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Friday, August 20, 2004


Last night I thoroughly enjoyed watching Libertarias (1996), a film by Vicente Aranda set in 1936 at the start of the Spanish Civil War. A young nun (Araidna Gil) runs from the convent when revolutionaries invade and she finds herself hiding in a brothel. There she meets a group of Libertarias, anarchist militia women fighting not only the revolution (against Franco) but also the conservative attitudes towards women in the revolutionary forces.

Women revolutionaries libertarias played an important role in the Spanish uprising of 1936. However, despite the demands of Mujeres Libres and their achievements - they were mostly relegated to secondary positions during the fighting and eventually withdrawn after rumours that they were spreading venereal diseases. Most of them ended up being raped and murdered by Franco’s men. One of the things their presence highlighted in anarchism was the relationship of the individual to the collective and to how the collective is shaped by individuals.

My friend’s mother – in Moura, Alentejo, Portugal - remembers Spanish people in the village being rounded up at that time and killed, as Salazar, head of Portugal’s own fascist regime, made an example of his neighbour’s revolutionaries.


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