One of the essays on the Civil war most interesting that were published last year was Franco’s Soldiers (21st century), from the historian Francisco J. Leira-Castiñeira, in which he demystified the homogeneity of the rebel army and its supposed unity due to political beliefs, due to its uprising in harmony against “anti-Spain”. His new work, Forced soldiers (Editorial Galaxia), returns to place the focus on this phenomenon, but focusing on a specific territory, Galicia, and in a much more graphic way, through images that portray the personal, dramatic experience of the combatants.

“The photographs represent various aspects of a war, an event in which no one wants to be the direct protagonist. You can see the worst of the war in the form of death and prisoners, but also the propaganda use of the parades when the war ended,” he says. the doctor in History from the University of Santiago de Compostela. “Both sides were nurtured by people who did not want to be agents of violence. In the Galician case, it became a recruitment center. This work wants to show the bloodiest of our recent past, to warn us of the problems of polarization and socio-political confrontation “.

They were communists, socialists, galleguistas or republicans who were forced to defend a cause with which they did not agree. But they had no choice: the other way out was the trial and repression, also of their relatives. They spent three years in the trenches, living with violence and death; and then quiet during the dictatorship. A great and long stone night that the poet Celso Emilio Ferreiro, one of those thousands of Galicians mobilized by force, portrayed heartily.

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    Campaign food. Generals Franco and Antonio Aranda, chief of the Galician Army, along with other officers on the Asturias front, in October 1937

    Most of the Galician soldiers were assigned to the Northern front during the first bars of the war. Discipline, obedience and punishment of prisoners were the military precepts by which they had to be governed.

    Manuel Reimóndez Portela Museum. Mario Blanco Fonts Background
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    Portrait of two Falangist militiamen

    The mobilization of civilians in Galicia to contribute to the rebellious war effort had an anarchic character and was carried out locally and regionally. The militias, at first, were commanded by a member of the Army officers. On December 20, 1936, they were formally submitted with the militarization decree and became governed by the Code of Military Justice. These units represented 15% of the total Francoist forces.

    Archive of the Kingdom of Galicia
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    Two escapees from the Republican Army during the offensives in Asturias, in September 1937, being interrogated by an officer of the General Staff

    Like all deserters, these two men were subjected to harsh interrogations by the Military Information Service (SIM) and forced to answer specific questions that they left in writing. In this first stage of the war, the largest number of Galician escapees was registered, which turned out to be those who fought for the Second Republic. To escape and switch sides, they posed as prisoners or took advantage of the heat of battle.

    Manuel Reimóndez Portela Museum. Mario Blanco Fonts Background
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    Killed in a gutter

    The day to day of the mobilized troops used to take place in three scenarios: the battle front, sleeping in the open while the bullets whistled over the heads of the soldiers; in second line, resting; or traveling from one sector to another in case any unit required help during an offensive, journeys that were covered in poorly conditioned trains or vans. The ghost of death was something that never vanished.

    Manuel Reimóndez Portela Museum. Mario Blanco Fonts Background
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    Troops revolted upon arrival in Cella, Teruel, to reinforce the lines, in January 1938

    An important part of the Galicians who joined the Corps of the Army of Galicia, dependent on the Army of the North, participated in the fronts of Aragon and Catalonia. Francisco J. Leira Castiñeira points out that probably the harshest violence was deployed against them compared to what happened in other parts of Spain: “The combats in which they intervened were, in some way, decisive and perhaps those that led the war towards the insurgent side “.

    National Library of Spain
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    Preparing a paella in Vinaroz, on March 12, 1938

    The Galician soldiers participated in the offensive on Brunete and the battles of Huesca, Belchite and Teruel, conquered on February 22, 1938, as well as the battle of the Ebro, concluded on November 16 of the same year and one of the bloodiest of all the contest. They also took part in the Levante offensive, which divided the Republican territory into two parts.

    National Library of Spain
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    Franco’s Moroccan escort, parading through the streets of Valencia on May 3, 1939

    In 1937 the Photographic Cabinet of the Galician Army Corps was created, dependent on the Francoist Press and Propaganda Delegation. It was made up of Ángel Llanos, Jaime Pacheco, José Longueira, Faustino López, José Lombardía Bargos and Mario Blanco Fuentes. The latter left a high-quality photographic legacy.

    Manuel Reimóndez Portela Museum. Mario Blanco Fonts Background
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    Galician soldiers playing the bagpipes during another commemorative parade of the triumph in Valencia

    At the end of the war, one of the ways that the new Franco regime used to try to legitimize itself was through military parades throughout Spain. Triumphal scenes that contrasted with what the soldiers of the rural world found when returning to their homes: murders, imprisonments, prohibitions, seizures, poverty, hunger …

    Manuel Reimóndez Portela Museum. Mario Blanco Fonts Background
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    Cover of ‘Forced Soldiers’

    Leira-Castiñeira’s work reflects the war experience of the Galician soldiers forcibly mobilized. An experience that began from the rear, when the coup leaders tried to spread fear to terrorize the disaffected, was prolonged in the war based on doses of obedience, discipline and punishment, and lasted during the dictatorship. “The objective was to standardize, through coercion, the existing heterogeneity on the insurgent side, due to the forced and violent enlistment that took place within a diverse society, in which people of multiple identities, political and cultural loyalties coexisted. educational and generational “, concludes the historian.

    Editorial Galaxia

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