A Young Mother in Franco’s Prisons (1939) is a short pamphlet about the experience of Francoist incarceration endured by governess Señora Pilar Fidalgo. Published in 1939 in England by United Editorial Limited, it formed part of a series of pamphlets and books about ‘the war in Spain’ in order to provide ‘an exposition of the truth about Spain to-day’ (Fidalgo, 1939: 33). As a text, it serves as a compendium of Phalangist horrors, illustrating the daily tortures faced by the prisoners under of the rebels during the Spanish Civil War. In terms of the political context of its publication, it thus functions as a piece of propaganda publicising the atrocities of the Civil War: the introduction, written by the publishers, stresses that the pages that follow are ‘told in her own words’ (4) and depict ‘Franco’s White Terror’ with ‘a new note of cruelty’ (4). What is most striking about this text, however, is not the multitude of horrors it portrays, but rather the note of collective homage with which Fidalgo finishes her pamphlet. She states:
At last here I am safe. […]
It is like a resurrection for me to find myself out of prison, free from all oppression and sure of never being replunged into barbarism. But I hold in my heart the sad images of those 200 interminable nights of nightmare. Nightmares that were not dreams — but undeniable reality. That reality was and remains, because, although once more I breathe as a free woman, in our cell pass to and fro some 40 woman, endlessly suffering indescribable torture, while thousands of men are crammed in the halls, passages and court-yard, and await the fall of day to light them to the slaughter-house and the common grave into which their entangled bodies will be thrown.
These final words, which finish her text, really resonate with the overarching issue of visibility, homage, and remembering for the female political prisoner inherently altered by her incarceration. As Fidalgo emphasises here, her imprisonment will forever a be a part of her reality and the reality of her country. And yet, as she attests, prison serves to irreducibly destroy the prisoner – in torture, in social exclusion, in death, in unmarked common graves – for ‘to be imprisoned is (according to the rebels) to lose all individuality’ (23). In response to this, then, Fidalgo finishes her text by dedicating it to this paradoxical visible invisibility, and highlighting what, for me, is the true significance of the life writing by Franco’s female prisoners, in her statement:
In my liberty I am still one with them, as I was when I was in prison, and to this day I share their sufferings. What else can I do for them but denounce the cruelty of their executioners? (32)