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Meet Lula, in Sardinia, a city that worships leaders of the world left


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Anyone traveling through the countryside of Sardinia, an Italian paradise island in the Mediterranean Sea, may come across not one, but several signs that read “Lula 13”. But it is not about the campaign of the former Brazilian president and candidate for the election in 2022 on the Sardinian island, but about the signs that point out the paths to reach the municipality that has an undeniable left-wing tradition, with symbols everywhere.

With around 1,300 inhabitants, the municipality of Lula, in the province of Nuoro, in the autonomous region of Sardinia, draws attention for two aspects: the friendliness of its people, the Lulesi, and the references to personalities of the world left in each of the few streets in the commune.

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When the RFI report was in Lula, right after the first round of elections in Brazil, the city was all decorated with flags, because of the festivities around San Francisco, celebrated on October 4th.

Leaving the main church, with saints that read “São Francisco de Assis – Lula”, we follow the Corso Antonio Gramsci. The public road honors the Sardinian philosopher and writer, a founding member of the Italian Communist Party, who was imprisoned by the regime of former dictator Benito Mussolini and wrote the famous Cadernos do Cárcere. Gramsci is, to this day, a theorist and intellectual who influences the world left, mainly because he formulated the concept of “cultural hegemony” to describe the type of ideological domination of one social class over another.

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Further on, Rosa Luxemburg square recalls the Polish-German philosopher and Marxist economist. It became known throughout the world for its revolutionary militancy linked to the Social Democracy of Poland, the Social Democratic Party of Germany and the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany. It is in this square that the Diffuse Museum of Contemporary Art of Lula (MAC Lula) is located.

MAC Lula is one of the city’s top tourist attractions, but the most interesting thing is to walk through the streets around the center and see the numerous works that exist in the open.

The best way to get to know Lula is on foot, as the city is small. On the walk, it is possible to appreciate, in addition to some sculptures, dozens of murals painted in practically every street and alley, with themes of workers, workers, the proletariat of which the German philosopher Karl Marx spoke.

Russian communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin has his mural in Lula. Lenin is also a street name, as is the German theorist Karl Marx, author of classics such as “Capital” and the “Communist Manifesto”, which influence generations of thinkers from the 19th century to today, including the personalities mentioned above.

When asked how they felt about Giorgia Meloni, leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy party and winner of the country’s recent legislative elections, the lulesi preferred not to talk about her. As Sardinians, born on an island and autonomous region, they seem to see themselves as little or nothing represented by whoever occupies the prime minister’s chair in Rome. But after some insistence, one of the lulesi quickly replied: “This is Bakunin!”.

Rival of Marx in the First Socialist International, the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin is not a street name in Lula, but he is remembered by its inhabitants, familiar with the socialist theories of the second half of the 19th century. Marx and Bakunin had conflicts between 1868 and 1872, when the Russian was expelled from the International.

But when asked if they preferred Lula or Bolsonaro in Brazil, they did not hesitate to reply: “Lula!” Other streets in the city are named after the Italian revolutionaries Giuseppe Garibaldi – the “hero of the old and the new world”, as the French writer Alexandre Dumas described it – and Giuseppe Mazzini, as well as the Argentine guerrilla Che Guevara, who participated in the Cuban Revolution of 1959 alongside Fidel Castro.

History of workers’ struggles

With a long history, Lula has traces of the Neolithic period, which lasted from 10,000 BC to 3,000 BC, to the recent past, linked to the exploitation of the silver and lead mines of Sos Enathos and Guzurra-Argentaria, now included in the geomineral park of Sardinia. Mining activity dates back, at least, to Roman times, when slaves condemned to mining worked there. The peak of production occurred at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries; then it went into a slow decline, until it closed in the 1990s.

One of the first miners’ strikes took place in Lula, in 1899, and ended tragically. The Lulesi were producers of coal, a product that was in great demand, and also of lime. The extraction sites are located in spectacular landscapes in the Albo mountain range, an imposing natural monument with hills, gorges, caves and peaks over a thousand meters high. The cliffs offer dozens of trails for climbing enthusiasts.

Popular traditions and festivals

Lula has three typical parties, all in September: Madonna del Miracolo, San Nicola and San Matteo, with dinners based on boiled sheep and black pudding.

Inland, two kilometers from the center, is the rural sanctuary of São Francisco de Assis, destination for pilgrimages and two popular festivals, which take place in early May and in October. The pilgrimage is described by the Sardinian writer Grazia Deledda, in the book “Elias Portolu”, and is linked to the preparation of a typical dish, su filindeu, made of pasta with cheese.

Numerous quotes from Deledda also appear on Lula’s walls, as she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1926. A sculpture in honor of the author, born in Nuoro, 40 km from Lula, is displayed in Rosa Luxemburgo square, opposite the MAC Lula.

Another tradition rooted in the region is the Carrasecare luvulesu, one of the most particular carnivals in Sardinia. The protagonist of the party is the mask of su battiledhu (‘victim’), with a face smeared with soot, blood and a horned headdress, held by a female handkerchief. The origin of the celebration lies in the archaic rites of fertilization of the earth with blood.

To kick off the carnival, in mid-January, the lulesi light bonfires for Santo Antônio, sing songs, drink wine and eat local specialties such as bolo s’aranzada and sos vuvusones, a Sardinian sweet.

One of the lulesi who made a point of opening his house to receive the RFI report, Giovanni Marras, showed photos of this party, which he describes as a tribute to Bacchus (Dionysus, for the Greeks), the god of wine and nature.

In addition to Sardinian, the inhabitants of Lula speak a dialect of the region, Nuorese. But with a little Italian, and even Brazilian Portuguese, communication is fluid, as the Lulesi are quite receptive to tourists.

Name origin

But where does the name Lula come from?

The explanation is not exact, but it is believed that it comes from the Latin name Julia, frequent in Roman towns, and which, according to some studies, would mean “Sacred to the God of the forests”. The city was certainly inhabited by the Romans: the mines of Argentaria, Guzurra and Sos Enathos, which were active until a decade ago, attest to this.

How to get

To get to Lula, the ideal is to take a flight to Olbia airport and, from there, drive to the municipality. The traveler will not see signs during the journey of about 90 km, unless it is exactly 13 km to reach the final destination. From then on, just turn off the GPS, follow Lula’s directions and enjoy the trip.

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