Bottle of cider
Repository: Museo Arqueológico Regional de la Comunidad de Madrid, Alcalá de Henares, Spain
Fond or Collection
Alfredo González-Ruibal, “Spain: Modern Warfare,” Field school of the Institute for Field Research (IFR), Los Angeles, USA, 2018.
Repository and Location
Museo Arqueológico Regional de la Comunidad de Madrid, Alcalá de Henares, Spain
Date Created: 1939
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: Ciudad Universitaria, Madrid, Spain
This bottle of cider appeared in the archaeological excavation of a building used as a canteen by the Francoist army stationed at the University City of Madrid. The canteen was established in one of the pavilions of the Asylum of Santa Cristina, founded in 1896 and in use until October 1936. The rebels captured it in November that same year. With the neighboring University Hospital, it became the most advanced rebel position inside the capital. As a result, it suffered continuous attacks by the Republicans. The mine war in this sector was particularly terrible. The fighters in this modality of combat, which provoked enormous psychological stress, received extra rations of alcohol. However, the position of the University Hospital was generally a hard one and, in consequence, the soldiers defending it received abundant food and drinks. The bar was established late in the war, in October 1938 and, as the archaeological excavations revealed, was very well supplied: bottles of wine, sherry, cognac, liquors, anisette, Martini, beer and the aforementioned cider were found. Also, the head of a siphon. In his War diary of a legionnaire chaplain, (1976), Father Caballero informs us that the bar had “shelves filled with bottles, tables of pinewood, stools, white light from carbide lamps” and even a piano.
The presence of cider is exceptional in a war context. Unlike wine, which is produced in many parts of Spain and in great quantities, cider is a product of the north: Asturias, Basque Country and, to a lesser extent, Galicia. Its low alcoholic volume of 5 to 6º makes it inappropriate for the front, where soldiers needed stronger beverages to deal with combat stress. It is sweet, like champagne and, in fact, has often replaced it. Cider, which was cheaper than champagne, was the preferred Christmas drink in many parts of Spain during the first half of the twentieth century. This was also the case during the war. AAs noted by Pedro Corral in his book Deserters (2006), the Francoist army threw pamphlets over the Republican lines in December 1938 promising a Christmas basket to any soldier who deserted. Among other things, the basket included, turrón (nougat), candied fruit, biscuits and a bottle of cider. The design of the bottles found in the asylum is actually reminiscent of champagne bottles.
How is it that so many bottles of cider appeared in the Asylum of Santa Cristina? Everything seems to indicate that they were used in the celebrations of the end of the war. On the one hand, the bottles were found on the floor of a dugout and of a communication trench, which means that they were discarded in the moment the position was abandoned. On the other hand, we know that this was the exact place where the surrender of Madrid, on March 28, 1939, was staged, with colonels Losada (Francoist) and Prada (Republican) performing the transfer of power. The bottles of cider are witness, therefore, to one of the key moments in the recent history of Spain.