We Are Mercè
A woman is the protagonist of the poster for La Mercè this year. This fact will surprise no one, not only because this is a time when women, at least in our part of the world, are taking on the leading role that had been denied them for so long, but also because Barcelona is a woman, and so is La Mercè.
What is more unusual is that the main figure in this year’s poster is not beautiful, sculptural or sophisticated, but normal, ordinary, a little plump if you like, with long hair that endows her with a powerful personality. In short, she is a real woman, a Barcelonan like those you see in the street every day, someone like you, or maybe like you. Because if La Mercè is the festivity of Barcelona’s men and women, the festivity of the people, then the most logical thing is for our citizens to be able to identify with the image that symbolises the event.
That, at least, is what Miguel Gallardo, the father of the child, believes. And it is not by chance that we say “father”, for this is a word that has much to do with the life and career of a draftsman and illustrator who creates posters and book covers, an artist who has frequently contributed to newspapers like Ara and La Vanguardia, as well as to The New Yorker – one of the most prestigious cultural publications in the United States – The New York Times and the Herald Tribune. Gallardo, as we say, is the father of the poster for La Mercè this year, but he is also one of the fathers of Makoki, a legendary character in Barcelona’s underground culture in the 1970s who reminds us that the origins of this artist, born in Lleida but closely linked to our city, are deeply-rooted in the comic book. Indeed, during the “utopian” years, Gallardo established and co-directed the comic Makoki (that of the early period in the publication’s life, needless to say) and was a founder member of El Víbora. Moreover, demonstrating his eclectic, open-minded nature, he even contributed to El Cairo, breaking down the wall that certain purists had built between what was known as the “dirty line” and the so-called “clear line”.
But Gallardo is also the father of María. In this case, without inverted commas, because María is the name of his daughter in real life, as anyone will know who has read one of his best-known graphic novels, María y yo [María and Me], which even inspired a documentary with the same title. María is a young woman (twenty years of age now, as Gallardo relates in María cumple 20 años). She has autism, an infectious laugh and a powerful, almost punkish personality, as she demonstrates with her loud protests when the car stops at traffic lights, when she pinches someone to get their attention and in her great love of music and, particularly, comics, both those she draws herself and those her father creates.
María always preferred to wear her hair short. However, now that she has become a young woman (it must be due to her age), she has let it grow down to her shoulders in a style that, we must admit, strongly reminds us of the long