I am reading an excellent book about the history of Barcelona from 1714-1860 called La ciutat captiva (“The Captive City”) by RÃ²mul Brotons i Segarra. It contains some fascinating information about the city, all packaged in a slick design with lots of graphics, primary resources, and period illustrations in the form of etchings and “auca” drawings.
I just came across a passage describing the original role of the Mossos d’Esquadra, who disappeared for a few decades following the occupation of the city, but then reappeared in 1767:
“Fins aleshores, les esquadres havien tingut un marc d’actuaciÃ³ exclusivament rural i limitat a les poblacions sense guarniciÃ³ militar, on s’havien distingit per la seva brutalitat repressiva. A Barcelona, hi foren destinats un caporal i vint mossos, amb la missiÃ³ de fer una ronda diÃ ria per la Rambla i les Ã rees de la Boqueria, Escudellers i Palau per controlar la mendicitat, el joc, i altres mals costums. TambÃ© els fou encarregada la vigilÃ ncia de festes i processons, la captura de desertors i l’escorta d’autoritats i personalitats, a mÃ©s d’haver d’assistir el botxÃ en les execucions i de traslladar els bocins dels ajusticiats, un cop esquarterats, als indrets assenyalats per a pÃºblic escarment, ja fos el seu poble d’origen o allÃ on haguessin comÃ¨s un o altre delicte (68).”
My attempt at a translation (abridged):
“Up to that point, the squads had been limited to rural areas without a military garrison, where they were reknowned for their repressive brutality. One corporal and twenty officers were assigned to Barcelona, charged with performing daily rounds of the Rambla…to curtail begging, gambling, and other bad habits. They were also responsible for parties and processions…in addition to assisting the executioner in his duties and transporting the remains of the condemned, once drawn and quartered, to the designated areas of public display…”
Those following the recent police brutality at student rallies against the Bologna Process will find a certain irony in these origins, I’m sure. From the looks of things, the Mossos have not forgotten their roots:
Fun fact: this happened two blocks from my house.