“Mexico was the country that most supported the Second Spanish Republic and that welcomed the refugees, I am very grateful to them because it is the place where I developed as a person,” says 90-year-old BBC Mundo Domingo Font.
Font crossed the Atlantic Ocean at the age of 14 with his parents, fleeing the Spanish Civil War.
They settled in Mexico, a country that played a key role in supporting the Republican side.
When the conflict broke out in 1936, Western democracies opted for the Non-intervention Pact, imposed by France and Great Britain, in the League of Nations (precursor of the UN). This meant turning your back on the Republic.
Mexico refused to that pact and for more than 30 years refused to recognize the military government of Francisco Franco.
Some 22,000 to 25,000 refugees arrived in this country .
“Long live the Spanish Republic!”
At that time, the president was Lázaro Cárdenas . In 1936, at his cry of commemoration of the Independence of Spain in the Zócalo, which is traditionally “Viva Mexico!”, Added a “Long live the Spanish Republic!”.
In July of that year, when Franco’s rebellion had broken out, he had sent an initial shipment of arms, followed by others, to support the Republicans.
“The government of Mexico at the time was always on the side of the Republic because it recognized its legitimacy.” Lázaro Cárdenas was supportive of a friendly government that was being attacked by foreign forces: fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, “explains to BBC Mundo Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas , the son of the former president.
“Although the exiles also arrived in other countries, among them the Soviet Union, England, France, Cuba, or the Dominican Republic, in none of them were as many nor as sheltered as in Mexico, ” explains the coordinator of the Migration and Exile Studies Center. from the National University of Distance Education (UNED), María Luisa Capella.
Castles in Marseille
The academic, daughter of exiles, says it was a ” successful encounter between a persecuted people and a host town.”
He explains that when the Republicans lost the war in 1939 and left for France, “the Nazi boot is being laid there, so the exiles are at great risk.”
Who was the ambassador of Mexico in that country, Luis I. Rodriguez, was in charge of protecting the president of the Spanish Republic, Manuel Azaña.
Azaña died on November 3, 1940 when his health problems worsened in a room of the Hotel du Midi de Mountaban, which, having been rented by the Mexican embassy, was considered Mexican territory.
Gilberto Bosques, who before the crisis had been named consul in France, was in charge of helping thousands of Republicans, as well as others persecuted by the Nazi regime.
He settled in Marseille when the Nazis still did not have as much force and he rented two castles, called Reynard and Mont Grand, to which he put the Mexican flag, to turn them into territory of this country.
“This way he saved many Spaniards who were in concentration camps, andthose who managed to set foot outside him and his legation took them to their castles.”
He explains that in the concentration camps in France, although they were not extermination camps, the conditions were terrible. “People were dying of dysentery because of the food they were given, and infant mortality was 97%,” he says.
The children of Morelia
Although after the loss of the war, the exile was mostly family, as explained by Chaplain, during the conflict there was a particularly sad episode.
In 1937, many Republicans sent their children to other countries so they would not suffer the brutality of the war.
To Mexico almost 500 of them, minors of different ages, arrived in a steam boat called Mexique. Later they were taken to Morelia, the capital of the state of Michoacán, where they were welcomed.
Families hoped to reunify after the war ended, but everything went wrong for them when Franco won.
“Very few of the children were reunited with their parents and the meetings were not very pleasant in general: there was some resentment in the children, who felt abandoned, with wars or without them the parents live a story and the children others”, says Capella.
Benefit for Mexico
Mexico, which was in a period of full growth in education and science, also benefited from Spanish exile.
“Although there were people from all the spectrums of society, 25% of them were intellectuals, among them scientists, writers, historians, ” says Capella.
Some of them founded the House of Mexico in Spain which is now the College of Mexico, and the Spanish Athenaeum of Mexico.
The universities of the country, such as the National Polytechnic Institute and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, also benefited from these intellectuals, who found work giving classes or doing research.
The exile also founded schools, some of which continue to function, such as the renowned Colegio Madrid and the Luis Vives Institute.
“Among the exiles, especially at the beginning, there was a fidelity and union around the republican values , among them respect for human dignity, justice and education”
In a way, the Republic continued in Mexico, he explains.
Although not for everyone it was the same.
“As an exiled son, I grew up in Mexico in a republican environment, and my generation always knew that we were children of those who had lost the war, my parents were always aware of the bombings,” tells Jordi Martineli, BBC World university student of 68 years.
He says that in his childhood he was discriminated against by other children: “Sometimes they annoyed me and always told me the son of the gachupin”.
“It was not a tragedy and I ended up adapting, right now, being on the left, I am more willing to give my life for Mexico , more than for Spain,” he says.
Account that, although many exiled ones decided to return to Spain after the Francoism, his father did not do it: “he was ashamed that Franco died in his bed”.
Source: bbc espanol
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