Repository: Museo de Guadalajara, Guadalajara, Spain
Contributor: Alfredo González-Ruibal
Fond or Collection
Alfredo González-Ruibal, “Arqueología del fascismo: materialidad y memoria”. Proyecto Intramural Especial, CSIC, 2011
Date Created: 1920 to 1940 (year uncertain)
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: Abánades, Spain
Coffee cups made of vitrified ceramic and with lithographic decoration became a very common industrial object in Spanish homes during the first third of the twentieth century, in both urban and rural areas. Their popularity has to do with the democratization of practices that previously had been essentially bourgeois, like coffee consumption and the use of fine wares as a marker of status. The coffee cups in the picture appeared in Abánades, a small village in one of the most rural areas of Spain, La Alcarria in Guadalajara. The cups are evidence of the arrival, during the 1930s, of industrial objects and urban, middle-class habits to one of the most remote corners of the country, but the context in which they appeared informs us of something more, because the cups were found in a covered trench built by Francoist troops in late 1938.
Coffee was a scarce commodity during the Spanish Civil War, due to the difficulties of transport. Surrogates such as chicory and roasted barley were common. Nevertheless, the Francoist side benefited from the import of coffee through neighboring Portugal: 5,000 kilos of coffee and sugar entered Spain in only one transport. Francoist Spain also received donations from South American countries: the Colombian newspaper El Siglo organized a collection that produced 2,400 kilos of coffee that arrived in October 1938. The largest donation was the 600 tons sent by Brazilian president Getúlio Vargas, which arrived in 1939, shortly after the end of the war, and that provided high revenues for Franco himself. It is thus equally likely that the soldiers of Abánades were drinking coffee or a surrogate.
The specific place where the cups appear inform us of the situation of this front by the end of the war. The parapet was situated in front of the Republican positions, at only 300 meters plainly visibile. That the Francoist soldiers could drink a coffee in front of the enemy without fear of being molested indicates the limited offensive drive of the Popular Army at the time. In fact, no bullets or shrapnel suggestive of the parapet being attacked were found. Instead. numerous shell casings indicating heavy fire over the Republican trenches were documented.
The cups also reveal a common practice in all fronts and about which very little has been written: the looting of civilian settlements. The village of Abánades had been evacuated and the soldiers took advantage of the situation, helping themselves to everything they could lay their hands on, from crockery to furniture. In turn, when the war was finished, the residents did not only recover what they could of their stolen property; they also made the most of the abundant military matériel abandoned in the stronghold.