Hitler, the King, the Castrates, and Me
Few people know that Franco was a friend of Hitler’s, but it is indeed true—just google it. During World War 2, Franco invented the Spanish Volunteer Division, better known as the Blue Division, in order to fight against the Soviet Union. They say nearly 50,000 Spanish soldiers participated in various battles between 1941 and 1943.
Of course, if you were not a volunteer, they would put your name on the black list. Then they would pick you up, put you on the back of a truck, and send you away to be killed. The word they used was ‘Falangist’ in place of ‘Nazi’ or ‘fascist’.
Now, what do I have to do with this? Well, even though I was not on the black list (given the fact that I was six years old), my father and my uncle were, and they hadn’t done anything against the government.
As Franco’s army liberated villages against the Republic and the Russians, they made an impressive parade for all to see. The village band would be arranged by the mayor and canons were fired off. I remember being in Luceni, my hometown, and watching the parade as though it were yesterday. In the midst of my six-year-old innocence, I was jealous of my two little cousins that had suddenly appeared marching along with the soldiers with wooden toy rifles in hand. I didn’t realize how they brainwashed people from childhood. I only wanted to look as elegant as the soldiers in uniform.
As the years went by, I began to notice that my uncle Manuel did not have any option but to enlist in the Blue Division and pretend that he also supported Franco, Hitler, and Mussolini. Otherwise he would have been killed. The poor man had not done anything against Franco’s government, he worked hard at a sugar factory. But he ended up in the grand parade probably to protect his children and avoid being taken away. I’m sure most of the ‘volunteers’ were doing the same thing.
As a final military anecdote, I remember the son of King Juan Carlos (father of the current king) creating a big fuss in a public walkway (most assuredly while drunk) a few years later. This was around the military school where I took the tram to school every day. He would kick ladies in the rear as they passed and hang around Veronica Street, where all the prostitutes were. Of course, the latter we only saw from afar, as we were strictly forbidden from going anywhere near there. He was a student at the military school, so he was sometimes there when I took the tram. I suppose that he didn’t need any bodyguards because we lived in a controlled dictatorship, a political system where there were two armed guards per block. And the king’s son acted out in front of the military school where I suppose he was protected.
The other uniform that oppressed us was that of the priests. I got in a fight with one when I was eight years old and my brother was ten. They had rulers and leather belts to hit us in school, and they would smack us for every little thing. One day my brother was asked a question in class and he did not know the answer. This, of course, merited a good whack. Just then, I had pulled the rubber sole off my shoe because it had torn off. The nails were now sticking out of the bottom. As soon as I saw that he had hit my brother I said, “either you leave my brother alone or I’ll…” And before I could finish, he hit him again. Without thinking twice, I kicked him in the shin with my nail-covered shoe. This just goes to show how much we were saturated in the injustice of the era. It was a really hard time, and we defended each other mutually. I don’t remember what consequences were brought about as a result of this but I’m sure they just hit us again at home. Our parents never found out what sorts of things happened daily because we were not in the same village as the school. But there was a weekly slip that indicated our conduct.
In spite of all this, I was very Catholic. I would walk to mass by myself every day at 6:00 AM.
I crossed the Ebro Bridge in Zaragoza and I went to the Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar. It’s still there (you can find images online). At that time, we were very devout.
The pride of the church was the boy choir. As a veterinarian, I have castrated many animals, but back then I never realized how serious it was that this group of ‘infantes’ (‘young ones’, as that was their official title), lived in the church, studied to be priests, and were even possibly emasculated. What in the world happened to those boys behind closed doors, we’ll never know.
I have personal accounts of some of the priests being homosexuals and pedophiles. Our uniform included a pair of short pants and the priests would stick their hands into the pants of the ones they liked. Their tactic was as follows: they would tell us to study and when we were distracted by our books, they would pass by and shove their hands in the boys’ pants. They had their favorites. Thank goodness I was never one of them.
My young life was indeed a mess of misfortunes, and the misfortunes would only go on. But, as I hope that this is entertaining to you, I shall return next week with more.