A Little Girl Draws the War
Repository: Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego, La Jolla, USA
Creator: María Magdalena García Hernández
Contributor: Spanish Board of Education
Contributor: Carnegie Institute of Spain
Fond or Collection
Spanish Civil War Children's Drawings
Repository and Location
Special Collections & Archives, University of California, San Diego
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: Centro Español Cerbère
On the back of this drawing, eleven-year-old Magdalena García Hernández wrote that it shows “two ruined houses and some militiamen who do not allow anyone to pass because they are afraid that they will be hurt.” She drew this scene from the war while she was at the Spanish Center in Cerbère, France. Magdalena was one of the tens of thousands of children in the Republican zone who, starting in October 1936, were evacuated from their homes to children’s colonies in eastern Spain or, as in her case, sent across the border during the day and returned to her home at night. Many years later, she recounted her experiences in an interview: Testimony of María Magdalena García Hernández.
The first children to be evacuated left Madrid on 6 October 1936. Soon, there were more than 45,000 children in 564 colonies, mostly in Catalonia and Valencia. The colonies were divided between collective ones (158), where children lived together in residences, and the rest (406) where they lived with families. The collective colonies housed between 20 and 50 children and each had a director, teachers, and auxiliary staff. Initially run by the Committee for War Refugees, in March 1937, the colonies came under the control of a special office of the Ministry of Education. The colonies were also schools. There, drawing was used as a means of helping children come to terms with the trauma of war and displacement. Drawing was also a tool to help inculcate the Republican vision of the war.
Political organizations realized the potential importance of children’s drawings. In May 1937, the Valencia Popular Culture committee held the First Exhibition of Antifascist Children’s Drawings, which attracted 3,000 entries. This success inspired the International Red Aid, the social assistance arm of the Comintern, to organize its own exhibition, which generated 2,000 drawings. It later used some of these drawings in an exhibition in Paris in March 1939.
This was only one example of the wide use of children’s drawings to raise support for the Republic internationally. In Canada, they were featured in a “Milk for Spain” campaign. A collection of children’s art was exhibited at the Lord & Taylor department store in New York City in 1938 and in art galleries in New York and Worcester, Massachusetts the following year. The exhibit had a catalogue, They Still Draw Pictures, with an introduction by British writer Aldous Huxley. It also had a form people could use to make donations to the Quakers’ American Friends Service Committee. Through its Spanish Child Feeding Mission based in Murcia, the AFSC ran colonies, soup kitchens and hospitals, as well as sixteen colonies in southern France.