VISIT TO THE WOLFSONIAN BY DR. CINTA RAMBLADO MINERO OF THE UNIVERSITY OF LIMERICK
Last week, Dr. Cinta Ramblado Minero, Head of Spanish at the University of Limerick in Ireland, had been invited to deliver a lecture titled: “Violent Rituals of Exclusion: Women, Dissidence and Punishment under Franco” on the Modesto A. Maidique Campus at Florida International University.
The day before her talk, FIU Professor Aurora Morcillo arranged for the distinguished guest to pay a visit to The Wolfsonian museum galleries and to see a display of some rare books and ephemera dating from the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939.
As Dr. Ramblado’s area of expertise is focused on issues of gender and repression under the regime of the Caudillo Francisco Franco, I had gone to the back stacks to pull out a discrete selection from the nearly five hundred vintage postcards, propaganda leaflets, rare books and periodicals produced by both Republican and Fascist forces fighting for control of Spain in the late 1930s.
Accompanied by FIU graduate student, José Manuel Morcillo, Dr. Ramblado was taken on a guided tour of the three exhibition floors and given the opportunity to look over some materials drawn from the Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection displayed in the main reading room of the rare book and special collections library.
In a number of the Spanish Civil War items, women were depicted as victims either of “red” terror, or aerial bombardment by Francisco Franco’s Italian and German allies. Both the Fascist and Republican forces used photography as well as illustration to document the atrocities of the enemy against women, and mothers and children.
In some of the Republican propaganda, images of women assuming the role of female “warriors” were used to shame the “free men of the world” to join the militias or international brigades in aiding Spanish democracy.
More often, however, propaganda depicted women in less combative and more traditional, supportive roles: as nurses and ambulance drivers, agricultural workers, and housewives knitting scarves and warm clothing for their “brothers at the front.”
Postcards produced by the Republic during the protracted fight for control of the capital pictured both traditional and modern women evacuating the city.
One such postcard showed the dire consequences of Fascist bombing of Madrid by depicting a bereft mother mourning her dead child, her arms stretched out in a cry for “Venganza” and “Victoria” against the assassins.
As Fascist propaganda often charged the “Red” Republicans with being anti-Christian, Republican propaganda leaflets were designed to remind the world that it was Francisco Franco’s forces (dependent on Islamic colonial troops and Fascist and Nazi air forces) who were killing Christian civilians in the name of God.
The latter image was intentionally designed to evoke the image of Michelangelo’s sculptural masterpiece, Pietà.
Neither side shied away from persuading women to raise their children with the values of and commitment to the Republican or Fascist “cause” for which the menfolk were fighting. The Spanish Republican and Communist Basque leader, Isidora Dolores Ibárruri Gómez (1895-1989), popularly known as “La Pasionaria” (the Passionflower), made stirring speeches to rally the people and the international community to the defense of the Republic.
Of course, even as La Pasionaria was demonized by the Franco’s supporters as the embodiment of God-less Communism and militant feminism, the Fascists fostered a “cult of the cradle” and promoted their own version of true womanhood.
We wish Dr. Ramblado well as she returns to Ireland in the wake of an unusually savage storm passing through the University of Limerick campus with “hurricane force” winds.