Working in Military Archives in Madrid


Fabián and Martha decided to follow the advice of Dr. María García Alonso, Professor from the Universidad de Educación a Distancia (UNED) and go to Madrid to work in the Archivos Militares in the Ministerio de Defensa for three days in June.

They took the train from Castellón which passes through the mountains near Cuenca. It was raining heavily and the sky was a dramatic gray against the patterned green fields.
After a three-hour train ride they were in the metropolitan city of Madrid. After two metro changes they reached the apartment of Martha’s good friend Selma. They enjoyed good food and conversation before heading to bed (Fabían’s was on the floor).

The next morning they took the metro for forty minutes and reached the University area of Moncloa where Cristina Sánchez was waiting to guide them through the labyrinth of military archives. She was also working in the Memoria histórica section doing research on the records of victims found in mass graves in Extremadura. Martha and Fabián learned how to enter into the archive: nothing but pencil and paper and computer.  A few euros were also essential for the coffee break.

Martha and Fabián had some names of Caligenses who had been in Franco’s jails. One file at a time they would read the accounts of what the prisoner was accused of, which jails he or she was placed in, and any defense they could muster. Some got out in two or three years, others in five or six, and some were immediately shot.

Martha spent a long time reading two of her interviewee’s files where she learned the role of village gossip in the accusatory testimonies. Because she had also studied the documentation on line of the Franco regime reports in 1938 and 1944, she was aware of additional names of people involved in the hair-raising events at the beginning of the Civil War. Some of the testimonies read like short stories. The drama of those days is intense.

After three days working in the archives, Martha and Fabián had added to their understanding of life in the village at the beginning of the Civil War as well as in prison at the beginning of the Dictatorship. A lot more research could be done at some point.

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1 Response to Working in Military Archives in Madrid

  1. JB says:

    If they read like short stories, perhaps when you are finished with the archives you can write a short story, fictionalizing the characters.

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