and archival research of police reports, the paper examines the role this resurrected carnivalesque scene played in the recreation of a public sphere in Madrid.