Instagram account Visit Spain 1970 arose from an accidental discovery of tourist materials from the 1960s and 1970s found in a Rastro bookstore earlier this year.
“The idea of becoming a tourist in your own city is a unique parenthesis in a scenario of gentrification of city centres that may not be repeated”, explains Antonio Dominguez, the owner of the box of postcards and brochures and the man behind the Instagram account Visit Spain 1970.
“The idea of the project invites you to visit and get to know Spain in the way it was done in the 1970s: typically on family vacations, based on geographical accessibility and by car, all through the advertising of the time: brochures, postcards, and souvenirs that portray the culture, heritage, architecture and, in particular, the leisure time of that era.”
Through these Visit Spain brochures designed five decades ago for both local and foreign tourists, Antonio is discovering a side of Spain that he had never contemplated before. “The process of showing the concept of national identity through the lens of the tourist souvenir or brochure is very interesting. It’s treated as a material worth studying, like history books.”
Each post card and brochure is a time capsule to an airbrushed Spain, one that thrived in the final years of a lengthy dictatorship, which tourists were – and still are – encouraged to overlook.
The bright yellow background added by Antonio reflects the colour palette used for the 1970 Visit Spain campaign, which also features scarlet red – a psychedelic version of the Spanish flag.
The Visit Spain campaigns that were ramped up from the 1960s were aimed at tourists from across Spain but also the world – namely northern Europe. Look closely at the postcards and see the Spain that drew tourists of the time: flat, sandy beaches that evolve into olive tree-studded hills up above; humble villages that live in symbiosis with colonies of brutalist hotels; and the Virgin Mary that gazes at tanned bodies, bikinis and dark brown hair blowing in the sea breeze. There is no blend – just an unabashed appropriation of Spain that seeded the nation’s complicated love affair with the outside world.
In many ways, it’s paradise. The skies are always blue, the sun is always bright and every person, donkey and building is always casting a sharp, compact shadow.
Antonio has discovered a treasure box that reopens the tourism discussion, but also has more projects in the works. “I would like to tell you that I am currently working on a project about the disappeared architecture of the city of Madrid and the concept of souvenirs. It is incredible that when searching for information on certain architectures such as the “flying saucer” of the Madrid amusement park, which disappeared in 2010, the only documents I have found are through brochures from the park itself and postcards.”
For now, Spain is parked in the eye of the tourism storm, in a calm window between the loss of tourism and its inevitable revival. With crowds cleared, we can see what lay beneath them this whole time, and it’s undeniably making us look at Spain with new eyes. “For the first time in my life, these postcards are showing me places in my country that I did not know about before, and that one day I would like to see, just as they are shown in the brochures”, said Antonio.