A month ago, I saw the theater adaptation of the novel and the movie ‘La Voz Dormida’ (‘The Deadened Voice’, is the best translation I could come up with). It took me some time to write this post because the subject is very sensitive: the Spanish post-war. Here goes nothing…
The wounds are still fresh, and the topic still stirs very intense debates within the society. As an observer, it’s very exciting to see this kind of interaction among people who fight for what they believe is right, for what they believe is best for this country today, and tomorrow. I try to steer clear unless asked, of course. Because this is something not to be taken lightly.
The war impoverished the country in many ways than just materialistically. Everybody lost somebody, may it be due to death, which in turn could have been caused by the fighting, hunger or very poor health. Loss was also reflected in the shape of exile and emigration. So may Spaniards escaped to France and Latin America, mostly.
If I may be allowed an honest and perhaps irreverent opinion: although both fighting sides lost people and resrouces, this was part of the context of war. People were aware of what was going on, and those who were in the battlefields certainly didn’t make plans beyond three rifle shots. What happened after the war, though, was simply a poor and pathetic show of sickening power and misguided might.
The onus on the survivors was divided as such:
a) the winning side (the ‘Nationalists’) bore the responsibility of reconstructing the country under the mandate of Francisco Franco
b) the losing side (also called ‘Republicans’) bore the pain of restarting their lives in a country under the orders of Francisco Franco
Terror reigned. But not the kind of terror we see today, where the pinpointed terrorists are usually foreigners, or separatist groups. The kind of terror experienced during the Spanish post-war was created and perpetuated by the same government who had the privilege and the obligation to rebuild the country from a million crumbled pieces.
Fueled by the will to rid Spain of subversiveness, the dictator placed the nation under an iron fist- Franco established a dictatorial regime. Freedom was curbed, the national borders were shut down, progress was constrained. The country lived practically in isolation, while its neighbors enjoyed the new opportunities of the reconstruction era.
The victory of the Nationalists ended the battle-related hostilities, but the dictatorship opened fresh wounds for Spain to suffer.
Nowhere graves, throbbing scars
Without wishing to spoil anything, just allow me to say that the most haunting part was the mass graves of republican prisoners who were sentenced to death. The bodies were dumped on mass graves and until now, many families are still searching for their dead relatives.
Mourning is an essential part of the journey towards healing and finding closure. So how can this nation expect healing and closure when many of its people haven’t been able to mourn their dead yet?
I’ve heard exasperated sighs from those who are already tired of this topic, and only wish to move forward. As I understand their impatience and frustration, I’m at the same time happy for them because clearly, they were lucky enough not have to keep searching for the remains of a dead family. If these people are desperate and anxious to move on, can you imagine those who are still searching for the nowhere graves, with only throbbing scars to guide their way?
Silent no more
Obviously, the deadened voice refers to the repressed freedom of expression during the dictatorship- may it be in the form of speech, writing, art, music… if the content doesn’t comply with the established standards, people faced consequences.
At present, victims and families of victims are able to express themselves and fight for long-awaited justice. Songs are now sung, films are shot, stories are written and people talk. The dead may not rise from their lost graves to show us which way to go, but the awakened voices will make some of us turn our feet and walk with them, chant with them, heal with them.