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From public humiliation to oblivion: the documentary that recovers women shaved during Franco’s regime

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The Spanish Civil War and the subsequent Franco regime left too many victims throughout Spain. Among them, women, who often suffered a different type of violence in many cases than men. This is what happened to ‘the shaved ones’, those women whom the national side beat in retaliation by winning the war. Far from being isolated cases, thousands of women suffered this form of public humiliation throughout the territory, sometimes as punishment for simply being ‘daughters of’ or ‘wives of’ Republicans.

The arrival of democracy did not give them the reparation they needed either. Their stories were pushed aside and for a long time considered less important than those of exiles or imprisoned militiamen. To recover the memory of these women, the directors Gema and Mónica del Rey Jordà, together with the psychologist and anthropologist María Dolores Martín-Consuegra, have created Bring to light. The memory of the shaved ones.

The documentary, which can be seen at 8:00 p.m. at the Yelmo cinemas in Sagunto from November 5 to 7, compiles dozens of testimonies of people who lived during this time and they saw with their own eyes the cruelty with which the shaved women were treated. “There are a lot of interviews in the documentary, but it is a listening documentary,” he explains to MagasIN Mónica del Rey, one of the directors and part of the artistic group Art al Quadrat, along with her sister Gema.

Each of the stories shown in the documentary is different, but they are all crossed by pain. Like that of Ofelia, whose mother was imprisoned in Alcázar de San Juan and returned three years later; or Basilia, also the daughter of a shaved woman in Villafranca de los Caballeros. “My mother was taken away by La Falange. My grandmother went to the town hall to see what was happening with her daughter and when we came out we heard a noise and we saw that it was my mother who was on all fours with a dogall full of blood. She was all naked, made of belly and with a red quiqui hanging,” she says tremblingly.

In addition to being shaved, many of them were given Castor oil so that they could relieve themselves on themselves and then they were paraded around the town so that everyone could make fun of them. Others had a lock of hair left on their heads and a kind of bow was put on them. Again, they had to go through the town sweeping the streets and chant slogans like: “Quiquiriquí, because of my bad behavior I look like this” or “quiquiriquí, because we are revolutionaries we see ourselves like this”.

Concepción Fernández, daughter of a shaved woman in Villarrubia, who in the documentary recounts how her mother was taken out to be shaved while she was breastfeeding her son, remembers that they put her in a car along with other women with a sign that said: “This is how you fight because you are redheads and because you are whores”.

In addition to shaving their hair, thus stripping them of a symbol traditionally associated with femininity, and publicly ‘branding’ them, many are also they beat and raped, crimes that were never recognized or condemned. “Lola (the director), when she began to document herself, began to learn of many cases in the town where she lived of women who had had children of fascists because they had been raped, and she found out about it a few years ago,” says Del Rey. .

Stories that are inherited

Ofelia Cruz, one of the participants, is the daughter of a woman imprisoned in Alcázar de San Juan.

On many occasions these women had become widows or their husbands were imprisoned, so they had to raise their children alone, in a particularly cruel post-war era. “The women who stayed behind with their children deserve a tribute,” they say in the video.

For the documentary, Mónica del Rey explains that it was difficult for them to find direct sources, basically due to the years that have passed since it happened. Some of the people who tell their stories are already the granddaughters of the shaved women. Out of fear or shame, many of them did not tell what happened for many the point that many families were unaware of the experiences of their own grandmothers or great-grandmothers.

The directors of Arts al Quadrat themselves were unaware that shaved women paraded along one of the main streets of their town at the time. “Our aunt told us that this happened in our city, but when we were older. We thought: we are going through the same street that these women had to sweep and no one has told us anything. “It was like a starting point.”

Therefore, the objective of the directors is not only to heal wounds and prevent what happened from being forgotten, it is also to reflect on how these traumas were transmitted from generation to generation. “In the documentary, many of them said: ‘my grandmother never let us go out.’ That fear that was passed on to later generations”says Mónica del Rey. She hopes that the documentary will help each viewer “make their own story.” “For that you have to understand where you come from, if there have been these types of cases in your family and if this is related to the way you were before. I think it is a self-learning tool for each one.”

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