Tomasa Cuevas

Tomasa Cuevas (1917-2007)

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Tomasa Cuevas and other prisoners, Amorebieta Prison, 1942. Reproduced in the text Presas (p.12).

Tomasa Cuevas was born in Guadalajara, 1917, into a working class family. In order to support the family, she began work aged 9 and took on three jobs working from dawn until night-fall. Whilst working the factory, she became involved in socialism through one of the superiors and aged 14 she joined the youth section of the Spanish Commmunist Party with whom she worked during the Second Republic and the Civil War. She was arrested in May 1939 and sentenced to 30 years, although she only spent five of which in prison. Upon her release in 1944, she was exiled to Barcelona, where she found a job and continued her involvement with the communist party. She was re-arrested at the end of 1945, brutally tortured for information on the Party, and imprisoned in Les Corts until February 1946. After her release she married Miguel, and they continued clandestine work together. In 1947 she had her first baby in hiding whilst the authorities searched for Miguel. The following years were spent moving between cities, separated from each other, avoiding the authorities whilst continuing to work for the Communist Party. In 1953 she moved to France without her daughter to escape the authorities who were searching for her. She wouldn’t see her daughter until 1957 and wouldn’t return to Spain until 1961. With Miguel in prison once again from 1958 until 1967, they continued living clandestinely, and only obtained legal documentation in 1976. In 2004 Tomasa was awarded the St. Jordi Cross; she died in 2007.

Through all her struggles, Tomasa’s belief in communism never wavered. During the final years of Francoism, and as part of her work against Francoism, Tomasa began to gather the memoirs of the women with whom she’d been in prisons means of preserving these memories. Her prison experience, alongside that of her fellow inmates, is documented in these memoirs which Tomasa transcribed and first published as Mujeres en las cárceles franquistas Madrid: Editorial Casa de Campo 1982. The text was later extended and published as a trilogy comprised of Cárcel de mujeres I, and II, and Mujeres en la Resistencia, published in 1985 and 1986 by Ediciones Siroco. A number of these testimonies were abridged and translated into English by Mary Giles, under the title Prison of Women (1998). Giles continued her work on Cuevas’ testimonies, publishing an abridged Spanish volume entitled Presas in 2005. The entire original trilogy was additionally republished as a large single volume in 2004 by Jorge J Montes Salguero under the title Testimonios de mujeres en las cárceles franquistas (Huesca: Instituto de Estudios Altoaragoneses). As well as these texts, a documentary stemming from Cuevas’ life and work directed by Jorge Montes Salguero also exists under the title of Del olvido a la memoria. Presas de Franco. (2007).

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