Keep a pack of tobacco for 80 years because on the back of the cardboard is written the farewell of a man, Vicente Verdejo, who knows that he has smoked his last cigarette and given his last hug: “Carmen, I take the pencil to say goodbye to you and of our children, my Gregorio and my Vicentita. I die remembering you. You have been very good, you do not deserve what you are suffering. Have resignation and patience. Receive all the affection of this one who is loving you to death ”. Keep a handkerchief with blood stains for decades because it contains the belongings that accompanied Heliodoro Meneses on the day of his execution: rice paper, a matchbox, a piece of pencil, an eraser and a hairpin. A group of researchers from the UNED has spent ten years searching homes throughout Spain for “objects that kept a persecuted memory” and that are now displayed in a traveling exhibition, from this month in Madrid, and during 2020 in different venues of the Distance University. Its titled The little things and explains why for those who guarded them from the Franco regime until today they are great treasures.
For years these objects were a form of resistance: keeping them meant rebelling against those who tried to make their owners disappear by throwing them into common graves, clandestine burials. Over time they also served to remind them with pride and talk about them to those who did not know the effects of their absence.
Vicente Verdejo, the man who opened a pack of cigarettes to say goodbye to his family, was shot on October 29, 1940. Gregorio was then six years old and Vicentita, two. “My brother started working before he had teeth. He must not have been more than eight or nine years old. We were starving … ”, she recalled.
A cousin of Heliodoro Meneses came to witness his execution. When the bodies were abandoned, waiting to be thrown into the common grave, he approached and took everything he had from the corpse’s pocket. The family kept it in that handkerchief as a chest that is now exhibited in The little things.
“It is an exhibition full of wrinkles, seams, cuts … little things that allow us to look at and understand the past of this country”, explains the anthropologist Jorge Moreno, one of the curators of the exhibition and author of The duel revealed. “They are photographs, writings and objects that preserve in their folds the exact shape of a memory that had to be sewn, cut out or whispered in order to survive,” he adds.
Forbidden to be called Freedom
The exhibition shows pieces related to prisoners, executed and exiled, preserved, above all, in private homes, but also in institutional archives. Thus, in the file of the summary trial of Rufina Delgado, the investigators found, for example, a handwritten page with a subversive version of the Face to sun. And in the Civil Registry, a crossed-out name, “Libertad”, and its substitute, “Máxima”, in compliance with an order of 1939 by which the Franco regime demanded that parents change, within 60 days, “names exotic or extravagant ”for being linked to the left, such as Libertad or Germinal. After the period of two months, the person in charge of the registry was ordered to impose the name of the saint of the day or that of a saint venerated in the town.
In the case of the exiles, the exhibition also exhibits apparently insignificant objects that, in the new life, thousands of kilometers away, had a comforting effect, such as the small coal stones that Alejandro Trapero, a miner from Puertollano, took to France. They were displayed in the center of the living room of his French home.
The sample also exhibits a letter in which Anastasio Godoy asks his family from prison to sell a closet to buy stamps and paper with which to continue writing. So that correspondence was a way to keep in touch. Today is a treasure.
“Little things” is on display at the Escuelas Pías center of UNED-Madrid until January 8. From then on, you can consult the itinerary of the exhibition at memory maps.com.
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