History of Europe

New Barcelona, ​​the city that Catalan emigrants founded in the Balkans in the 18th century

In 1700, after the death of Carlos II without descendants, the European powers dispute the Spanish throne. On the one hand, Philip of Anjou (House of the Bourbons) –with the support of France– and on the other, the Archduke Carlos (House of the Austrians or House of Habsburg, to which the dead king belonged) –with the coalition formed by Austria, England, Holland, Savoy, Prussia and Portugal–. The War of Succession began in 1701. The fear of losing freedom (private jurisdictions) and the establishment of Bourbon absolutism (remember that Philip of Anjou was the grandson of Louis XIV, the Sun King ) make the territories of the Crown of Aragon support Archduke Carlos. After several years of war, the Treaty of Utrecht was signed in 1713 in which Philip of Anjou (Philip V) was recognized as King of Spain and of the Indies and renounced the throne of France. But Barcelona would still hold out until September 11, 1714. As in all civil wars, the losers had to leave their homes in the face of more than likely repression by supporters of the Bourbons. What happened to those Catalan emigrants who had to leave Barcelona?

The most logical and prudent thing was to take refuge in European territories controlled by the Habsburgs:Naples, Flanders, Sardinia, Sicily (all of them lost by the Spanish Crown in Utrecht), Austria, Hungary... Felipe V wanted to recover the territories of the Spanish Crown that he Treaty of Utrecht had distributed among the belligerents of the War of Succession and in 1733 reconquered Naples and Sicily. The Catalan emigrants who had taken refuge there had to flee again, this time to Vienna. That contingent that arrived in Vienna was made up of simple and humble people, hustlers and others without a job or benefit. Without resources and with no way to earn a living, they lived poorly wandering the streets and the authorities sought a solution to «clean the streets » and relocate them somewhere where they would not bother. The chosen place was a marshy territory recently conquered from the Ottoman Empire in which Zrenjanin is located today. (about 70 km north of Belgrade, Serbia). In addition to getting rid of a problem, they used the Catalans to repopulate the border with the Turks.

Map of New Barcelona

Between 1735 and 1737, financed by the Holy Roman Empire, about a thousand Catalans were embarked to take them to their new home across the Danube... there they founded New Barcelona . They began the construction of that new city and planted the first mulberry trees to feed the worms in their silk factories. But that dream of a new home only lasted three years. Clashes between the Habsburgs and the Ottoman Empire resumed and the area occupied by the Catalans suffered attacks from the Turks. Furthermore, as if this were not enough, the Turks also brought the plague that decimated the population. The few who survived abandoned New Barcelona and their trail was lost. In 1808 a fire destroyed what was left of the city and, to date, the only vestige that remains of those Catalan emigrants are the mulberry trees .

Sources and image:Newspaper library La Vanguardia, Balkans

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