Friday, January 28

Manoli and the women Franco failed to subdue

The history of the anti-Franco resistance is the history of a female struggle. Women were fundamental, both in the conquests achieved by the Second Republic and in the Civil War and, after the defeat of the democratic forces, in hiding. Despite the fact that the story, as it usually happens, has been written in masculine. And that when women have been spoken of, it has almost always been in diminutive. Cold memory (Tin leaf, 2021) is also a story starring those diminutives. And it tells, among other things, how women were the ones who, after that April 1, 1939, threw everything on their backs: care, insurgency, upbringing, tears.

They locate the ashes of six Spaniards murdered in a Nazi concentration camp

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“It was very difficult for women, who were resistant, to settle for suddenly becoming subjects so far removed from any possibility of decision. I cannot make an administrative decision, but I depend on my father, my brother or my husband. a driver’s license, access to university and I have to dedicate myself to sewing and care. Care that is not legitimized, care that has no value. ” This is how the author of the book, Miguel Ángel Martínez del Arco, summarizes it in a conversation with

He knows what he is talking about because for decades he listened every day to those women who fought the battle against Franco with no help other than their determination, their imagination and the macho clumsiness of the enemy, who never conceived that they, the “weaker sex”, were more than the lovers of the maquis. Miguel Ángel, in fact, was born in a Francoist prison. His mother, Manoli del Arco, was the political prisoner who spent the most years in the regime’s prisons. Between confinement and confinement, she and her partner decided to have a child. Nevertheless.

“Children do not have a choice. It is up to you”, recalls the author. Anyone who wants to intuit any hint of reproach or criticism of the choice of their parents will be wrong, and a lot. In spite of everything, Miguel Ángel defends the choice of his parents: “All militancy, and more so, implies a resignation. They chose; for me that is militancy.”

Their fight

In the women of the Franco resistance their communist militancy weighed a lot. But as much, or more, their Republican militancy, which sometimes led them to fight “against the regime and against their comrades” to win, first, and then maintain their space as equals.

Cold memory is the recreation of the exciting life of Manoli del Arco. A book halfway between the novel, the biography and the autobiography. At times fictionalized, at times historical, she has as a common thread the excerpts of the innumerable letters that she and her partner, Ángel Martínez, exchanged during two decades of imprisonment. The novel is also a thriller in which Manoli acts as a courier to carry a linotype from Santander to Madrid, where a police checkpoint awaits her after a tip-off and from which she is saved by a conceited Falangist. And that tells how the communists financed the anti-Franco resistance by selling black market Parker feathers to the provost of the dictatorship that arrived among the merchandise unloaded by US ships in the northern ports of Spain.

If Manoli were not a Spanish communist woman who ended her guard in the struggle for democracy retired in a modest apartment in the San Blas neighborhood, in Madrid, in addition to this book, she would star in a miniseries that triumph on payment platforms.

Because despite history, despite the torture, the defeats, the plunder, the fatigue, the jail, the betrayals, the purges ordered by an address that, from Paris or Moscow, knew nothing of what was happening in the southern Pyrenees , Cold memory It is not a sad book, nor does it show a sad reality. Even though some names from then continue to resonate strongly today. “The Espinosa de los Monteros family was the one that detained my mother, took her to the police station. They repressed and also kept the businesses,” says Martínez del Arco, who insists: “There was not only an ideological repression, it was also a hoarding”.

“The Espinosa de los Monteros family was the one that arrested my mother. They repressed and also took over the business”

“They survived,” says the author: “It was brutal, but in the end, she was alive and had managed to mislead that regime, despite everything. It was a hard story, but not a sad story.” They laughed in jail. They helped each other. And they raised their children. Also outside, when they were released without ceasing to harass them. Because, despite everything, they continued in the fight against the dictatorship from a “militancy of joy,” says his son. Even when the Transition came and they thought, “We have lost again.”

“There is a moment of accumulation of forces from ’74 to ’77 … but this was not Portugal,” laments Miguel Ángel Martínez del Arco. “There were executioners and victims, who are the victors and the vanquished. The executioners continued to occupy power. Neither the Judicial Power, nor of course the repressive apparatuses, were cleansed. To this day I still do not have access to the archives of the Ministry of the Interior “, laments.

The secret

Access to this documentation could help shed some light on what happened just a few years before Franco died, when the author was barely 10 years old. A secret that he decided to keep, perhaps in his first act of conscious militancy. If the son of a communist marriage knew how to do something in the Spain of the 70s, it was to keep quiet. And he did it for decades: “There is a certain urban legend. Of course the repression in 74 is not the same as in 41, but the repression was savage until the end. To generate terror among the organized sectors. But there is a element of hatred. And I was unlucky enough to find my mother’s torturer 30 years later. He wanted to hurt the woman who had resisted, and do it through me. ”

Why silence? The author reflects and responds: “My parents would have assumed terrible guilt. It was an unbearable pain for them. I was arrested 11 times between the ages of 9 and 15. Detentions that are not reflected anywhere. But they took me to the General Directorate of Security or the police station, even San Blas or Sales, 11 times. But at the same time I knew that I had to be silent and of the few things that I got to say, I regret many “.

And he continues: “The abuse was permanent. Many children were robbed, they were raped, they were abused, of course. Mine was not an isolated event.” That part of the History of Spain is still in the dark: “Nobody wants to know. It is in the archives of the Police, but they do not let us see it. The Ministry of the Interior has a detailed account of the torture, and I would like to know what it is. That says, even if it is in a registry that I was at that time, that I went. Or that she is waiting for me, or that my father was arrested. ” The secret is no longer. But there is still no hint of doubt about his parents: “The torturer told me, ‘go tell them what happened.’