With the arrival of the Second Republic, the access to and democratisation of culture was considered a must for the new government. To ease the cultural deficit endured by rural areas of Spain, young intellectuals from the time mobilised with a series of initiatives to bring towns closer to manifestations of Spanish culture.
Setting out from the modernising ideas of the Free Institution of Education, founded in 1876 by Francisco Giner de los Ríos, the Student Residency of Madrid was created in 1910. A bona fide space of modernity and a forum for debate and to disseminate the intellectual landscape of science and humanities in interwar Europe, its residents also included some of the foremost figures in Spanish avant-garde art such as Salvador Dalí, Federico García Lorca and Luis Buñuel.
Also tied to the legacy of institutionalism were two cultural initiatives that surfaced during the Republic and aimed to displace the experience of culture and urban modernity towards rural areas; a new “illustrated journey” which, as an anomaly, sparked a heterodox occupation of popular culture space. The first of these initiatives, from 1931 and overseen by Manuel Bartolomé Cossío, was the Pedagogical Missions — for just under the five years they were in operation, they brought to almost 7,000 towns across Spain’s provinces, often for the first time, film screenings, Golden Age theatre, puppet theatre, mobile libraries and art exhibitions with copies of paintings from the Museo del Prado. Over 500 people collaborated with the Missions, including artists like Miguel Prieto, Francis Bartolozzi, Pedro Lozano and José Val del Omar.
To the same end, the travelling university theatre La Barraca was formed in 1932. It was directed by Federico García Lorca and Eduardo Ugarte and comprised student performers. Before grounding to a halt because of the Civil War, La Barraca brought staged performances to Spanish towns and included works by classic creators such as Cervantes, Tirso de Molina, Calderón de la Barca and Lope de Vega. Moreover, for its modern mise en scènes it worked with artists such as Manuel Ángeles Ortiz, Benjamín Palencia, José Caballero, Ramón Gaya and Alfonso Ponce de León.