Defying the Past in Post-Franco Spain: The Interrogation of Aurora Rodriguez

By Van Liew, Maria | Mosaic (Winnipeg), September 2003 | Go to article overview

Defying the Past in Post-Franco Spain: The Interrogation of Aurora Rodriguez


Van Liew, Maria, Mosaic (Winnipeg)


When imaginary sources of social transformation interact with the historical determinants of democratic transitional Spain, new symbolic possibilities arise from which gender issues come to be addressed anew. This essay investigates the historical and fictional fusion of two female subjects, mother and daughter, whose visions of social and personal revolution collide in a famous case of feminist filicide.

Aurora Rodriguez Caballeira stated on more than one occasion that, upon publishing "Cain y Abel: Una injusticia" in the Socialist newspaper La Tierra in June 1933, her daughter Hildegart had signed her own death sentence. The article was written only a month before Aurora shot and killed her eighteen-year-old daughter and remains a testament to a notorious act of filicide that took place in Madrid, Spain, on 9 June 1933. The focus of numerous interpretations of the historical implications of the event has been the murderous mother, while her prodigal daughter Hildegart, politically and socially active under the Second Spanish Republic (1931-36), has remained in the shadow of her own victimization.

Hildegart was famous at an early age for her controversial publications on politics and sexual difference during the brief Republican period of liberal governance. In her short life, she published numerous essays for national newspapers along with several books addressing various facets of the struggle to emancipate women and the working classes. These accomplishments, however, have been sadly overshadowed by her mother's notoriety. In Spain, especially, the two women's lives have been fused together through historical chronicle (De Guzman), sociological investigation (Llarch), psychoanalytical study (Rendueles), and a commercially successful film re-enactment of the tragedy (Fernan Gomez). What these diverse investigations have in common is male authorship, publication under democratic developments and governance (1972, 1979, 1999, and 1989), and a certain reliance on Aurora as their main conduit to the course of events leading to a case of personal and political homicide.

After the sensational trials and imprisonment of the accused, the Rodriguez Story was buried under the political and social upheavals of 1936, when Ideological extremes came to an irreconcilable impasse. As Burnett Bolloten recognizes, "the enmities that gave rise to the Civil War were not of sudden growth. They had been steadily developing since the fall of the Monarchy and the proclamation of the Republic in April 1931 and, with increasing intensity, since the victory of the Popular Front--the left coalition--in the February 1936 elections"(3). After Francoist victory in 1939, the memory of Aurora and Hildegart remained hidden within the folds of the fascist regime's Catholic National Revivalism campaign of selective historical revisionism. The regime's preference for the "glorious" deeds of a more distant past, strict censorship laws and the imprisonment or exile of numerous journalists from the Republican period prevented the case's re-emergence until democratic transitional developments in the 1970s. Originally written in 1934, the historical chronicle Aurora de sangre was published by Republican journalist Eduardo De Guzman in 1972, who had suffered professionally as had so many under the dictatorship. Serving as the guiding force of the film, De Guzman's chronical was reissued in 1977 under the film's title, Mi hija Hildegart. In short, De Guzaman's series of interviews with Aurora initiated a trend of "democratic" interrogation.

De Guzman's historical chronicle invokes doubts about relying on the mother's confession for key information. Allowed to interview the accused in prison, he and a friend are both intrigued and disturbed by her eloquence:

   We listen to her with interest, but also with a certain
   degree of skepticism.
   Aurora Rodriguez is a strange and disquieting woman.
   Much of what she says
   is surprising and even more so her way of
   expressing it: the impressive coldness with which she
   speaks of the murder of
   her own daughter, admitting that it was the inevitable
   fruit born by long and terrible premeditation. … 

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