I was born in 1931. My parents had three children. My father worked at first as a clerk in a petrol station in Arenas de San Pedro, and then he ran it as a rented business. He had to leave the petrol station at the beginning of the war, because the army didn’t pay him for the petrol they took. So in early 1937 we moved back to Lagartera, where he worked with his mules, cutting grass and sowing, but as a casual worker rather than as an employee.
What we ate
Chickpeas. My mother would boil some cabbage and then in the frying pan she’d fry some garlic, add and fry the cabbage, then we’d add a little vinegar and pour it all on top of the chickpeas. It went in the same dish. There were five of us and we ate from the same dish. We’d put a little meat in the chickpea stew. We’d sometimes buy a little piece of lamb, but not too big, a small piece of black pudding, a small piece of fat bacon and if we’d slaughtered a pig, we might have some pig’s stomach stuffed with chorizo, or some ribs and if not, we had lamb and chicken, If there was no lamb we’d have some bones or pig’s tail, or pig’s snout.
All of the pig is eaten, from the snout to the tail. The ‘bondejo’ is pig’s stomach stuffed with chorizo, or another type of meat.
Loin pork was put in a marinade made of crushed garlic, a lot of garlic, a lot of pepper, a handful of salt and a handful of oregano. You added a little water and then it was beaten in a kneading trough. Then you could add whatever meat you had. If we had roast pork, my mother often left it for supper.
My father would fry fat pork, and we’d also have garlic soup for breakfast when we didn’t feel like fat pork.
For lunch, we’d have chickpeas or white beans. Rice and potatoes with cod was more for supper. In summer we had tomato soup and melon for breakfast; at lunchtime we had watermelon after gazpacho, cold tomato soup. Then, much later, we had milk for breakfast and soups for supper. We ate a lot of migas, fried breadcrumbs with garlic. We used to eat a grape in aguardiente, a spirit drink, when we’d finished the breadcrumbs.
At Christmas there was a lot of kid. We used to have potatoes with kid, but it depended on the family.
Shoes and clothes
We didn’t have new shoes very often. We girls wore long socks, they used to dress us in a knitted waistcoat, instead of slips, a knitted waistcoat to keep us warm, with a body and without sleeves, and a skirt. Our mothers used to make our underclothes for us. They were made of cloth that our mothers bought. There were no everyday shoes, shoes with wooden heels.
Lagarteran houses. Ingar (Madrid) 1/1935 no 13, p 416
When we wanted to wash ourselves, at main doorway to the house and yard, there was a passageway to go up to the loft where there was a basin and a jug with water. We poured the water into the basin and then we all washed, at the doorway. If it was cold, the boys would wash in the kitchen. They’d have a big bucket of hot water and wash in the kitchen, always with scented soap. There were no towels, we dried ourselves with a piece of an old quilt. It was a long time before we had towels.
La Troje (the loft), 1933, Amadeo Roca Gisbert
There was no toilet. We used the stables. When you were having a poo, the chickens would peck your bum.
School and work
We didn’t go to school much. One teacher would leave, another would arrive. We had to take lunch and we had to take a snack. We went to school very little. I studied with Doña Ramona. My schoolmates included M. Teodora ‘la Churra’, Julia ‘la Campana’, who are from here, Isabel ‘la Bruna’. Then Doña Ramona left and I never went back. Because the teachers changed so often, so I didn’t go back.
The church seen from Licenciado José Muñoz Street. Photo: Francisco Andrada Escribano (1874-1977), in Oasis (Madrid) 11/1934, no 1, p36
We used to pee outside the church, opposite the school. We’d go out for our playtime break and we’d pee and poo by the stairs leading to the churchyard. We called our toilet ”the Door of the Turds”. That’s why, when we played a tag game, we used to sing “Are birds in the nest? There are birds. Which side, the big side, or the Poo door?”.
I learnt to read and write. And to sing… “Thirty days hath November, April, June and September, twenty-eight hath only one and the rest hath thirty-one” ”A week has seven days, a month has thirty”, we sang all that. We also sang the four points of the compass. All the children sang it.
The girls at school put on some short plays. At that time Doña Ramona was the teacher, and the girls at school took part. They dressed up Gloria, my sister-in-law, in everyday clothes. They took off her traditional skirt. Those who were in charge there… they made up whatever justification they could. They were extreme, what the Falange wanted, what the other side wanted, were so very different and everyone wanted to be in charge, as people have always done.
At school we sat on the benches around the older pupils, who sat at the desks and there we said the rosary, we sang… we had to sing “Cara al sol” (Spanish fascist anthem) when we entered the school. We recited the rosary every Thursday. On Saturdays there was school, but on Thursdays we recited the rosary, the questions and answers about Catholic doctrine, the catechesis, and we recited the Miserere. The priest, Don Pablo, made a list of tasks for us. Make the shirt of the baby Jesus for a display. So you are going to do. this, you will do that… obey your mother, you, make a handkerchief to wipe the child’s snot; you are going to make a nappy, so you are going to do… and don’t be grumpy and whiny when you get up.
Women embroidering in a doorway, Lagartera, 1927. Photo by Francesc Folguera Grassi
When we came home from school, we had to hem a napkin every day, we went to the chemist’s to get them. But I didn’t go anywhere to work, I just worked from home, doing what we did at home, embroidering. Girls from poorer families had to work as servants, for one peseta a month and food. The richer people had nannies, they had maids, they had everything. I worked from home.
In the neighbourhoods where we lived, the women would come out with a stick to discipline us… The Cana would come for us. We lived where Julián Trompique lived, in that other house where Gloria lived. Then we lived in La Cruz and from there we went to La Corralá. But as I said, you couldn’t do anything, you went to school and you’d keep hearing they had killed so-and-so, then they had killed someone else… And all the little girls sat around the big ones, the ones who were using the first primer, the ones who were using the third.
La Corredera (1929) and the route to the Calvario (1933), by Amadeo Roca Gisbert
My father worked, there were three of us children, it was hard, but well, that’s how it went. We left the house at six o’clock to get a place in the queue. They gave you bread at ten o’clock in the morning. There was no sugar, no coffee, no rice. In Uncle Sabino’s stockyard, the soldiers had cows and they milked them, and we would go there with a basket of eggs and they’d give us rice. Because the soldiers didn’t have eggs and we had eggs so we exchanged them for rice. They gave us coffee too, or whatever else they had.
During the war years, they fattened the mules with bread, the bread that the soldiers had spoilt and we went to collect it. Then came the bread famine and there was no more bread either for donkeys or for people. At the beginning of the war everything was plentiful because they took everything from the houses, so everything was plentiful. Then came the years of hunger, and there was no more bread for donkeys or for people. The men weren’t working, the fields were deserted.
Emilio Rubio, the mayor in 1936, was very much loved. He saved many people’s lives. He couldn’t save the priest because he didn’t want to leave. Wars affect everyone, they aren’t good for anything, or anyone, neither the person who steals nor the person who is stolen from. Everybody had a very bad time. Everybody went hungry, they didn’t have… they tore up the quilts to make dresses for the girls, all the tablecloths and other coverings stored in the linen chests. People had dresses made out of tablecloths. It took a long time for the pueblo to recover.
Pilar in about 1980, working ‘at home, tending to the livestock while her husband was away selling embroideries.
Pilar Iglesias Alía, Lagartera, Toledo, 12th January 2024
There are different versions of the song that Pilar mentions, such as this one from Andalucia:
Two interesting articles (in Spanish):
Las casas lagarteranas: Hemeroteca Digital. Biblioteca Nacional de España (bne.es)