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Graphic Literature

Behind Iron Bars

By Jorge Garcia & Fidel Martinez
Translated from Spanish by Samantha Schnee
For me , iron bars weren't always synonymous with confinement .

When I was a girl , the ploughshare enabled my father to make a living off the earth .
ears later , on my way to begin work as a servant at the estate of the family who owned the land we lived on , the shadows of the orange trees cast bars across the bus I traveled on .

My first trip ... I felt transfigured : I was no longer myself , I was someone else .

I don't know which of us spent four years in that suffocating atmosphere .

..or which of us decided to jump the mail train in April of 1931 to escape the harassment of the master of the house .

I don't know which of us lived those four years , I only know that , on the train the same rhythm rocked us both ....

Bar - ce - lo - na , Bar - ce - lo - na , Bar - ce - lo - na .
I didn't think about iron bars as I wandered through that city where boys shouted the headlines from " La Vanguardia " and " El Dio Grafica " .

The papers proclaimed the defeat of the monarchists in an election that would give birth to The Republic .

The celebratory mood of April was cut short in May by the smoke of burning churches : many suspected the C.N.T ...

The anarchists union I had joined when I started working at a noodle factory ..

And whom I joined in the streets to defend The Republic against the revolt of the armed forces in July 1936 .

That summer everything seemed possible : even some of us women went to the front .
We shared the trenches with men who insulted us for refusing to wash their clothes .

But soon they made us retire from combat , accusing us of spreading venereal disease .

We returned to our old prisons , those of being wives and mothers .

I found work in a shop making uniforms for the soldiers .

And I had to leave when thread and cloth became so scarce that we had to cut off production .

In Alicante the war ended for The Republicans on April 1st , 1939 : surrounded by rebels we awaited an evacuation that never came .
Women were locked up in the movie-houses and theaters of Alicante : there were no iron bars , though we felt them .

There were countless trials : all the judges were from the army .

Because of my political affiliation , they sentenced me to death ,

Nevertheless , punishment was arbitrary ; many of us survived while others were killed for no reason.

When they moved us to the prison in Guadalajara ...

the bars became real .
The routine of our lives became " cellular " : twenty hours a day in a cell ..

and four in the yard .

Sickness , hunger , and firing squads were the daily facts of life .

To address prison overcrowding , Franco began granting pardons in 1939. My sentence was commuted first to thirty years , and then to twelve .

In 1951 I thought I left those prison bars behind ..

I knew they would follow me wherever I'd go .
I knew they would follow me wherever I'd go .

The end

From Cuerda de Presas. Copyright © 2001 by Jorge Garcia and Fidel Martinez. Published by agreement with Astiberri ediciones. Translation copyright © 2007 by Samantha Schnee. All rights reserved.

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