1936 Civil War Memories in Tolosa and Leiza

This book recounts the experiences of the inhabitants of Tolosaldea (Guipuzcoa) and Leitza (Navarre) during the Spanish Civil War and early Franco era (1936-45) and its consequences: historical facts, the uprising, resistance, struggles, shootings, the imprisonment, the councils of war, expropriation, repression, struggle for women’s rights, exile and language repression among Basque writers, hunger and fear. The book also includes a list with more than two thousand names of the militia mobilized to defend the Republic, those who died at the front, those shot on both sides, children of war, etc. The researchers collected this information in military archives, and various civil registers. This book also contains twenty-six testimonies of men and women who suffered the direct consequences of war.

Errazkin Agirrezabala, Mikel and Saizar Arostegi, Joxemi. 1936 Civil War Memories in Tolosa and Leiza. Tolosa 2008; 245 pp

Mikel Errazkin Agirrezabala [email protected]

The struggle is your life. Portrait of nine of Spain’s Republican women combatants

The nine people featured in historian Carlos Fernández Rodríguez’s book, “The struggle is your life. Portrait of nine of Spain’s Republican Women Combatants”, Isabel Sánchez Alvarado, Concha Sanz Carretero, Sardinia Cecilia Cifuentes, Pilar Ponce Claudine, Doña Juana Jiménez, Mercedes Gómez Otero, Carmen Moreno Berzal, Faustina Romeral Cervantes and Isabel Sanz Toledano, are an example of the testimony of hundreds of committed women; fighters, loyal to their ideals and political principles who fought against totalitarian and dictatorial imposition.

The social and political progress heralded by Spain’s Second Republic in the 1930s also resounded in the women’s movement. The claims were made to encourage women’s hope in the struggle to overcome ostracism and exclusion, which they had been forced to endure over so many years. The attempt to achieve equality and recognition for women in Spanish society, mobilized them to demonstrate, carrying petitions to the street and claiming their rights.

The onset of civil war increased their collective efforts to demand a range of common interests, but especially women’s role in struggle and their important presence on the Republican side. The development of the “Anti-Fascist Women’s Association” which worked to create committees and organize women’s work, taking up the vacancies of men who went to the battlefront, led many women to engaged in the struggle and in safeguarding the democratic and republican system.

However, with the end of the war and the defeat of the republican forces, the newly established dictatorship launched before the end of the war a systematic, methodical and premeditated, which lasted many years. The Republican supporters’ overall picture could not have been more disastrous: poverty, hunger, condemnation, exile, repression and death. Summary trials, overcrowded prisons, concentration camps, forced labour in work camps; censorship, fleeing law, shootings and strict control of all facets of life were part of their daily routine.

Franco repression was awesome in its reproach of women, who were hated and denigrated for their work during the war. Republican women were victims of political and ideological cruelty and social pressure, even stronger than what their own male peers had to endure. These “reds” as they were labelled, suffered great social stigma, humiliation and disgrace.

Despite all this, many Republican women continued to struggle taking an active, vital role in political activities aimed at recovering Republican legality. Since they worked and fought in the underground propaganda and agitation, with resistance links and support, they were committed to this cause, activists in leftist political organizations.

They participated in the armed struggle inside the guerrilla groups who fought against Franco oppression throughout Spain, fighting openly or clandestinely supporting the guerrilla movement.

The nine women in ” The struggle is your life” share many things: their early involvement in political organizations, in youth groups such as the JSU (Young Socialist Movement) or PCE (Spanish Communist Party), several arrests suffered, continued fighting from prison against the repression and when they were released from prison, they never gave up the struggle to restore freedom and democracy in Spain.

The richness of their lives and testimonies are revealing and indicative of the hardship suffered, within a dictatorship and authoritarian, patriarchal society rooted in the past, where women only existed as mothers and wives.

Fernández Rodríguez, Carlos. The struggle is your life. Portrait of nine of Spain’s Republican women combatants. Editorial Fundación Domingo Malagón: Madrid. s.f.

Carlos Fernández Rodríguez  [email protected]

Rebel Memories Against Oblivion

This book recovers the oral testimonies of twenty-eight Mayan women between the ages of thirty and sixty years. The majority are exiles who, during the 1980s, were engaged in the armed struggles in Guatemala. They were combatants of the Ho Chi Minh Front, part of the Guerrilla Army of the Poor, for a minimum of three and a maximum of twenty years. These women, despite their engagement in the struggle, were not included in the lists of demobilized combatants established by the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Union (URNG) after the signing of the peace agreements in 1996. They received no official recognition, either pecuniary or moral support, despite having the right to do so. In reaction to this ‘invisibility’, the women (re)organised to form the Association Kumool, joining with others who had similarly been excluded from official recognition by the URNG. The association’s aim was to achieve not just official recognition but also to gain compensation, making it possible for them to achieve reasonable living standards. They also sought to gain equal standing with all of those who had participated in the struggle.

Through the women’s own desire to speak out about their experiences gave rise to the project which lead to the publication of Rebel Memories Against Forgetting. The book’s primary objectives are to: recognise their struggle in the mountains; pay homage to those who died in combat, as well as those who continue to fight; gather together the testimonials of the ex-combatant women and to pass these on to their children; bring to light the events of that time for all generations in Guatemala and around the world. In summary, the women aimed to bring the story to the world at large so that it was not lost and could help stop a recurrence of the war.

The initiative was taken by five mestiza women of various nationalities, ages, occupations and experiences. With foresight, they came together to give voice to the voiceless. Unifying their efforts, they gathered together the various stories of those who had been combatants. These women came forth from the ranks of the civil organisations which later published the text. They decided during the process to become active interlocutors, bringing out the words of the protagonists and contributing to the (re)construction of the history of Guatemala “from below”. This effort was also fused through a feminist focus.

These wordsmiths created a finely woven communicative fabric for a general public readership. The text is organised into six parts. The first part presents the methodology employed and vicissitudes of the overall work. The second part briefly examines the spatio-temporal context of the former combatants. The third part offers an approach to the individual iconography of each of the twenty-eight Mayan rebels. In the fourth part, titled “From the intimacy of the body”, the protagonists reflect upon their own condition of womanhood. The fifth part, titled “What our hearts tell us”, has the combatants narrating their own individual experiences. Finally, in “Desires and realities of change”, the women analyse their own contemporary situations as political activists.

The work weaves a complex and empathetic path, touching upon the reasons and non-reasons for the war and the peace that followed, championing memory and fighting the oblivion of forgetting.

Hernández Alarcon, Rosalinda et al. Memorias rebeldes contra el olvido. La Cuerda, Plataforma Agraria. Guatemala: AVANCSO, 2008.

Guadalupe Rodríguez de Ita

In War, Judgment, and Memory in the Basque Borderlands, 1914-1945

War and occupation test the resilience of local values and institutiomns anywhere in the world and often undermine accepted standards of human behavior. Basque communities in Iparralde were no exception. Between 1914 and 1945, two world wars, civil war in Spain, and the turbulent interwar years had a profound impact upon Basque society. After the Great War, which sent many northern Basques into Hegoalde and to the Americas,  labor unrest, class conflict, world-wide depression and the rise of fascism brought additional stress to Basque society. The  arrival of exiled Basque and Spanish Republicans deepened tensions in towns such as Maule, which already had a substantial, established “Spanish” community. When France fell to the Germans in 1940, an even more massive displacement of people took place as those fleeing Hitler and the Vichy regime sought passage to Spain through the northern Basque territories. The Germans occupied Lapurdi and Behe-Nafarroa straight away and established important bases along the Basque coast. When they occupied Xiberos In November 1942, the Germans encountered resistance from both the civilian population and organized resistance groups.

In War, Judgment, and Memory in the Basque Borderlands, 1914-1945, Sandra Ott examines the impact of war, occupation, and the post-liberation purge on four different Xiberoan communities, whose inhabitants responded to the Germans in a variety of ways. Drawing upon classified documents, the unpublished memoirs of former resisters, deportees and ordinary citizens, the author analyzes the ways in which Xiberoans perceived themselves, fellow citizens, the outsiders and Germans in their midst. She also examines the strategies Basques used to maintain social order in such difficult times, as well as the deep divisions war and occupation caused. The author utilized field notes about the occupation that spanned thirty years of intermittent field work in Xiberoa, from 1976 through 2006. In 1976, when she began her research in Santazi, elderly people often recalled their experiences with the Germans but cautioned the author that “it was too soon to talk” about those dark years. In 2003, when she began to study the occupation of Xiberoa in depth, the author found many elderly people ready and willing to tell their version of events. In order to gain a broad understanding of what Xiberoans experienced at grass roots level during the war, she sought out not only those men and women who had officially served in the Resistance, survived deportation to Nazi camps and escaped the tyranny of the Nazi and Vichy regimes by crossing the Pyrenees and making the long journey through Spain to North Africa; she also worked closely with ordinary men and women who experienced the occupation and developed their own means of coping with the enemy. In most cases, the author had numerous conversations with such people and augmented their oral testimonies with research on classified files in the departmental archives and other period documents. Her exploration of wartime memories included the 2001 pastorala performed in Sohuta, Xiberoko Makia, which celebrated the liberation of the province by the Resistance and also gave rise to some local controversy. In the aftermath of the sixtieth anniversary of the Liberation, however, such divisiveness abated as time and memory brought reconciliation, forgiveness and a measure of forgetting in Xiberoan society.

Ott, Sandra. In War, Judgment, and Memory in the Basque Borderlands, 1914-1945. University of Nevada Press, 2008.

The Galician Antilles: Formation and Destruction of the Galician Identity in Cuba, 1899-1899

The central theme of this book focuses on the process of the construction of regional Galician identity in Cuba. Primary sources for this work are 145 life histories recorded in Cuba, as well as archival documentation and statistics, Spanish and Cuban migration bulletins, Cuban and Galician press from the island. An ample bibliography is also provided.

Although the author has focused on oral sources, statistical, documentary and bibliographical information are prolific and do not appear merely in a legitimizing role.  In this manner, the author did not intend to use the biographical method as the defining methodology of his work but rather as the unifying thread linking the chapters. Here he was able to draw upon and increase the presence of historical actors when other sources were able to explain events.

In this manner, to support or contrast testimonies obtained from elderly informants’ memories (themselves fragile, distorted or partially intact) the large body of Galician press published in Havana between 1865 and 1961 has been used, along with the principle journals published in the period. Also used were emblematic literary and popular works of fiction as well as articles and essays by politicians and intellectuals, and accounts of Cuban customs and society written by travelers visiting the islands. The narratives of the last survivors of the Galician in this research project, are given increased attention which will undoubtedly contribute to the recovery of Cuban and Galician memory in the twentieth century.

Between 1899 and 1960, approximately 400,000 Galicians chose Cuba when migrating from Spain. These migrants filtered through the same migratory networks that fellow countrymen and relatives followed from the late eighteenth century.  Massive emigration from Galicia began in the 1870s, pausing briefly during the Cuban War of Independence.  American occupation, far from curbing further Spanish arrivals, only revived the traditional migratory networks from the former metropolis.  From that point–and until the revolution of 1959–, Galicians made up the largest group of Spaniard in Cuba.

For nearly a century, the Galicians on the island re-created aspects through more than two hundred regional, district and parish associations. Tying these together was a unifying entrepreneurial and  educated ethnicity. From the early twentieth century, Galician leaders became politically active, focusing on claims of regional or national autonomy. Finally, the socialist revolution of 1959 (which involved many from the Galician community) stripped the Galician collective identity from the island. The government intervened in Galician ethnic associations and institutions, banning its publications and nationalizing its property.

For nearly thirty years, nearly all traces of identities and  associations of ethnic reference disappeared from socialist Cuba (or were pushed aside) in the name of an idealized homogeneity created by the egalitarian revolution. With the advent of the ‘Special period’, the dormant (but still active) ethnic groups in Cuba began to awake. In 1991, Manuel Fraga, president of the Xunta de Galicia, visited the island in a memorable visit. This trip also provided an opportunity to recover the Galician identity on the island which led by a handful of nostalgic elderly Galicians and above all, their descendants.

Vidal Rodríguez, José Antonio. The Galician Antilles: Formation and Destruction of the Galician Identity in Cuba. Colección Galicia Exterior. Consello da Cultura Galega / Fundación Pedro Barrié de la Maza, 2008.

José Antonio Vidal Rodríguez