Salvar la cosecha es tanto como ganar una batalla al enemigo
[Saving the crop is equivalent to winning a battle against the enemy]. Signed: Jesús Helguera. Ministerio de Instrucción Pública. Dirección Gral. de Bellas Artes. Asociación de Obreros Litógrafos. Lit. GAL. Lithograph, 3 colors; 100 x 70 cm.
This poster proclaims that harvesting the land is as important for the war effort as winning battles. The message comes to life in the images of the hard working fighter and peasant. The rifle carried by the fighter (probably a German-made Karabiner 98k) and the sickle used by the peasant intersect near the center of the scene, underscoring the need for their joint effort.
The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936 was followed by economic upheaval. In the area of agriculture, most of the grain-producing areas of the country were soon controlled by the Nationalists. On the loyalist side, revolutionary takeover of much of the land produced irregular results, and often made it difficult to supply the large cities and the front. Many peasants abandoned their land, and refugees from the advancing rebel army crowded into urban areas. The ensuing food shortage was made worse by problems in the distribution of foodstuffs. It was this situation that caused the government and other organizations to put out messages like the one in this poster. The poster was issued by the Ministry of Public Instruction, one of the most active agencies in the production of propaganda during the war. The ministry issued many of its posters in Madrid between early September and early November 1936.
The type of cap worn by the fighter in this poster, with a short tassel hanging in front, became a symbol of the popular militias during the first months of the war. The rolled-up sleeves of the same figure serve to emphasize the informal nature of his outfit. The portrayal of what appears to be a member of a militia (and not of the regular army) in a poster issued by the government reflects the lack of homogeneity and organization in the republican forces in the early part of the war.
Hardly anything is known of Jesús Helguera, the author of this poster. During 1936, he worked in the production of propaganda for the government in Madrid. Later, he worked with the youth organizationJuventudes Socialistas Unificadas in Barcelona. The fact that his name is not otherwise recorded suggests that he may have come from the advertising arts, where there was little room for name recognition. The dynamic poses of the militiaman and the peasant in this scene, and the suggestion of a narrative sequence that stems from the use of different colors in the juxtaposed figures, is reminiscent of images used in billboards.
From The Visual Front: Posters of the Spanish Civil War