Why did the old man leave San Carlos? Why did the old man want to go to Barcelona?

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When the soldier narrator asks the old man sitting on the side of the road where he is from, the old man replies that he is from San Carlos. He proceeds to tell the soldier that he was the last civilian to leave his hometown. The old man also mentions that a Republican captain forced him to leave San Carlos because of artillery fire. Essentially, the old man's hometown was under fire from the Fascists and the civilians were forced to evacuate. When the soldier asks the old man if he has any family, the old man replies that his animals are his only family and proceeds to mention that he cannot travel any further. The soldier then informs the old man that there are trucks that will transport civilians to Barcelona further down the road but the old man replies that he does not know anybody in that direction. The old man thanks the soldier for his concern and decides to remain by the bridge instead of traveling to Barcelona while the soldier and the other civilians evacuate the area before the Fascists arrive.

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The old man was forced to leave his hometown of San Carlos by an army officer, a captain. The captain told him to leave on account of the artillery fire. Clearly, the conflict was getting more intense in San Carlos, and so the civilian population had to be evacuated.

As he sits by the side of the dusty road, the old man is still in serious danger from this bitter, savage conflict. The soldier narrator tells him that the huge convoy of carts making its way across the bridge, headed towards Barcelona, the capital of Republican Spain from 1937 until the end of the Spanish Civil War. He encourages the old man to head towards the trucks farther up the road. The old man is grateful for the soldier's concern, but as he doesn't know anyone in Barcelona, he doesn't get up, and remains seated in the dust, fretting endlessly about the animals he left behind in San Carlos.

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