Ourense has always had a special relationship with the world of arts and culture. At its most splendid moment, in the early 20th century, it came to be known as the “Athens of Galicia”, the birthplace of the so-called Generation Nós, a group of intellectuals who led the renewal and modernization of Galician culture.
The epithet is not capricious; a very important list of writers, musicians and artists were very closely linked to the old Auria, having left their mark there. Some might say that river Minho’s mists and the warmth of the ground water enliven the wit, awaken the imagination and sharpen the irony of its people: a way of being that has given the city its most creative and inspired profile.
In your visit, in addition to touring the streets and appreciating the monuments, an original way of getting to know Ourense would be to approach the artistic work that has taken place there.
Ourense is undoubtedly the most portrayed city in Galician literature. For book lovers, it will always be the Auria captured by writer Eduardo Blanco Amor in works such as Xente ao lonxe or Os Biosbardos, but especially in his best novel, A Esmorga (On a Bender): a route marked by ceramic plates scattered in the streets of the historic centre allows to follow the footsteps of its three protagonists in their nocturnal escapade. The city was also portrayed by Carlos Casares in Ilustrísima or by Camilo José Cela in Mazurca for Two Dead Men, and recently Diego Ameixeiras has renamed it as Oregon, a setting for noir and police fiction.
Outside of the books, here are some of the most symbolic spaces of Galician culture: writers’ houses, cafés for gathering, libraries, printing houses and newsrooms: the first newspaper written in Galician language from the 19th century was published here. Here also was born in the early 20th century Nós magazine, the voice of an entire generation of Europeanist intellectuals who took Galician culture beyond its borders: Vicente Risco, Otero Pedrayo, Florentino López Cuevillas, Valentín Lamas Carvajal, Xesús Ferro Couselo, Marcelo Macías …
To these names are added other essential ones that were born, lived or worked here: Age of Enlightenment’s Jerónimo Feijóo, Juan Antonio Saco e Arce (author of the first Galician grammar), Curros Enríquez, poet José Ángel Valente, sisters Pura and Dora Vázquez … The city of As Burgas left its mark in all of them.
If Ourense stands out in literature, it is not left behind in the plastic arts, not surprisingly: painters, sculptors, architects and literati were companions of the gatherings, cafés and taverns where for years the creative genius of the city has been forged.
Perhaps the most emblematic of these places is the already disappeared Bar Tucho, in Eironciño dos Cabaleiros, better known as O Volter. From the 1950s to the 70s the group of the so-called Artistiñas appeared here. Names like Acisclo Manzano, Arturo Baltar, Buciños, Xaime Quessada, Virxilio or Xosé Luís De Dios learned here from their previous generation (Conde Corbal, Prego de Oliver) and created a school of thought for the next ones (Alexandro, Vidal Souto), inaugurating a whole creative trend that from lyricism and criticism opted for the renewal of Galician art.
The comics scene should also be mentioned, which in Ourense has always had a specific weight, around the Comics Festival that has been held for almost three decades. We must highlight names such as Xosé Lois (whose Carrabouxo cartoon is reading a newspaper at St Lazarus’ Park), the members of Frente Comixario group, Miguel Robledo or David Rubín.
Ourense in Films
The city and the province have been the filming set for several Spanish productions, with movies that were able to capture in film its natural and architectonic attractions. The Blind Sunflowers by José Luis Cuerda moved the plot of the novel by Alberto Méndez from Madrid to Ourense. Several streets from the Historic Centre appear in it, especially the Main Square, where its premiere took place. In A Esmorga, Ignacio Vilar adapted the homonymous novel by Blanco Amor for the screen, portraying many of the city corners depicted in the original text. River Minho’s thermal baths are shown in Nine Waves, by director Simone Saibene, and Kike Maíllo also filmed here several scenes of his feature Toro. In the province, stand out as sets the town of Allariz (Butterfly, by Cuerda) and Nogueira de Ramuín (Those who Love, by Isabel Coixet).