Francoist meat can
Repository: Museo de Guadalajara, Guadalajara, Spain
Fond or Collection
Alfredo González-Ruibal, “NEARCH: New scenarios for a community-involved archaeology,” funded by the European Union, 2012
Date Created: 1938
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: Abánades, Spain
This can of meat from a slaughterhouse in Mérida (Badajoz, Extremadura) was carried by a soldier that was thrown into the fray during the Alto Tajuña (Guadalajara) offensive in April 1938. It was discarded in a sheepfold that was used as a makeshift position by a unit of Francoist soldiers, who abandoned it before the Republican advanced.
Cans containing meat from that slaughterhouse are frequently found in the Francoist trenches. Canned food was particularly common on mobile fronts because soldiers stationed on stable fronts usually ate hot meals prepared in the military kitchens in the rearguard. A veteran of the First Falange of Santa Cruz de Palma (Canary Islands), Justo Gutiérrez, remembered a “‘meat from Mérida’ that they consumed in adverse circumstances and that disappeared after the war. He never knew what it was”, which is indicative of the scarce quality of the product.
Francoist soldiers were better fed throughout the war, and veterans’ testimonies confirm this. This was due to the fact that Franco’s army had more and better resources such as slaughterhouses and canning factories, but also, as historian Michael Seidman has pointed out, due to the more efficient logistics which were sustained by more solid financial supports. That the transport and distribution of food worked better and the soldiers were almost always better fed and supplied, contributed to the higher morale of the troops.
Starting in 1935, the Mérida slaughterhouse was rented by José Fernández López, a livestock entrepreneur, who also acquired the exploitation rights for the slaughterhouse of O Porriño (Pontevedra. Galicia) in 1936—shortly before the war began. Since both factories were inside rebel-held territory, Fernández became the main purveyor of canned meat for the Francoist army. He allied himself with the company Massó Brothers based in Bueu (Pontevedra), whose factory produced canned fish, and their technology was put to work in Fernández López’s slaughterhouses. Massó and Fernández López provide excellent illustration of the entrepreneurs who benefited from the war while contributing decisively to the triumph of the Francoist cause. Fernández López had a brilliant career as a businessman after the conflict, founding some of Spain’s leading food industries in Spain, such as Apis and Pescanova, making important philanthropic contributions, and promoting culture and the arts— and often protecting former Republicans.