Repository: Museo de Abánades, Abánades, Spain
Contributor: Alfredo González-Ruibal
Fond or Collection
Ismael Gallego Puchol, 2021
Repository and Location
Museo de Abánades, Abánades, Spain
Date Created: 1936 to 1939
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: Abánades, Guadalajara
This small brass box appeared in the Republican fortifications of Los Castillejos (Abánades), a second-line position on the Guadalajara front. A Republican emblem, the inscription “Spanish Republic”, and the price “5 pesetas” can be observed on the box. It contained a condom. It is a very rare object, but one that was surely common during the war. Sexually-transmitted diseases were a great concern for military authorities as they implied numerous casualties that were easily avoidable. In Republican propaganda we find slogans such as “Venereal diseases are the fascism of nature” and “Avoid venereal diseases, as dangerous as bullets”. The Republic produced anti-venereal posters that were openly misogynistic and in which prostitutes were signaled as the main focus of infection. Although men were also vectors of contagion and not only in their relation with sexual workers, the truth is that visits to brothels were constant during the entire war and prostitution grew, fueled by strong demand, economic necessity of women, and the purchasing power of soldiers, who spent part of their pay in brothels. The problem was certainly not less important among Francoist troops, but here there was not an anti-venereal propaganda campaign similar to the Republican one, probably for ideological reasons. In the opinion of general Ángel Pozas, commander of the Republic’s Army of the Center, in some cases contagion was not haphazard but a premeditated strategy to “avoid service in trenches”. In fact, the Republican authorities had to intervene to suffocate what seemed like a venereal epidemic shortly before the Battle of the Ebro. Brothels were closed and soldiers were threatened with severe penalties.
In a frontline as rural and depopulated as Guadalajara, opportunities to have sexual relations were much scarcer than in Madrid, where sexually transmitted diseases became a plague. However, soldiers stationed on rural fronts also enjoyed days off, which they spent in nearby towns and villages—and more specifically, in their brothels. Republicans considered prostitution a political and moral problem as well as a heath one, as they saw it as the perpetuation of bourgeois oppression. Attempts to tackle it, however, were largely unsuccessful.