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History - Spain

Brilliant site with huge number of links


Spanish History


History of Spain(simplified up to 711BC (to be continued)


Photo Essay 1951
W. Eugene Smith


Click here to see photos

 The village of Deleitosa, a place of about 2,300 peasant people, sits on the high, dry, western Spanish tableland called Estramadura, about halfway between Madrid and the border of Portugal. Its name means “delightful,” which it no longer is, and its origins are obscure, though they may go back a thousand years to Spain’s Moorish period. In any event it is very old and LIFE photographer Eugene Smith, wandering off the main road into the village, found that its ways had advanced little since medieval times.

Many Deleitosans have never seen a railroad because the nearest one is 25 miles away. Mail comes in by burro. The nearest telephone is 12 miles away in another town. Deleitosa’s water system still consists of the sort of aqueducts and open wells from which villagers have drawn water for centuries … and the streets smell strongly of the villagers’ donkeys and pigs.

A small movie theater, which shows some American films, sits among the sprinkling of little shops near the main square. But the village scene is dominated now as always by the high, brown structure of the 16th century church, the center of society in Catholic Deleitosa. And the lives of the villagers are dominated as always by the bare and brutal problems of subsistence. For Deleitosa, barren of history, unfavored by nature, reduced by wars, lives in poverty — a poverty shared by nearly all and relieved only by the seasonal work of the soil, and the faith that sustains most Deleitosans from the hour of First Communion until the simple funeral that marks one’s end.


Spain's Alien Nation

Rodrigo De Zayas



SIR Richard Fox Vassal, the second Lord Holland (1773-1840), was a rich, intelligent aristocrat; in 1802 his doctor advised him to spend some time in a dry climate for his health. He decided to visit Madrid, where he learned Spanish and collected manuscripts for the library of Holland House, the family mansion in London, and in 1804 he bought a bundle of manuscripts from Don Isidoro de Olmo. He failed to recognise the significance of what he took back to London and simply listed the contents of the bundle: papers, memoirs and correspondence from 1542-1610, relating to the history of the moriscos in Spain.






Great site Iberian Resources on Line - whole range of information  on Spanish History

Swift Dawn, Long Sunset

Great Mosque, Cordoba



The Story of the Arabs In Al-Andalus - by Adnan F. Anabtawi 

Queen Isabela



Saint or not? Interesting article by Robert Latona

Joan's Mad Monarchs


Great site here...Joan's Mad Monarchs...biographies of:

Juana the Mad of Castile (1479-1555)   the Queen who caressed her husband's remains. 

Don Carlos of Spain (1545-1568)   the Crown Prince who liked to beat up girls. 

Carlos II "The Bewitched" of Spain (1661-1700)   the degenerated monstrosity on the throne. 

Philip V "El Rey Animoso" of Spain (1683-1746)   the King torn between desire and guilt. 

Ferdinand VI of Spain (1713-1759)   the King who brought peace to his people but not to his mind.

Click on picture to read biographies

"The Spanish  Civil War is best remembered in entirely human terms: the clash of beliefs, the ferocity, the generosity and selfishness, the hypocrisy of diplomats and ministers, the betrayal of ideals and political manoeuvres and, above all, the bravery and self sacrifice of those who fought on both sides"



Around 2000BC Iberians were dark people with long skulls who lived in easily defended hilltop settlements. The typical Iberian was stoical, quarelsome, devoted to bulls and horses, suspicious of strangers, superstitious in religion, and respectful of his elders, and disliked organisation.

In about 1200BC the Celts came to Iberia long before going north to Ireland and Britain. Both Galician and Irish legends support the idea that Ireland's first people came from Iberia. In Galicia, tradition holds that King Breogan and his sons sailed North and encountered an island. One son severed his own right hand and threw it ashore dramatically so that he should be remembered as the first person to touch the unknown land!

The founding of Gadir by the Phoenicians in 1100BC makes today's city of Cadiz the oldest in Europe.

Around 600BC the Greeks arrived in Iberia and are credited with developing the olive and vine cultures on the Iberian peninsula. They had huge influence on Iberian sculpture as can be seen in the famous Dama de Elche, a superb statue of carved sandstone accidentally unearthed in 1897 near the palm grove at Elche.

The Greeks were driven out by the Carthaginians and as they moved inland they were met by the Celt-Iberians who had a reputation as fierce warriors who were well dressed wearing gold collars, amulets, horned helmets and sandals into battle. Amongst the Carthaginians was Hannibal Barca (elephant fame) and Hannibal's son in law is credited with founding Barcelona.

Rome ruled the Iberian Peninsula which they called Hispania from about 215BC to AD409. They were said to be baffled by the native people: warlike by nature, they were a tough wiry race with unkempt hair and a "harsh" way of speaking. Their system of justice was likewise severe - criminals were thrown off cliffs and they were wildly superstitious, reading the entrails of slain enemies to predict the future. They were loyal and heroic, loved liberty but lacked discipline. They carried the leaves of poisonous plants into battle rather than be captured alive. Possibly the reason it took the Romans 200 years to subdue the peninsula( France 10 years!). Our nearest Roman remains are at Segunto.. The Romans made vast fortunes from the silver around Cartagena, olive oil and wine.

Around AD40 Christianity was introduced to Hispania by St James the Elder (Santiago), believed to be the half-brother of Christ. Reaching Zaragoza, he built a temple to the holy virgin, who had appeared to him above a marble pillar. (The Virgen de Pilar  became the source for naming countless Spanish girls "Pilar"). James's remains , when he died, were taken to Santiago de Compostela. Christianity didn't spread very quickly - although there were some notable martyrs. St Vincent taunted his tormentors as they stretched him on the rack. St Engracia had her breasts ripped off and her liver cut out and fed to the birds. St Eulalia was only 13 when she went to the Roman capital, Emerita (Merida), burst into the governor's chamber and shouted "The gods are worthless and the emperor himself is nothing." For her efforts she had her body torn apart with hot pincers, but according to legend she continued to sing triumphantly, and her spirit, in the form of a white dove, flew out of her mouth and up to heaven.

Christianity competed with other religions: Mithraism - Mithras was a divine figure representing the sun and was always pictured as a young man stabbing a bull and initiation rites involved the sacrificial killing of a bull. The spot on which Merida's bullring stands today was once a temple to Mithras. Here legionnaires were anointed with the steaming blood of slaughtered bulls, which they believed would make them invincible in battle. Draw your own conclusions about the origin of bullfighting. Another Eastern cult eagerly adopted by the Hispano-Romans revolved around Bacchus the god of wine, and the rites often became drunken orgies. There was also the cult of Cybele. A complex pageantry swirled around her, such as processions of the faithful accompanied by drums, flutes and cymbals. There were scenes of self-flagellation, and on the "day of blood" novice priests performed their own castration.. The finale was a literal bloodbath, when devotees sat in holes and were showered with the blood of a slaughtered bull lying on the grate above. Today in Spain we see dazzling Easter processions of virgin queens and hooded penitents whipping themselves, and many saint's day celebrations end with a corrida, when six bulls are slaughtered in an elaborate ritual.

Famous Hispano - Romans were Trajan, born in Italica( near Seville) - became Emperor of Rome in AD99  and under him Rome reached its zenith with an area about the same as the USA, a population of 100 million and they owned the whole Mediterranean shoreline. Hadrian ( Hadrian's Wall) was also born in Italica and was Trajan's successor.

With the decline of Rome, around AD476 the Visigoths made their way into Spain. They were probably most famed for the names of their kings, amongst whom were Witteric, Wamba, Wittiza and Chindasuinth, all who wore purple slippers and ermine robes and let their hair and their beards grow long. They adopted the Arian form of Christianity(denying the Trinity) as opposed to the Hispanics who practiced the "Roman Religion". When one of the Goth kings failed to convert his new bride, he ordered cow dung be poured over her on the way to church. The Hispano Romans treated the goths with total disdain. To them, the Goths with their long locks and gaudy jewellery, seemed illiterate, primitive and warlike, country bumpkins with odd customs and harsh laws. For example, tampering with public documents brought 200 lashes, a shaved head and the amputation of the right thumb; conviction of homosexuality meant castration, while rape was punished less severely - with public circumcision. Another of their customs was the "ordeal of hot water" by which those accused of theft were questioned wile being submerged in boiling water. Under King Leovigild, Toledo became the capital city of Spain, and his son Reccared converted to Catholicism and united the kingdom under one religion. By AD624 the Goths ruled the entire peninsula, apart from the Basque lands, and the peninsula was united under one ruler, something that didn't happen again in Spain for another thousand years.

The end for the Goths came when King Roderick was driven almost to madness by the feminine charms of Florinda. He would hide in the bushes while Florinda was bathing in the river Tajo. One day his desires overcame him and he took the beautiful maiden right on the river bank. Florida's father, Count Julian, was governor of Ceuta on the African side of the Straits of Gibraltar. He came to fetch his daughter, and the king, unaware that  Julian knew what had happened, asked him to send him a particular breed of African hawk. Julian promised to send hawks that the king never dreamed of and went back to Ceuta and approached the Moors with an invasion plan. In AD711, Tariq ibn Ziyad landed with 10000 men at the limestone mass they called jabal-tariq (Tariq's Rock), the origin of the name Gibraltar.  Top of Page

To be continued..........................................

he Battle for Spain"






Shots of War


Photojournalism during the Civil War

The Visual Front


Posters from the Civil War



More Posters

Mujeres Libres


Women in the Civil War

Interesting video link to Youtube Click here



The bombing of Guernica

Testimony of War


Picasso and Guernica

Children's Drawings


Drawings done by children during the Civil War

Major Campaigns


Major campaigns and offensives

Carmen Arrojo


Civil War victim

The Civil War


Photo Essay

Looking back


Looking back on the Spanish Civil War - George Orwell

Photo History


The whole of the Civil War in pictures with commentary

The Civil War in Valencia


Photographs sent in by readers of the Comunidad Valenciana  Newspaper 'Levante', commentary in Spanish

A visit in 1936


Letters written at the beginning of the Civil War,- en espanol pictures of Gata, Pedreguer, Carmen Lagos and Emilio Signes

Dreams & Nightmares

Site put together by the Imperial War Museum -The experiences of British International Brigaders in sound. Below is a transcription of one of the texts:

We went into what looked like a warehouse or garage of some kind and all the way around the room were cases with rifles and in the middle of the room was a big pile of cartridges, some in clips, some loose. These boxes were all open and each man had to go round and take one of these rifles out. These were very old rifles. On the stock was a brass plate which said 1866, 1876, something like that. They were single loaders, but some of them were a bit later and they had a small magazine you could fit in, but most of them were single loaders. All the cartridges that were all on the floor in the middle were all different calibres, some were rimmed, some were rimless. You just had to sort of take pockets full of these and hope for the best.

Albert Weisbord


This is the internet archive of Albert Weisbord, Leading Communist Radical of the 1930's. Essays on the Civil War

British Survivors

In November 2000 the Guardian newspaper published a supplement on the last British survivors of the International Brigades who fought in the Spanish Civil War. This material is now available on the Internet and the website includes interviews with Sam Russell, Lou Kenton, Joe Garber, Bob Peters, Jack Jones, Alfred Sherman, Penny Feiwel, Benny Goldman, Dave Goodman, David Marshall, Sol Frankel, Bob Doyle, Tom Clarke, Jack Straw, George Wheeler, Frank Graham, Frank Mills, Alun Williams and Steve Fullerton.

Video Clips


Civil War movie clips

Land And Freedom


Full Copy of the Ken Loach movie available to view on your computer

Summary of Civil War


Written by: Russell Short...Russell Short is a travel consultant with Exploring Ireland, the leading specialists in customised, private escorted tours, escorted coach tours and independent self drive tours of Ireland.

Aftermath of Civil War


During General Franco's reign, tens of thousands of Spanish children were taken from their families, handed over to fascist sympathisers and brainwashed. Now growing old, they are fighting to discover the truth about their past before it is lost for ever. Written by Christine Toomey in the Sunday Times Culture International magazine on 1/03/09

Audio clip on Civil War


In Our Time. Radio 4 discussion with Paul Preston, Helen Graham & Mary Vincent

Concentration Camps


After the Civil War, many Republicans were interned in Nazi Concentration Camps after the Civil War. A lot of these were at Mauthausen...Link to "Spanish prisoners at Mauthausen"

Spanish Earth

Spanish Earth is a propaganda movie for the Republicans, narrated by Ernest Hemmingway and made in 1937. If anyone wants a copy please e-mail and it's yours for the cost of postage and DVDR...in total around €2

"The Spanish Civil War"

This is a 2 DVD documentary ...six hour long sessions made by Granada TV in 1983..again if anyone wants a copy e-mail me and it's yours for the cost of postage and 2 DVDRs...approx €3
Spanish Civil War on

There are loads of video clips on all aspects of the Spanish Civil War on YouTube......click here
Children evacuated from Madrid to Javea, Denia and this area
Another YouTube video clip made by the ayuntamiento in Javea. Only useful if you understand Valenciano...click here

Spain's Alien Nation

Rodrigo De Zayas

Spain's alien nation 

By Rodrigo De Zayas

SIR Richard Fox Vassal, the second Lord Holland (1773-1840), was a rich, intelligent aristocrat; in 1802 his doctor advised him to spend some time in a dry climate for his health. He decided to visit Madrid, where he learned Spanish and collected manuscripts for the library of Holland House, the family mansion in London, and in 1804 he bought a bundle of manuscripts from Don Isidoro de Olmo. He failed to recognise the significance of what he took back to London and simply listed the contents of the bundle: papers, memoirs and correspondence from 1542-1610, relating to the history of the moriscos in Spain. Some items were copies, others originals. Among the originals, he noted, were several letters from Gonzalo Pérez (father of court minister Antonio Pérez) to King Philip II (1), with comments in the king's own hand.

All these documents were auctioned in London on 21 November 1989 and are now in my archives in Seville as the Holland collection. Detailed study of the collection reveals the terms of a debate within the highest circles of the Spanish state about a significant Hispano-Muslim minority that been forcibly converted to Catholicism.

The word morisco was used to designate such a convert. Their presence created a social and political problem associated with most minorities: an otherness that the majority found difficult to tolerate. This was primarily religious - they remained crypto-Muslims- but also linguistic and social, since they insisted upon retaining their Arab language, dress, festivals, culinary and hygienic practices; they refused to eat pork and washed frequently, habits that Christians of the period struggled to accept. Their otherness defined them as agents of a foreign power, active allies of the Ottoman empire and a threat to Christian Spain.

After 1481-83, when Spanish Catholic kings established the Inquisition as an integral institution of state, Spain pursued religious unity and uniformity. There was a "morisco question", with causes and consequences reminiscent of the "Jewish question" of the 1930s and 1940s and of the situation of ethnic minorities in Europe today.

The importance of the Holland collection lies in what it reveals about Spain's transition from a sectarian state, which still allowed any member of an oppressed religious minority to integrate with society as a whole through conversion, to a racist state in which that option was no longer open, since the persecution of that minority was no longer based on religious considerations.

The first step towards a racist state pre-dates the earliest documents in the collection. In 1535 the cathedral chapter in Cordova had asked Pope Paul III to approve the introduction of criteria of blood purity (limpieza de sangre) as a condition for securing any paid appointment within the chapter. When the pope refused, the chapter turned to the emperor Charles V (2). He was taken with the idea and leaned on the pope to allow the test to be applied to the entire kingdom. Paul III was forced to give way: henceforth, anyone applying for any paid position in Spain would have to prove that there had been no Jews or Muslims in their family for at least four generations. Apart from a brief interruption during the reign of Joseph Bonaparte (3), the law enforcing this was not fully repealed until 13 May 1865.

With marranos - Jewish converts - Spain actually seemed to have recognised a conflict between national tradition and an "unassimilable Jewish tradition". The problem was the same whether the suspect tradition was Jewish or Muslim. Was there state racism under Charles V? I think not, because although individuals were required to demonstrate their pure blood, purity was still defined in religious terms. Only through practising your religion did you define yourself as a Jew or Muslim and you could argue that religious identity is not transmitted genetically. Perhaps this was just confusion or an error of judgment, a subtle shift in the state sectarianism instituted by the kings of Spain.

It may have been subtle, but it was significant. The documents in the collection that date from the reign of Philip II introduce a new definition of the moriscos as a "nation". What did nation mean in 16th century Spain? Broadly, any clearly differentiated community can be so labelled. As a result, many good Spanish Catholics found themselves defined as members of the morisco nation.

The concept of blood purity had contributed to the evolution of a new group criterion, as absurd as the definition of a Jew as belonging to a "race". Spain's highest authorities and its most influential ecclesiastics thought it was time to deal with the morisco nation once and for all. There were three possible ways for the state to eradicate them: genocide, mass deportation or forced assimilation under surveillance. Opinion differed only on which was best. This was still not state racism: there was no law outlawing the presence on Spanish territory of any minority, even when defined as a nation.

Five documents in the collection explicitly recommend genocide, either through execution or through forced labour in the South American mines and the galleys, allowing the moriscos no chance to reproduce. This policy was impractical at the time. Spain's kings dismissed it and adopted alternative suggestions. Philip II favoured assimilation. His son, Philip III (1598-1621), sided with those who advocated deportation, whose decisions were partly determined by economic considerations. For Philip II, the income from tithes imposed on moriscos was an important incentive to allow them to remain. Everyone benefited: the state, the church and the great lords who, in their ministerial capacity, received the levy.

Philip II was a prudent realist. He was sensitive to the ambitions of the great lords, whose interests were opposed to those of the Inquisition. He played for time, delegating the problem to a series of commissions. The moriscos went on paying their tithes. When, between 1568-71, they rose up in the ancient kingdom of Grenada, they were defeated and afterwards exiled to other parts of Spain. They continued to pay tithes, sometimes lower in value since silk cultivation, their most profitable business, had disappeared from Grenada. But they remained the most successful growers of fruit and vegetables in areas that they had developed and irrigated over generations.

Philip III saw things differently. Lacking his father's intelligence and determination, he left the reins of government in the hands of a Valencian favourite, the Marquis of Denia, whom he made Duke of Lerma and a cardinal, and whose paternal uncle was Grand Inquisitor after 1608. The case for deportation, strongly supported by the duke's adherents, who controlled the state apparatus, had an economic justification. The money from the confiscation of morisco property would easily make good the loss of revenue (4).

On 22 September 1609 Philip III signed a decree that made Spain the first racist state in history. Henceforth any member of the morisco nation was banished from any Spanish territory on pain of death.The Duke of Lerma, rather than the king, was responsible for this decree.

The most important theorist of the racist state, Fray Jaime Bleda, was a Dominican member of the inquisitorial tribunal in Valencia. He wrote a book outlining his ideas to prove that the elimination of the moriscos was an urgent necessity. It was too dense for the king to read, so one of Bleda's Dominican colleagues, Fray Luis Beltran, produced a simplified summary.

The king recorded his decision upon this document, number 40 in the collection. The Duke of Lerma had his way; half a million men, women and children were deported. All their possessions were forfeited to the duke and his party; the duke gained a fortune greater than the reserves in the treasury, which he controlled anyway.

Spain had a population of eight million at this zenith of its military and political dominance in Europe. Knowing about the deportation we can assess one of the chief reasons for Spain's subsequent ruin: fields were abandoned across whole regions, while the workforce evaporated from the most profitable trades: moriscos had dominated haulage, the masons' guilds, breeding of horses and mules, irrigation and market- gardening. The deportation, on top of the 16th century's galloping inflation, administrative corruption, the Duke of Lerma's negligence and greed, and incessant wars, plunged Spain into the darkest era in its history.



Written by Christine Toomey in the Sunday Times Culture International magazine




















































































During General Franco's reign, tens of thousands of Spanish children were taken from their families, handed over to fascist sympathisers and brainwashed. Now growing old, they are fighting to discover the truth about their past before it is lost for ever.

The only memory that Antonia Radas has of her father has haunted her as a recurring nightmare for nearly 70 years; it is the moment of his death. 

Antonia is a small child in her mother Carmen's arms. Both are looking out through the refectory window of a prison where Carmen's husband, Antonio, is being held. They see him lined up against a courtyard wall. Shots ring out. Antonia sees a red stain burst through her father's white shirt. His arms are in the air. Another bullet goes straight through his hand.

After that Antonia believes she and her mother must have fled the prison. But Carmen and her two-year-old daughter were soon arrested. They had been arrested before. That was why Antonio had given himself up, thinking this would guarantee their freedom. But they were the family of a rojo or red - a left-wing supporter of Spain's democratically elected Second Republic, crushed by General Francisco Franco's nationalist forces during the country's barbarous 1936-to-1939 civil war. As such they would be punished. These were the years just after the war had finished, and the generalissimo's violent reprisals against the vanquished republicans were in full flow.

Antonia is now 71 and living in Malaga. Her memories of much of the rest of her childhood are clear, and many of them happy. "I was raised like a princess. I was given pretty dresses and dolls, a good education, piano lessons," she says.

It is only when I ask what she remembers about her mother, Carmen, from her childhood that Antonia's memory once again becomes sketchy. "I remember that she was thin and she wore a white dress. Nothing else. I didn't want to remember anything about her," she says with a steely look. "I thought she had abandoned me."

This is what the couple who raised Antonia told her when she came home from school one day when she was seven years old, crying because another child had said that she couldn't be the couple's real daughter since she did not share their surnames. "They told me that my mother had given me away and that my real family were all dead. They said they loved me like a daughter and not to ask any more questions. So I didn't."

By then a culture of silence and secrecy had descended on the whole of the country, not just the south where Antonia grew up. These were the early years of Franco's dictatorship, when loose talk, false allegations, petty grievances and grudges between neighbours and within families often fuelled the blood-letting that continued long after the civil war had finished. In addition to the estimated 500,000 men, women and children who died during the civil war - a curtain-raiser for the global war between fascism and communism that followed - a further 60,000 to 100,000 republicans were estimated to have been killed or died in prison in the post-war period.

Even after Franco's death in 1975, after nearly 40 years of fascist dictatorship, few questions were asked about the events that had blighted Spain for nearly half a century. To expedite the country's transition to democracy, the truth was simply swept under the carpet.

Franco's followers received a promise that nobody would be pursued, or even reminded, of abuses committed. In 1977, an amnesty law was passed ensuring nobody from either side of the bloody conflict would be tried or otherwise held to account. A tacit agreement among Spaniards not to dwell on the past took the form of an unwritten pacto de olvido - or pact of forgetting, which most adhered to until very recently, when the mass graves of Franco's victims began to be unearthed.

While the majority of his nationalist supporters had long since been afforded decent burials, the bodies of tens of thousands of republicans - many subjected to summary executions - were known to be buried in unmarked pits.

In 2000, a number of relatives' associations sprang up to try and locate the remains of missing loved ones. When the socialist prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was elected in 2004, the agreement not to rake over the past was ruptured; during his election campaign he made much political capital out of the country's left-right divide by repeatedly reminding voters that his grandfather had been a captain in the republican army and had been executed by Franco's military.

To mark the 70th anniversary of Franco's coup, Zapatero, in 2006, drafted a controversial "historical memory" law intended to make it easier to find and dig up the mass graves of republicans by opening up previously closed archives. In addition, the law - a watered-down version of which was passed after much heated political debate - ordered the removal of Francoist plaques and statues from public places. It also set up a committee to which former exiles, political prisoners and relatives of victims could apply to have prison sentences and death penalties meted out by the Franco regime declared "unjust" - not illegal, given the huge financial implications for the state in terms of compensation this could entail.

Since then, however, such issues surrounding atrocities committed by Franco's henchmen have become bogged down in a legal quagmire. 

Attempts last autumn by one of the country's leading judges, Baltasar Garzon, to have Spanish courts investigate, as human-rights crimes, the cases of more than 100,000 "forced disappearances" under the Franco regime came up against a judicial brick wall when the country's high court ruled it had no jurisdiction over such matters, given the 1977 amnesty law. While legal experts continue to argue over whether such crimes recognised by international law are subject to statutes of limitations, regional courts have been asked to gather information about those who disappeared - most of them killed - within their territory.

It is amid this current legal wrangling that one of the least-known chapters of Spain's sad history has emerged - and it is not about the dead but the living. It concerns those like Antonia, who have come to be known as "the lost children of Franco".

Both during the war and the early years of Franco's dictatorship, it is now estimated that between 30,000 and 40,000 children were taken from their mothers - many of whom were jailed as republican sympathisers - and either handed to orphanages or to couples supportive of the fascist regime, with the intention of wiping out any traces of their real identity. Often their names were changed, and they were indoctrinated with such right-wing ideology and religious dogma that, should they ever be found by their families, they would remain permanently alienated from them psychologically.

While similar policies of systematically stealing children from their families and indoctrinating them with lies and propaganda are known to have been carried out by military regimes in Latin American countries, such as Argentina, Guatemala and El Salvador, in these countries trials and truth commissions have long since sought to expose and punish those responsible. But in Spain, the process of uncovering what happened to these children - like that of unearthing mass graves - is only now stirring intense and painful debate.

This is partly because the events happened much longer ago, making them more difficult to unravel. But also because the country's tense political climate has turned what has become known as "the recovery of historical memory" into such a contentious issue that many argue it should be dropped from the public sphere altogether and remain a purely private or academic matter.

Where this would leave the "lost children of Franco" is unclear. Just how many are still alive and looking for their families is uncertain. But given their advancing years, at the beginning of January Garzon sent an additional petition to regional Spanish courts arguing that, as a matter of urgency, they should offer help to such "children" - now pensioners like Antonia - and families wanting to uncover the truth about the past before all traces of their origins are lost.

Garzon is requesting that DNA samples be taken from those searching for lost relatives - such genetic databases have long existed, for instance, in Argentina - and believes the cases of the "lost children" should also be treated as forced disappearances, ie, human-rights crimes without any statute of limitations. The DNA would be taken from those who are looking for missing relatives and matched with samples taken from those who believe their identity may have been changed when they were a child.

In many ways Antonia considers herself lucky. More than 50 years after she was separated from her mother in prison, the two were finally reunited, briefly - Carmen died 18 months later. Yet despite the apparent happy ending to her story, Antonia displays such deeply ambivalent feelings about her mother as we talk that it is clear that Franco's aim of psychologically alienating the children of "reds" from their families was achieved. Even now Antonia does not like to be reminded of the name her mother gave her when she was born - Pasionaria, in honour of the civil war communist leader Dolores Ibarruri, known as La Pasionaria. She tuts loudly when her youngest daughter, Esther, writes it in my notebook.

"I believe if she [Carmen] had really wanted to find me when I was still a child, she would have," Antonia says bitterly, ignoring the fact that when her mother was released from prison in the mid-1940s, like other former republican prisoners, she lived a life of penury, her freedom to work, move and ask questions severely limited.

Mother and daughter were reunited in the end through the efforts of one of Carmen's older daughters, Maria, who, together with another daughter, Dolores, and son Jose, both then in their teens, had been left to fend for themselves when Carmen was imprisoned with their baby sister. Determined that her mother should see her lost child before she die, in 1993 Maria appealed for information about her sister on a television programme dedicated to locating missing relatives, which Antonia saw, by chance.

It was only then that Antonia learnt that her mother had signed a document handing her daughter into the care of a fellow prison inmate about to be released - prison rules dictated that no child over the age of three be allowed to remain with their mothers - on condition that the girl be returned to her when Carmen herself was freed from jail. Instead, her infant daughter was given, or sold, to the couple who raised her - devout churchgoers who took her to live in Venezuela for some years when she was a teenager, which was when they finally changed her surname to match their own. Carmen had already changed her daughter's name to Antonia when she was a young child to try and protect her from the wrath of anti-communists.

All this Carmen was able to tell her daughter in the short time they had together before she died. The couple who raised Antonia were already dead by the time of the reunion, but she seems to bear them no grudges, realising they gave her a more comfortable childhood than her siblings had. The deep rancour this still causes between Antonia and her eldest sister, Dolores, is evident, as I see the shadowy figure of Dolores stand briefly outside the window of the downstairs room where I sit talking to Antonia in a rambling house in Sarria de Ter, Catalonia, where she is visiting her daughter, grandchildren and other members of her natural family. Dolores looks in at us, glowers, then walks off, shaking her head. She does not like her sister talking to strangers about the past, and jealously guards her own family secrets. She will not tell Antonia, for instance, where their father's body is buried - though Antonia knows she carries the details on a piece of paper in her purse - believing that only she, who suffered a life of poverty and misery during and after the civil war, has the right to place flowers on his grave.

Such complicated emotions between siblings and other relatives concerning the events of the civil war and its aftermath are mirrored in families throughout Spain. It is one reason why this period of history was so little discussed for so long. "It is astonishing how many families are from mixed political backgrounds, with maybe a husband on the left and a wife on the right, which meant such things were not discussed over Sunday lunch," says the historian Antony Beevor, author of the definitive history of the civil war - The Battle for Spain. Beevor believes that public debate about such events is long overdue. "The pact of forgetting was a good thing at the time, but it lasted too long. When you have deep national wounds and you bandage them up, it is fine in the short term, but you have to take those bandages off fairly soon and examine things, preferably in a historical context rather than in a completely politicised one."

Like many others, Beevor believes Garzon's attempts to bring such matters before the courts have turned them into a political football that is now being kicked about both by the right and the left for their own ends at a time when Spain can ill afford such bitter polarisation. The country is still grappling with the aftermath of the 2004 Madrid train bombings, carried out by Islamic fundamentalists, continuing terrorist attacks by Eta, growing demands for more regional autonomy, and the fallout of the global financial crisis.

"Why try to drag all this through the courts now. Who are they going to put on trial after all this time? Ninety-year-olds who are beyond penal age?" says Gustavo de Arestegui, spokesman for the country's conservative Popular party. "Those at the top of the hierarchy of the Franco regime are all dead. Let history be their judge."

But such arguments miss the point, says Montserrat Armengou, a documentary-maker with Barcelona's TV channel, who both wrote a book and made a film about Franco's "lost children" with her colleague Ricard Belis and the historian Ricard Vinyes. "There never has been and never will be a good time to uncover the truth about this country's past. But the longer we wait the more difficult it will become, because those who were directly affected and know what happened will have died."

Another part of Garzon's petition to the courts at the beginning of this year regarding Franco's "lost children" was a plea that regional magistrates urgently order statements be taken from surviving witnesses to how children were separated from their mothers in Franco's jails before their testimonies are lost. One such witness is Trinidad Gallego, who we meet in her small apartment in the centre of Barcelona. Aged 95, she talks lucidly, and in a booming voice, about the things she saw when imprisoned with her mother and grandmother in a series of women's jails in Madrid after the end of the civil war.

As a nurse and midwife, Trinidad was present at the birth of many babies in prison, though few records - either of children brought into the prison or born there - were ever kept.

"I saw some terrible things in those prisons," she says. "Mothers were kept separated from their children most of the time and all mothers knew their children would be taken away before they were three years old. The priority was to brainwash the children so they would grow up to denounce their parents."

From the early 1940s onwards, many children of prisoners were transferred into orphanages known as "social aid" homes, said to have been modelled on children's homes established in Nazi Germany. Their parents were not told what happened to them after that; a law was passed making it legal to change the names of the children, who, thereafter, had no legal rights. The historian Ricard Vinyes has described the orphanages as "concentration camps for kids". Those who spent time in such places have spoken about how they were made to eat their own vomit and parade around with urine-soaked sheets wrapped around their head.

Victoriano Cerezuelo was registered simply as "child number 910 - parents unknown" when he was placed as a baby in the maternity ward of an orphanage in Zamorra at 8am on April 15, 1944 - the day recorded as his birthday, although he was already weeks or maybe months old by then. When he was five, Victoriano was adopted by a farming couple, but was returned to the orphanage seven years later when the wife, sick of being beaten by her husband, threw herself down a well. "After that I placed an advert in a local paper trying to locate my real parents. As a result, I was beaten to within an inch of my life by a priest, while a nun at the home told me "the more you stir shit, the worse it smells", recalls Victoriano, 64, as he sits in his Madrid apartment fingering a small black-and-white photograph of himself as a boy. "I would just like to know who my parents were before I die."

Uxenu Ablana, who spent most of his childhood being transferred from one orphanage to another in Asturias, northern Spain, knows who his parents were. His mother was tortured to death by nationalist forces to extract information about his father, who had been jailed for lending a car to republican officials during the civil war. Uxenu can still recite by heart all the fascist

Falange anthems that were drummed into him in these homes, together with so much force-fed Catholic dogma that, initially, he quibbles about meeting me when I tell him my first name is Christine, so much does he still hate religious reminders. "I have no words to describe all the pain I went through. We were domesticated like dogs, beaten and humiliated, made to wear the Falange uniform and give fascist salutes," says Uxenu, 79, when we eventually meet in Santiago de Compostela, where he now lives.

"I am not a lost child of Franco - I am dead. They killed me, what I could have been, when I was put in those homes. They brainwashed me against my father and true Spanish society."

When he was able to leave the orphanage at the age of 18, Uxenu, whose name had not been changed, was tracked down his father, who by then had been released from jail. But the two were strangers and quickly lost contact. "I had to keep quiet for so long about what happened to me, and I still feel like a prisoner in a society that does not want to talk about the past," says Uxenu, whose wife is so opposed to him recalling his childhood experiences we have to meet in a restaurant.

The problems that Uxenu, Victoriano, Antonia, and who knows how many more, have faced and continue to face regarding their past as Franco's "lost children" is justification enough in the eyes of Armengou and others for Garzon to pursue his attempt to get what happened to them classified as a crime against humanity. Fernando Magan, a lawyer for a group of associations representing Franco's victims, vows he will take the case to the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations if Spanish courts fail to properly address the issue. "Justice is not only about prosecuting those responsible for crimes, it is about helping victims uncover the truth about what was done to them or to their loved ones - in this case in the Franco era," argues Magan.

To those who say it is time Spain turned the page on this period of its past, Uxenu voices what many feel: "Before you can turn a page you have to understand what was written on it. Unfortunately here in Spain, we are still at war - a war of words and feelings."


Dubbing in Spanish Cinema (article from Iberosphere Feb 2nd 2012)



Most ex-patriots living and working in Spain will be all too aware of the Spanish penchant for dubbing foreign-language films. Whether Spanish-speaking or not, this is enormously irritating, particularly for those of us not living in more cosmopolitan cities like Madrid or Barcelona, with more cinemas showing films in original version.

The nearest big city to me is San Sebastián, which hosts an annual international film festival famed for its predilection for the avant-garde. Throughout the festival, all showings are in original version and San Sebastián is extremely proud of its cinematic culture. Yet after almost 60 years of hosting the event, there is still only one small, two-screen cinema in the whole city which shows all its films in original version.

There is a valid reason why dubbing is so popular in Spain (of which more later). It is also fair to say that dubbing is something at which the Spanish now excel. As Beatriz Maldivia points out in the blog Reflexiones de Cine: “In Spain the quality of cinema is very low, as are our musicals and televisual productions… but our dubbing actors and actresses are pretty good.”

Dubbing actors and actresses in Spain are frequently trained or experienced actors and not simply voice synchronizing artists. Certainly Spanish dubbing actors have a delivery and timbre that is often better than the actor they are doubling for.

As Maldivia also points out, however, the quality of the translation is another matter entirely and is often very poor. This is particularly noticeable in dialogue-heavy films and those which contain frequent jokes and plays on words.

In some cases they get it right. I’m told the dubbing actor who doubled for Brad Pitt in Snatch was superb. But that was thanks to a decision to portray Pitt’s pikey as an Andalusian gitano, a shrewd move that also factored in an important cultural interpretation, essential to Spanish viewers’ understanding of the character.

There is currently within certain Spanish circles an increasing demand for films in their original language. Most digital television systems now give you the option to choose whether to watch in dubbed or original version, and many of my contemporaries in Spain are keen to watch in English as long as Spanish subtitles are available.

Any reticence until now about watching films in their original version went hand-in-hand with a shamefully poor level of English. Shameful because it is something of which many Spaniards clearly feel embarrassed. The image of former Prime Minister Zapatero sitting apart from his European counterparts, a reflection of his inability to speak English, quite probably drew more comments from the Spanish themselves than any other nation.

One nation, one tongue

This inferiority complex when it comes to speaking foreign languages (particularly English) is due in no small part to Franco’s legacy. Franco policy was designed to keep Spain as uni-lingual as possible, essentially to eradicate the country’s three other main languages (Basque, Catalan and Galego) though ultimately to the detriment of all.

It was that same legacy that put Spaniards in a linguistic and cultural void when it came to the cinematic arts and what Iñaki Gauna in Notas de Cine describes as “the deep rooted and culturally perverse custom of dubbing” films.

The practice of dubbing dates back to an order issued by the Caudillo on April 24 1941: “It is forbidden to project films in any language that is not Spanish”. In some cases this led to script changes (most famously to one line in Casablanca: “In 1936 he fought for the Republicans in Spain”) in essence turning dubbing into a tool for censorship.

Despite its fascist beginnings, however, the tendency among Spaniards to watch dubbed versions of films has become a hard habit to break. To some extent it has played a positive role. In part, because dubbing in Spain is now an art in its own right. But also because it makes potentially ‘cult’ films accessible to all audiences, something sadly not the case in English-speaking countries.

As anglophones we can hardly claim to be more cultured because of our snobbery towards dubbing. How much of the general British, Australian or Irish public can claim to watch foreign-language films on a regular basis? And why should they, when sooner or later Hollywood produces a remake in English? Films like Amelie are simply the exception that prove the rule.

Furthermore, foreign films with subtitles are completely inaccessible to a significant minority. Namely those with insufficient sight to read them.

There are some films, however, that simply should not be viewed in any other than their original version. Walking past my local cinema the other day I noticed they were currently showing The Iron Lady – or rather ‘La dama de hierro’.

There is little doubt that Thatcher’s most famous characteristic, aside from her hairdo, was her voice. This is something even most Spaniards can appreciate, and for those who don’t, a loyal portrayal of the character (which Meryl Streep’s is said to be) will soon put that right.

So a dubbed version of a film about the former British PM is surely rather senseless. As is watching The King’s Speech – a film devoted to the subject of speaking – in any other but its original version. And the very existence of a dubbed version of a film that is multi-lingual by design (i.e. Inglourious Basterds) beggars belief.

Younger generations of Spaniards now have a better level of English than their predecessors. But full immersion in the language (or exposure to any language that is not Spanish) can only be achieved through a complete break with the past and a fascist legacy that paved the way for what is tantamount to a dependency on dubbed cinema.

The time has come for contemporary Spanish governments to take the bull by the horns. Just as Franco’s legislation of 70 years ago put the country in a linguistic quagmire, new legislation must now help to put the country on a cultural and linguist par with other European nations