¿Cuándo llegamos a Sevilla?

The poet Antonio Machado left Spain in January, 1939, taking his mother with him. They found refuge in the boarding house of Señora Quintana in Collioure, a small town on the French coast just across the border.

Had he stayed in Spain, Machado would certainly have been arrested by Franco’s regime.  

But Machado did not enjoy Collioure long. In February he and his mother died within three days of each other and Sra Quintana arranged for them to be buried in a niche in the cemetery.

In 1958 Pau Casals, the cellist, offered to pay for a new tomb. He was then persuaded that many people would like to contribute and so a public appeal raised the money.  On the day of the reburial in the new tomb, Casals stayed away. He did not want his presence, as a world-famous musician, to take attention from Machado. A week later he went alone and played ‘Es Cant dels Ocells’, ‘The song of the birds’ at the poet’s grave.

There is a post box at the tomb where people leave letters of tribute in Machado’s memory.

People still come and leave flowers on the grave. Many are the descendants of the defeated Republicans who fled Spain after the Civil War and who died in France. Their final resting places are often not known, and so Machado’s grave has become a place in which to remember all those who left Spain and escaped to France.

“When do we reach Seville?”

The mother clutched the arm of her son

And asked him again and again,

“When do we reach Seville?”


Sadly they strode to the north,

Step by step leaving Spain behind

Home and friends all left.

They and many, many more.


“When do we reach Seville?”


So their grave,

Once serenaded by the cellist there,

Became the grave of the many

Who fled to France in despair,

And have no known grave at all,

Nothing for their children  

To honour in the north.


“When do we reach Seville?”


So they pay their respects

Where the poet lies.

His tomb will be for all,

That small, proud square of Spanish earth in France,

That little piece of Seville

Which his mother asked for,

And which she did reach in the end.

Before you go, read two of Machado’s best known lines.

‘Caminante, no hay camino,

Se hace camino al andar.’

‘Traveller, there is no path,

You make your path as you walk.’

On the internet find the Catalan singer, Joan Manuel Serrat, singing these lines. It is worth the effort.

It is on YouTube with the title ‘Cantares’.