Category Archives: post-en

blog posts not directly related to new datasets included in our database – en

Pioneers: The First Spanish Women Deputies: Clara Campoamor, Victoria Kent & Margarita Nelken

The new Spanish government, announced in January, includes 11 women of a total of 22 ministers.  Women’s participation at the highest levels of government in Spain is, however, only a recent development. To mark International Women’s Day 2020 Innovation and Human Rights celebrates the first three women deputies to enter the Spanish parliament, all of them elected to the Constituent Cortes of the Second Republic in 1931

Clara Campoamor, Victoria Kent and Margarita Nelken were all elected under the 1890 electoral law which restricted the vote to men.  Women only received the vote under the constitution of the new Republic, passed by the Constituent Cortes in December 1931. This enabled women to vote for the first time in the Cortes elections held in November 1933.

Paul Preston has pointed out that “pressure for the female vote had come not from any mass movement but from a tiny elite of educated women and some progressive male politicians, most notably in the Socialist party” (“Doves of War: Four Women in Spain”, Harper Collins, 2003).  Female suffrage was above all the work of Clara Campoamor, who was a member of the commission which drafted the constitution and who led the argument for women’s legal equality in the Cortes debate in October 1931. Article 36, which would give the vote to women over the age of 23 – on the same terms as men – passed by the Cortes by 161 votes to 121, mainly due to support from the Socialist party. (Read the 1931 Constitution here)

Before being elected in June 1931 for Madrid as a deputy for the Radical party, Clara Campoamor had made her name in the 1920s as a lawyer.  Born in Madrid in 1888 to working-class parents, she qualified in 1924 and then specialised on paternity issues and cases relating to marriage at a time before divorce was legalised. In 1928 she helped establish the International Federation of Women Lawyers. She was the first woman to appear before the Spanish Supreme Court and, in 1931, was the first woman to address the Cortes during the Republic.  Her campaign for women’s suffrage was met not only by opposition from the Church and hostility from conservative opinion, but was also opposed by most of the members of her own party. She was defeated in the 1933 election and left the Radical Party soon afterwards in protest at its increasingly right-wing policies. In 1933-1934 she served briefly as Director of Public Welfare. In 1936, fearing for her safety, she left Spain and settled in Lausanne, Switzerland, where she died in 1972. 

The other two women deputies in the Constituent Cortes, Victoria Kent and Margarita Nelken, opposed female suffrage in 1931, though the latter was only elected in a by-election in October 1931 and had not entered the Cortes in time for the debates on Article 36.  Both Kent and Nelken argued that women were not socially and politically ready for the vote and that, since many women were subject to the influence of the Church, they would support parties which were hostile to the Republic. As Victoria Kent argued during the debate  “this is not a question of the ability of women; it is a question of the future prospects of the Republic” (“no es cuestión de capacidad; es cuestión de oportunidad para la República”). Both Kent and Nelken, had impressive backgrounds as campaigners for women’s rights and social justice and their fears about the consequences of women’s suffrage are, perhaps, a good measure of the strength of opposition which the Republic faced within months of its proclamation.

Victoria Kent was born in Málaga in 1891. She was one of the first women to pass the Spanish bar exams and became famous as the first woman to address a military court when she successfully defended Álvaro de Albornoz in his court martial after the attempted rising against the monarchy at Jaca in December 1930.  After the proclamation of the Second Republic in April 1931 Albornoz became Minister of Justice and Kent was elected to the Cortes as a member of the Radical Socialist Party. As Director of Prisons between 1931 and 1934 she implemented important reforms to improve conditions; these included the building of the new women’s prison of Ventas in Madrid (read about its inauguration here). 

Although she lost her parliamentary seat when the parties of the right won the 1933 elections, she was returned to the Cortes in February 1936, this time for the Left Republican party (Izquierda Republicana) in Jaen. During the civil war she worked in the Spanish embassy in Paris, helping child refugees from the conflict. After the German invasion of France she lived under a false identity, avoiding deportation to Spain where Francoist courts had sentenced her in her absence to 30 years imprisonment. In 1948 she moved to Mexico and then to New York where she lived until her death in 1987. One of the railway stations in Malaga is named after her. 

When Margarita Nelken entered the Cortes as a Socialist deputy for Badajoz in 1931 she was already a celebrated art critic, novelist and women’s rights campaigner. Born in Madrid in 1894 into an affluent Jewish immigrant family, her book La condición social de la mujer en España (1919) exposed the subordinate position of women in Spanish society and argued that the achievement of women’s rights depended on the success of a revolutionary movement. The book created such a scandal that it was debated in the Cortes and was condemned by the Bishop of Lleida. Right-wing newspapers and politicians maligned her, accusing her of being a foreigner and of being sexually promiscuous. Once elected as deputy for Badajoz she adopted the cause of the landless labourers and campaigned for land reform. Her experiences in Badajoz, including the resistance by landowners to the labour reforms of 1931-1933 and the right-wing violence and electoral fraud in the 1933 elections, led her to join the more radical wing of the Socialist party.  She was re-elected to the Cortes in 1933 and 1936. In the autumn of 1936, when Madrid was threatened by Francoist forces, she stayed in the capital, helping to organise the defence of the city. In 1937 she joined the Communist party but her relations with the party were very strained and she was expelled in 1942. In the later stages of the civil war she worked in government jobs first in Valencia and then in Barcelona, leaving the latter city shortly before Francoist troops entered in January 1939. After the war she settled in Mexico, where she made a living as an art critic, supporting her mother, daughter and grandaughter and where she died in 1968.

In total only nine women were elected to one or more of the three parliaments of the Second Republic. Of these, five represented the Socialist party (Julia Álvarez, Veneranda García-Blanco,  María Lejarraga, Margarita Nelken and Matilde de la Torre), two were Radicals (Clara Campoamor and Victoria Kent), one represented the Communist party (Dolores Ibarruri) and one the right wing CEDA (Francisca Bohigas Gavilanes).

Photographs: [From left to right] Clara Campoamor, Victoria Kent and Margarita Nelken. Author: Estudio Alfonso. Source: Archivo General de la Administración at Portal de Archivos Españoles.

Letter to the Prime Minister of Spain

Dear Prime Minister – at least we finally have one, 

The road from here to where we want to be is tortuous and difficult, both for civil society and for the government. This year Innovation and Human Rights, a not-for-profit NGO,  has grown and extended its work: our centralised online database of victims of the Civil War and the Franco Regime  now has over 700,000 case-files, all of them supported and referenced to archives and academic research. This has been done without the support of any government agency.  

We are appalled by the difficulties experienced by the families of those people who disappeared or were otherwise subject to retaliation during this period when they seek information.  Therefore, our database provides access to almost half a million named case-files from the military judicial proceedings held between 1936 and 1975 as well as 130,000 files of people who were held in Disciplinary Labour Battalions as well as case-files from other sources.

 What we are asking for in 2020 is political courage:

  • To unblock the Congressional initiative which sought to reform the Official Secrets Law of September 1968 and to introduce the practice of automatically declassifying official documents after a maximum of 50 years, as is the case most other European countries. Or alternatively we call for the drafting and introduction of a specific Law on Archives.
  • To provide all of the archives with the human and financial resources necessary for them to provide a catalogue and description of the archive material dealing with the Civil War and the Franco Dictatorship which is still not accessible. 
  • To facilitate and to make public permission for the re-use of the databases and the descriptive material from the archives on the repression, especially those held by the Sub-Directorate of State Archives
  • To remove all the obstacles to access to official documents, especially historical documents, which have, for decades, faced people who have wanted to conduct research into the Civil War and the Franco Regime. In this case, the right of access to material should prevail over the right to protection of personal data, which is what the law currently establishes. 
  • To close the foundations which hold the documents of all the former Heads of State and Heads of Government and to include this documentation in the public archives.

In the coming year we plan to continue working to enhance the protection of fundamental human rights, especially the right of access to public information, and we trust that your government will do the same.

We look forward to receiving your reply. Best wishes,

Three Years Calling for the Right to Access to Information

Today, the entire team of Innovation and Human Rights  are celebrating the third anniversary of the foundation of our non-profit making association.  We are also celebrating the continuing growth of our online centralised database of victims of the Civil War and the Franco Regime, which currently includes over 700,000 case-files supported by reference to archives and investigatory research.  This is a task which we are committed to continue.  

The Big Data of the Repression

At the moment, the majority of the case-files, that is to say 485,136, are from military judicial proceedings which come from a variety of different archives of the Ministry of Defence; these we have centralised into one database for the first time. They are, however, only from the archives of the army – and not the other armed services – and they only cover eleven of the fifty Spanish provinces. 

Gaining access to documentation on the Civil War and continuing to build the database has at times been difficult. We have received no help from any part of the public administration.  We have often come up against the restrictions on access imposed by the general regulations on data protection which have been interpreted in the strictest manner possible.  A further complication has been the unusual nature of our work: some of the historical data is already published but in different formats and our task has been to make it accessible by presenting it in a single format.

Team Work

Our work has only been possible because of the following: (1)  the efforts of each and every one of the amazing people who are members of the team or who have otherwise provided assistance to Innovation and Human Rights: among them are experts in journalism, information science, history and archive work. (2)  the work of the archivists who provide descriptions of the documentation and provide access to researchers ; (3) the work of authors who have helped amplify and enrich the database by providing the results of their research; (4) those people who have always been ready to provide such support as they were able, each of them according to their position; they will know who they are. They include not only archivists, historians, information scientists, victims’ associations and similar organisations, with whom we are in regular contact, but also people who discover us, write to us and/or even thank us for our efforts or even give us tasks to do which help us survive as an association. 

Developing networks 

We are also very pleased and to have been able to sign cooperation agreements with the following organisations, to whom we wish to express our gratitude:  the Associació d’Arxivers i Gestors Documentals de Catalunya, the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, the CRAI Pavelló de la República de la Universitat de Barcelona (UB), the Fundación Pablo Iglesias and, recently, the Fundació Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (FUAB).  In addition, we have received students on practical placements in journalism and history from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and the Universidad Internacional de La Rioja (UNIR). We are currently extending these agreements.

The origins of IHR lie in the multimedia project The Bombings of Barcelona (800 Days under Bombardment) in 2016, on the Civil War in Barcelona, for betevé (which was then called Barcelona Televisió). This project included a database of the people killed by the bombardment of the city.  At the time we were annoyed to discover that, eighty years after the event, it was still difficult for the families of victims to gain access to information.  In November 2017 we formally presented the database, which at the time included 224,000 case-files online, at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona.  At this inaugural event Concha Catalan was accompanied by Guillermo Blasco, one of the founding-members, and Dr. Javier Rodrigo, a historian who is a specialist on fascism, the Civil War and collective violence.  Their presence underlined the importance of an initiative which would incorporate both the collation of data and the enrichment of historical knowledge and understanding. 

Objectives for 2020 

In the short term, we intend to complete the task of documenting our methodology not only so that our work could be duplicated by others but also in order to improve our productivity. In the words of Carla Ymbern, an expert in Data-Journalism who has been at IHR since 2017 “The biggest challenge is that each dataset has a different structure, often as a result of its contents.  We verify that a dataset does not contain material which is either duplicate or incomplete, and that nothing has been left out in converting the file into reusable data. When we are sure that the data is correct, we identify the relevant fields and clean up the data using our established criteria”.   

We are also planning to continue to increase the volume of data, which has already tripled in the last two years.  We are eager to develop new links with other groups and organisations and to launch new projects. In the medium term, we face the challenge of improving the database and making it more accessible so that there are better links between sets of data.  Centralising all the information fields would achieve a qualitative leap.

Our aims are global rather than being focussed on one geographical area.  “Spain and its people have been very generous to me since my first visit in 1974” in the words of Charlie Nurse, a historian who produces the English version of this website from Cambridge. “ I think that this project may help Spanish society to understand and come to terms with its recent past. All societies need to understand their past ”.  In conclusion, we continue to work towards our goal of providing access to information, spreading an understanding of the importance of archive work and making a contribution towards historical research.  

IHR signs cooperation agreement with the UAB Graduate School of Archival and Records Management

Innovation and Human Rights is delighted to announce that we have signed a cooperation agreement with the Fundación of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (FUAB)  enabling us to organise joint activities and to publicise each other’s projects.  FUAB is in charge of the strategy to develop the teaching projects of the Graduate School of Archival and Records Management (ESAGED), and this agreement brings IHR into closer contact with the academic world and develops our cooperation with the students and staff on the Official Master’s Degree in Archival and Records Management

The projects run by Innovation and Human Rights increase public access to documentation and information on the Civil War and the Franco Regime. Most of the personal files in our central database are referenced to documents which are stored in the archives. This is also the case with our online  Summary Military Proceedings  project. 

In addition to helping the families of the victims to gain access to documentation about their relatives, we have other aims; to promote wider public knowledge and understanding of the purpose of archives; to encourage greater public access to the archives; and, by republishing material from the archives, to make their contents more widely available. 

These objectives are furthered by this agreement, which was signed by Montserrat Balagueró, Director of Teaching Services at FUAB, and Concha Catalan, co-founder and Chairperson of IHR in a ceremony held in ESAGED on 21 November 2019.  Among those also present was Dr. Joan Pérez Ventayol, Director of ESAGED, who underlined the importance of promoting the use of archives to correct injustices.

IHR already enjoys the assistance of a student from the course for Official Master’s Degree in Archival and Records Management who is carrying out research using documentation relating to the exile of Republicans at the end of the Civil War.   

Further information on this agreement between ESAGED and IHR is available on the ESAGED website 

Photo by Eli Pachón.  From left to right: Concha Catalan and Montserrat Balagueró. [Translation by Charlie Nurse]

Memoirs of the War & Post-War by female writers

Last year we published a selection of books dealing with aspects of the Civil War and the Franco Regime. We continued this this year with some Some Recommendations for Summer Reading Following on from this previous post (1) New Books , today we discuss (2) Memoirs of the Civil War and the Post-War period by female writers. In relation to this you may also be interested in looking at our virtual exhibition Summary Military Proceedings against Women . Another article will follow about (3) Forced Labour in Franco’s regime.

  • The first person to reveal to the outside world the nature of the repression which occurred in women’s prisons during the Franco Period was, without any doubt, Tomasa Cuevas. Starting in 1974 she courageously travelled around Spain,  interviewing fellow former political prisoners about their terrible experiences so that these would not be lost. These interviews were recorded on a cassette recorder (for the benefit of any readers who are milennials, it would have been something like this ) and they later formed the basis of her bookCárcel de mujeres (1939- 1945)published in 1985, with a frontcover designed by Josep Guinovart. This has been published in English as Prison of Women: Testimonies of War and Resistance in Spain, 1939-1975 (State University of New York Press, 1998). A fully revised edition was later published in three volumes as Testimonios de mujeres en las cárceles franquistas (Instituto de Estudios Altoaragoneses, 2004) and one part was also published under the title Presas (Icaria Editorial, 2005). For a posting by Innovation and Human Rights which discusses her experience in the women’s prison of Les Corts in Barcelona follow this link . A budget has finally been approved by Barcelona City Council to establish a memorial on the site where the Les Corts prison used to stand.
  • Ángeles Egido, a History doctorate, compiled bleak testimonies of the repressive conditions experience by women prisoners in her book El perdón de Franco. La represión de las mujeres en el Madrid de la posguerra (Catarata, 2009). On 8 March this year we included the data from her research in our centralised database and discussed her work in our blog entry Women Whose Death Sentences were Commuted. In her book Egido gives a detailed description of the commutation of the death sentences. Although commutation was supposedly a benevolent gesture, it was, in effect, a very cruel process. The death penalty was commuted in favour of a prison sentence of 30 years and one day. In some cases prisoners were not informed that their death sentences had been commuted and were forced, every evening, to listen to the announcement of the names of those who were to be executed the following dawn. The book also analyses the fundamental role of the Catholic Church in supporting the prison system. We discovered her book during a conference entitled Pasados Traumáticos: Historia y Memoria en la Sociedad Digital ,organised by HISMEDI in the Universidad Carlos III in Madrid. At this event Innovation and Human Rights presented our centralised database after it had been incorporated into the Entorno Virtual de Investigación del Laboratorio de Innovación en Humanidades (LINHD) de la UNED. You can see all the videos of the conference by following the link here.

The following volumes, dealing with memories of the Civil War and the Postwar period and written by women, are, in some cases biographical; in other cases they are works of fiction. Both approaches are equally valid in providing a view of the reality of the period, from the point of view of women protagonists.

  • Carlota O’Neill was the author of the first chronicle of the outbreak of the Civil War (Primera crónica del estallido de la Guerra Civil) . She was a Republican intellectual whose father was a Mexican diplomat and whose mother was a Spanish writer and pianist. When the military rebellion occurred in July 1936 O’Neill was on holiday in Melilla along with her two daughters and was visiting her husband, Captain Virgilio Leret, who was acting head of the Atalayón Seaplane Base in the Spanish Protectorate of Morocco. Leret was executed on the first night of the attempted coup d’etat, although his wife was not informed until three months later, during which time she had spent a hellish period in prison. It would be years before she could recover custody of her children. Her autobiographical account of her experiences entitled Una mujer en la guerra de España (Ed. Oberon, 2004), was originally published in 1964 in Mexico, where she subsequently lived in exile, under the title Una mexicana en la guerra de España. An English edition, under the title Trapped in Spain was published in 1978 by Solidarity Books (Toronto, Canada). In the 1930s O’Neill had founded the feminist magazine Nosotras. Following her release from prison in 1940, during the harsh postwar years in Spain, she made a living as a writer using several different pseudonyms, before leaving for Venezuela and Mexico. For more information on her and a video follow this link .
  • Constancia de la Mora wrote her autobiography Doble esplendor (Ed. Gadir, 2004) in the United States within months of the end of the Civil War and it was first published in English in 1939 under the title In Place of Splendour. She was the grand-daughter of Antonio Maura, who was Prime Minister of Spain on four occasions during the reign of King Alfonso XIII. Her uncle, Miguel Maura, was Minister of the Interior in the first government of the Republic. In her book she recounts her childhood experiences in a privileged family, her stay at a private school in Cambridge (UK), and how her concern over social conditions in Spain led her to support the Republic from 1931 onwards. Like O’Neill she was also married to an airman, Ignacio Hidalgo de Cisneros, who was her second husband (Her first husband was the brother of Luis Bolín, who became Franco’s press chief and whom she divorced immediately after the legalisation of divorce in 1933.) During the Civil War, while Cisneros rose to become Head of the Republican Airforce, she worked initially as the head of a home for refugee children and later in the Republican Foreign Press Office, of which she became Head in November 1937. She was based in several different cities in the Republican zone, and, shortly before the defeat of the Republic she left Spain to promote the Republican cause in the United States, convinced that she would soon return. The prologue to the Spanish edition of her book was written by her first cousin Jorge Semprún.
  • Elena Fortún was the pen name of María de la Encarnación Gertrudis Jacoba Aragoneses y de Urquijo, who, during the Franco period, was the author of a series of very successful children’s books, which featured a character called Celia who was a very critical and inquisitive child. This same innocence and capacity for critical thinking occur in Celia en la Revolución (Ed. Renacimiento, 2016), in which Fortún presents a fictional account of Republican Madrid during the Civil War, seen through the eyes of the adolescent who had been Celia. What is surprising is that, although this novel is set in Civil War Madrid, the Madrid of “No Pasarán” (“They shall not pass”), it could have been an account of life in many other cities during the conflict with its portrayal of the harshness of day to day life, in terms of death, hunger, uncertainty, shortages of everything and fear, all presented without expressing an opinion. There was a first edition (1987) but, according to Andrés Trapiello in the prologue to the 2016 edition, “barely had it been published, than it disappeared from bookshops, since when it has only surfaced in the rare books market, appearing one copy at a time, always at fabulous prices.” The story of how this book came to us is in itself a wonder: the manuscript, written in pencil, was recovered in the 1980s (long after the author’s death in 1952) by Marisol Dorao (PhD in Philology, University of Cádiz), who travelled to the United States to obtain it from the daughter-in-law of the author. In 1993 Televisión Española created a series based on the books called Celia without including this volume. Editorial Renacimiento is publishing a new edition of the works of Elena Fortún, which have been out of print for many years, while the episodes from the TVE series Celia can be seen free by following this link.

Some Recommendations for Summer Reading

Top of the list of summer reading recommended by Innovation & Human Rights this year is La vall de la matança (Cossetània Edicions, 2012), by Josep Masanés, a writer from Barcelona now based in Menorca. This novel won the award for Narrative Fiction at the 29th  Ribera d’Ebre Book Fair. It tells the story of the Civil War struggle by Republican troops led by Captain Creus and Second-lieutenant Ciurana during an attack on Francoist defensive positions held by the fearsome Major Marín. Although this attack resulted in victory, the Republican armies were forced to continued retreating.  Summoned in front of the General Staff, Creus and Ciurana were entrusted with a difficult mission. As they carry this out we meet the other men chosen for the mission including Ulldevidre, Reimann and Homs.  By the end of the Civil War we have learnt about their fears, their desires and their loves, along with the enemies who pursue them, personified by the diabolical Major Marín. Josep Masanés has paid tribute to the influence of the American writer, Cormac McCarthy.

Our second recommendation is La memòria de l’Oracle (Edicions del 1984, published in 2018), the third novel of Pere Joan Martorell, which won the Premio Mallorca de Narrativa 2017.  In this the author reflects on the human condition in a harrrowing tale set in the brutal atmosphere of the Civil War on the island of Mallorca. The story follows the search for their father by Jacob and his family: his mother, his aunt and his uncle. Jacob himself is the omniscient narrator who begins his account from within his mother’s womb. The novel offers a double perspective: it takes place both at the time of the conflict and during the post-war years. It is neither a historical novel nor a documentary.  The author details the barbarity and the dark times of the Fascist period in Mallorca. Martorell’s language is both rich and poetic.

While we are on the subject of the Balearic Islands, we cannot fail to recommend Llibre d’Exilis (2018), by Josep Portella, a biographical dictionary of Menorcan exile. This is a work which took over seven years of research, documenting the lives of Menorcans who were driven into exile by the Civil War and the Franco Regime. It is a volume of great documentary value: extending to over 700 pages and  including over 1,000 photographs, it is a major contribution to the recovery of historical memory in Menorca. It was published in collaboration with the local council (Consell Insular de Menorca).

Another book which is highly recommended is Las heridas (Editorial Pepitas de Calabaza, 2012), by  Norman Bethune, translated from English by Natalia Fernández. Norman Bethune, the Canadian doctor is famous for the role played by his medical units during the Spanish Civil War and, later, with the Chinese armies during the Second Sino-Japanese War. He is considered to have developed the first mobile blood transfusion service in Spain in 1936. This small but interesting volume is a compilation of his fundamental writings. In the first part, Bethune defends the idea of universal medical attention. In the second, he narrates the events which he witnessed as a doctor during the flight of the population of the city of Málaga along the road towards Almería in February 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. The third part describes the privations of life in China and his work for the cause of medicine there.  

Finally, since it has been topical recently, we take this opportunity to recommend Los Girasoles Ciegos (Editorial Anagrama, 2004, published in English as Blind Sunflowers, Arcadia Books, 2008). This, the only published work of Alberto Méndez, consists of four connected tales:  “If the heart could think it would cease to beat”,; “Manuscript found in oblivion”; “The language of the dead”; “Blind sunflowers” .  This is in many ways a grim book, reflecting the atmosphere of the Civil War and the post-war Francoist repression.  A Spanish-language film version of the novel was released in 2008.

La Barranca: 40th Anniversary

There were few armed confrontations in La Rioja during the Spanish Civil War. The troops of General Mola entered Logroño, the provincial capital, on 19 July 1936 and the repression was ferocious, as the researcher Jesús Vicente Aguirre explains in Aquí nunca pasó nada (2007). When there was no space to bury the dead left in the city cemetery, the firing squads chose the location of La Barranca, eight kilometres south of Logroño. The political prisoners were forced to dig the pits at the edges of which the nightly shootings were carried out.

In the Dehesa Almida, the ravine of Barriguelo, in the district of Lardero, near Logroño, in the heart of La Rioja, over 400 people were murdered between the months of September and December of 1936: workers, farmers and day-labourers, tailors, barbers, builders, carpenters, teachers, government officials, mayors and councillors, political militants, union members, people of good will.

In the early years following the end of the Civil War, mothers and widows used to go on foot from the neighbouring villages to spend the day in La Barranca, where you can still see the mounds of earth which indicate the two large mass graves and the beginnings of a third one. In secret, they did this, year after year.

In this place, the “women in black” ( las mujeres vestidas de negro ) were the people who, by their presence, would finally write the most terrible and the most beautiful page in the historical memory of La Rioja. As a result of their efforts, on 1 May 1979 La Barranca was converted into a Civil Cemetery.

Today, 40 years later, the anniversary is being celebrated, 83 years after those brutal murders. Innovación y Derechos Humanos also wishes to use this anniversary to remember all of these innocent victims. For more information follow this link to view a video . At La Barranca you can also see the “Map of the Prisoners” (“mapa de los presos”), which was recovered from the concentration camp which operated in the bull-ring (“plaza de toros”) of Manzanera in Logroño. For the history of this map follow this link to an article which is on the website of the La Barranca Association , where there is also a poem by Máximo Sicilia which we will use to close:

You are not alone;

You are not alone or forgotten

There are still a few of us

Of those who are living, of those who feel,

And who bear witness your murders,

We come here, to remember you,

And so that people never forget

The holocaust.

So that your children and grandchildren

And those of your brothers and sisters,

Also remember it

And so that here in this place,

They will come, year after year;

Until the end of the world,

To remember it,

And I know that you can hear me, my mind can feel it,

What energy there is in the mind;

And that energy

Is in our minds

And, there, in space

They form stars,

Which get mixed with 

The other heavenly bodies,

And they send you a greeting

The greeting which you taught me

When I was a child,

Salud, Comrades, Salud

And until next year, when we will come back again.

Photograph:  Jesús Rocandio (archivo Casa de la Imagen,Logroño)

Happy World Book Day ‘de memoria’

Having been active for over two years, Innovation and Human Rights wishes to mark World Book Day,  as we did last year, by offering our recommendations of a selection of books relating to the Spanish Civil War and Francoism.  For last year’s selection follow this link.

These will appear in three sections, each dealing with a different theme.  We begin today with (1) New books. This will be followed by (2) Memoirs of the war and the postwar years by women and (3) Forced labour during the Franco period.  

New Books

  • Los campos de concentración de Franco– The author, journalist Carlos Hernández defines his research as a “collective work” but he deserves the praise for giving it a new perspective, by synthesising and then presenting in such a striking form the reality of the world of the Francoist concentration camps, particularly in the post-war period. This is achieved through a chronological narrative with horrifying testimonies by survivors across all parts of Spain. It is impossible to continue ignoring the tragic and hitherto silenced reality of cruelty, torture and murder experienced by the defeated.  In 2005 Javier Rodrigo listed 188 camps in his  pioneering work of historiographical research Cautivos: campos de concentración en la España franquista, 1936-1947 . Hernández has increased the number by listing almost 300 and has provided an accompanying website with links to interesting videos of testimonies and an interactive map on which the user may,  for example, locate the first concentration camp opened by the rebels on  19 July 1936: la Alcazaba de Zelouan in what was then Spanish Morocco  (today Kasbah de Selouane, twelve kilomtres south of Nador, en Morocco).   The names of over a thousand of the prisoners in this concentration camp taken  from documentation in the Archivo General Militar de Guadalajara, are included in our database.
  • Diccionario de Memoria Colectiva –  This is a collective work, compiled by the historian Ricard Vinyes, which contains 269 entries written by 187 authors. This is a book which the reader will want to approach at their own pace and which invites readers to reflect on concepts.  Under the entry, for example, of Víctima we find: “Some people prefer to avoid a concept which has not managed to avoid stigmatization, which reduces subjects to pain and suffering (…) Others defend the use of this term as a form of resistance and support its use as an engine of political action and of recognition of groups of people who have lived in oppressive situations.  Under Subtierro: “funeral space of those people defeated in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), especially those civilians executed in operations carried out behind the lines and thrown into mass graves (…) these mass graves sent an exemplary  signal warning of the potential destiny of dissidents and prevented mourning by family members or political supporters”.
  • El duelo revelado: la vida social de las fotografías familiares de las víctimas del franquismo – Jorge Moreno Andrés, a film-maker with a doctorate in anthropology, examines the universe of family pain through photographs of victims of forced disappearance during the  Civil War and under the Franco Regime and (re)constructs their histories. Who keeps photographs of the victims of repression? Where? How? What value do these photos have and how is this transmitted? The value of this work lies in explaining from a new perspective the reality of the silence imposed on the families of the defeated. For a summary by the author himself follow this link


Access to the names of victims of enforced disappearance denied

On 6 October 2017 Innovación y Derechos Humanos submitted a request to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Institutional Relations & Transparency (Departament d’Afers i Relacions Institucionals i Exteriors i Transparència – DRAEIT) asking for a copy of the Catalan Government’s census of people forcibly disappeared during the Spanish Civil War in order to include them in the central database which we are compiling of victims of the Civil War & the Franco Regime.

The Comission for the Rights of Access to Public Information (Comissió de Garantia del Dret d’Accés a la Informació Pública) which is the highest Catalan authority for access rights to information, has denied access to the names of the people listed on the Generalitat de Catalunya’s census as having been forcibly “disappeared” during the Civil War.

The census data which the Generalitat is refusing to release was initiated by the Catalan Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory  (Asociación de Recuperación de la Memoria Histórica de Cataluña) and was then granted to the Generalitat. The Association still publishes on its website petitions from the relatives of victims of forced disappearance.

The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights requested three years ago that the Spanish state should establish a centralized database of the victims of forced disappearance  (further information aquí ) CHECK LINK.

From our point of view, in this particular case, the public interest in this information and the assistance that this may be to the families of the disappeared overrides the protection of personal data, especially since, in these cases, the majority disappeared between 1936 and 1939. This means that, for example, someone aged 16 in 1939 would now be 95 years old.   

Moreover, there is a serious and absurd contradiction between, on the one hand, the Generalitat’s  release to the public of the  llista de reparació jurídica de víctimes del franquisme (a list of people granted judicial reparation by the Catalan government for sentences incurred under the Franco regime – which is included in our database), which lists the full names of people and covers the years 1939-1975 (the release of which, the Generalitat argues, is permitted by law) and, on the other hand, its refusal to make public the names listed in the census of victims who disappeared.

In November 2017, DRAEIT informed us that our request had been accepted and that the data had been published and could be downloaded via the open data gateway of the Generalitat. Even then, the data giving the first names and surnames of the disappeared had been replaced by their initials  so that they could be used for research purposes in history, statistics, science and gender studies while respecting the rights of the families by not publishing sensitive information about their forebears.

Faced with this response, we petitioned the  GAIP (the commission which guarantees the right of access to public information) asking why the data supplied did not match that requested – in other words, why the first names and surnames of the people listed had been replaced by their initials.

GAIP asked for a report on our request from the Catalan Authority on Data Protection (Autoritat Catalana de Protecció de Dades or APDCAT)

The conclusion which was reached by the report by APDCAT (see the report (12 pages, single spaced) is that the Regulations do not prevent access to information about those people who have disappeared in cases where a judicial declaration of their death is also included in the case file of the Generalitat.  However, in the cases of those disappeared people for whom there is no judicial declaration of death, the rules on data protection permit access only to the data disclosed, provided that this information does not permit their identification. 

In the first place, according to APDCAT, access to the details of the identity of these disappeared victims is information which should be of interest to their families only. “The objective of locating and identifying these people is based on the need to recognize their dignity and on the rights of their families to obtain information about their fate”.  APDCAT points out that the association has no connection with the families but requests access to the information about all of the people included in the database in line with the legislation on transparency. 

In the context of the investigation of the disappeared victims it is not possible to deny the interest of society in discovering the number of the disappeared, their origins and the circumstances in which they disappeared. This data is available to the general public via the open data portal and, according to APDCAT, should be sufficient “without unjustifiably sacrificing the privacy of the people who could be affected”.

On the other hand, the report is also based on the principal of the minimal presentation of data outlined in General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 of the European Parliament and European Council, which requires that “any required data processing, should be restricted to the minimum data necessary for the purpose”  

Secondly, with reference to the case for providing access for relatives to this information, the DRAEIT has responded by arguing that relatives already have access to the data base. “It is clear that access to the information requested does not appear justified in order for the victims’ families to obtain information which they already have or which they may obtain by means of channels expressly provided for them to access information held by the Administration.”    

Finally APDCAT states that it does not recognize as researchers and considers that access to this data cannot be provided wholesale and that its release should be evaluated on a case by case basis. “It is necessary to take into account that information relating to the circumstances of the disappearance of people during the Civil War and the ensuing period of Francoist repression is information of a sensitive character and divulging the identities of those affected implies interference not only in the privacy of the disappeared person him or herself but also in that of their family descendents”.  ¡This argument is precisely why it was necessary to pass a law in order to facilitate the release of the list of  llista de reparació jurídica de víctimes del franquisme! (see above for details)

As a result of the report from APDCAT of March 2018, GAIP (which, you may recall, is the commission for the rights of access to public information, with all of the responsibilities which this involves)  issued a report (15 pages single spaced) in which they refuse to allow access to the information requested.

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