Mercedes García Mendoza
The Franco years were a huge part of García-Mendoza’s life. She explained how her life was affected by Franco and the Spanish Civil War. The Franco years were the years that she began her career as a teacher and was able to work her way up to the position of a director or principal of her high school.
By Caroline Flores
For many in Spain, the period from 1938 to 1973 of Gen. Francisco Franco’s dictatorship were dark years. During this time women were known to have limited rights, but Mercedes García Mendoza did not let this control her life and how she ran it.
The Spanish Civil War years from 1936 to 1939 and the subsequent Franco years were a huge part of her life, said García Mendoza, who was born June 27,1939. Franco’s grip on powerfinally ended in 1973 with his resignation as prime minister, and he died in 1975.
During his dictatorship, Franco stripped many rights away from the women in Spain, as well as other basic human rights.
“We did not have democracy in these years. There was no divorce, we did not have many things,” GarcíaMendoza said.
She still managed to become an educator during the Franco years. She began teaching the Spanish language and Spanish literature, GarcíaMendoza said.
García Mendoza said she began teaching high school in 1962 at José María de Pereda in Santander, Spain. She eventually worked her way up to become the principal of her high school, GarcíaMendoza said. Around 1957, during her university studies, García Mendoza recalled that there were many changes. She said that Franco decided that university coeds had to attend a service camp for two summers, while their male classmates had to attend a camp where they obtained basic military instruction for two summers.
She said that no one ever treated her differently in her profession because she was a woman. Her students had respect for her, as did her colleagues, García Mendoza said, adding that to her knowledge, many women kept their jobs during the Franco years.
“No one was allowed to stop you from working because you were married,” she said. “What happened is that it was also a refuge for many women. The work was hard, out of the house and inside.”
“Servicios domésticos,” or housekeeping was what most women did for a living during the Franco years, García Mendoza said.
Women also worked in offices and even factories, García Mendoza said, as well as public service camps.
Garcia-Mendoza not only kept her job during the Franco years, but also had her own bank account with her own money, Garcia-Mendoza said.
“My money, for me was mine and then later I shared it, of course I was going to share, but I mean in that since it was mine,” Garcia Mendoza said.
She also became a part of a feminist cultural group at the Ateneo de Santander, named after the Greek goddess Athena.This group of women consisted of politicians, intellectuals, professors, and many more, Garcia Mendoza said.
“The group had debates about politics and debates about all types of art,” Garcia-Mendoza said. She looked back ruefully at the civil war and the Franco years, which took up more than 35 years of her life.
“The people wanted to leave, to forget, to prosper,” she added.
(Mercedes García Mendoza was interviewed on Aug. 3, 2010 in Santander, Spain, by Caroline Flores.)
Garcia Mendoza being interviewed during class. Her daughter observes in the background (in white slacks).
Garcia Mendoza and her three children ca. 1970.
Spanish Civil War