El Español – 9th December 2017
The 1.000 Jehovah’s Witnesses that Franco imprisoned for not doing the military: return to the prison of Cádiz
“Happy are the peacemakers, since they will be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5: 9.).
About 1,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses said no to the military between 1954 and 1977. Thanks to their unwavering stance they managed to avoid military service, contrary to their beliefs, but not prisons. His convictions for disobedience and sedition totaled decades. In prison they suffered beatings, humiliation and degrading treatment of the common guards and criminals, but they also married and started prosperous jewelery, painting or watchmaking businesses with their sales outside the prison. This is the story of the first Spanish conscientious objectors. That’s how the protagonists lived it and that’s how they tell it.
Chapter I. Would Jesus Christ do the military?
“Christ is my model, would he do the military?” Juan Antonio Falcó asked himself this question shortly before entering the prison of Colmenar Viejo. It was the year 1969. The reason for his sentence, three years, was to refuse to make the military salute before the lieutenant colonel who presided over his council of war for refusing to wear the uniform.
“I did not imagine Jesus dressed as a recruit,” says Falcó at 70. “And since I wanted to be a good Christian, I could not do the military.”
Falcó, a man from Madrid with exquisite manners, came to this conclusion after an exhaustive study of the Bible. Quote to Isaiah 2.4: “They will learn no more from the war”; or chapters five, six and seven of the Gospel of Matthew, the Sermon on the Mount: “Happy are the peacemakers, since to them belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
“We are,” Falcó argues, “subjects of the kingdom of God and, as the apostle Paul says, if you are fighting in one army you can not be military in another; also says Peter -2.21- we have to follow the steps of Jesus Christ with great care and attention “.
“That is why, if I honestly wanted to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, the prince of peace, my conscience absolutely allowed me to do military service,” ditches Falcó.
The Madrilenian was one of the three hundred Jehovah’s Witnesses who ended up serving a sentence in the Castle of Santa Catalina de Cádiz, the military prison that most objectors of the congregation welcomed. A fortress turned into a prison at various moments in history. In fact, it was used as a jail to lock up numerous liberals who approved and supported the Constitution of 1812. There they were left betrayed by Fernando VII, the felon king.
In the fortification, located next to the beach of La Caleta, Jehovah’s Witnesses coexisted with common military prisoners condemned for all types of crimes, including blood ones.
Chapter II. Jehovah’s Witnesses, a large family in Santa Catalina
“In prison, the strongest one does not win, the one who has least to lose always wins”, summarizes Fernando. “Either you kill or they kill you, and we were the ones killed. They insulted us, pushed us, tripped us … ” The null coexistence between commons and witnesses generated numerous frictions that the military authorities settled with the physical separation between prisoners.
Of the prison community, more than half, about 140 were witnesses: they strictly complied with the norms, they were never violent and did not eat black pudding for blood, something forbidden by their faith.
Fernando Marín, one of the first to arrive at the Cádiz prison, tells how coexistence became unbearable. Also how the common criminals looked for brawl when the wine sneaked through the walls of Santa Catalina. “They bombarded us with hard bread, which was like stones.” “They wanted to fight and we never agreed to fight.”
The high number of witnesses in Santa Catalina forced the community to establish a hierarchy that sought order, hygiene and proper development of a life marked spiritual sense. “The jailers only cared about telling us in the morning and at night, the rest of the time was for what you wanted, and to avoid falling into a state of abandonment, of neglect, we established kitchen shifts, cleaning, sleeping schedules or study. We also began to knit scarves and shawls with fishermen’s needles. We offered it to those who visited us for a small fee, “recalls Marín, appointed coordinator of the Christian community in the prison.
Little by little, economic activities began to diversify. The wool became clothing, blankets with a knitting that they got, they also set up a jewelery workshop in which to fulfill the orders – “exclusive models” – of the jewelers of the rest of Spain, another of watchmaking, automotive, laundry, painting, making miniature boats or corner furniture with turned bars.
The raw material went into the visits of the family, except the one dedicated to jewelry, which entered the penitentiary by a representative of the Spanish Society of Precious Metals. “The authorities behaved with us exceptionally; Yes, with us they did not have the slightest problem, “says Marín, who ended up setting up a jewelry store in Barcelona.
“We came to pay a tax, one per thousand, to the Orphan College to be able to bill and be legal,” recalls the jeweler.
And with what they got they bought and stored food for when the meals they were provided had blood sausage. “It’s a lot cheaper than chorizo,” says Fernando, “and all the stews had blood sausage, which we can not eat because of blood, a biblical prohibition.”
Part of the income also served to serve the families of the inmates. In Santa Catalina, 44 weddings of Jehovah’s Witnesses were celebrated. Fernando married Conchi. There was no wedding night. After the ceremony, he stayed in prison and she went to some friends’ house. It took two years to see each other again.
Chapter III. The 44 weddings of Santa Catalina
Pedro Juan García and María del Carmen Fernández, now 73 and 70 years old, got married in the military prison of Santa Catalina on July 21, 1973. At their wedding, 200 guests attended, many arrived from Barcelona, the place of origin of the parties . The menu included a Russian salad, some hors d’oeuvres and a bridal cake with thirteen steps, one for each year of courtship. The guards allowed the celebration to be extended until eight o’clock in the afternoon. Much more than what the visiting hours established.
“It was a wonderful day,” they respond in unison. “But on the wedding night, I stayed in jail and she went to a boarding house.”
They had eight children. The first, conceived between bars. In a vis a vis. “Here I catch you, here I kill you,” the smiling man points out. “But fine,” she adds.
Pedro Juan was imprisoned in 1966 in Almería. From there it went to Guadix, Córdoba, Seville, Cádiz, Las Palmas, El Aaiún, again Las Palmas and, finally, Cádiz, four years. While he was in prison and prison, Maria del Carmen dedicated herself to trying to understand the reason for her husband’s conscientious objection and the consequent tribulations that the marriage was going through.
“I wanted to know the reason for his behavior -explains EL ESPAÑOL- and I looked for some witnesses to explain it to me. They told me that the best way to understand it was by reading the gospels. ” “I did it and I supported it, because it was logical to do what I was doing.”
The support of the families was key to the unwavering stance of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Despite the miles, many moved to Cádiz to be with their husbands, parents and children, thanks to the charity of the rest of the local brothers.
Chapter IV. Cádiz, city of welcome and support of the quartermaster
José Manuel Viruel, a Jehovah’s Witness, escaped military service thanks to the age of his father, in his sixties, but his role was vital inside and outside the walls of Santa Catalina. In his own house, and in the rest of the congregation of Cádiz, he welcomed a hundred families. “They slept up on the roof in the summer months,” he says.
“I did not see it as a sacrifice,” says Viruel at 76, “it was an honor, a privilege, because they were heroes for us, people of faith unjustly imprisoned.”
None of his colleagues from the prestigious Atlantic Hotel, where Viruel worked as a baker, missed the calls he received from the Santa Catalina prison. “They are your brothers, they say come,” they told me. And there was going to solve issues closer to the material than to the spiritual, “that also attended.”
Viruel became the head of the quartermaster for almost three decades. He provided the imprisoned witnesses with raw materials, put out forbidden magazines in the cans of quince meat and sneaked out the numerous correspondence generated by the prisoners. “It was written a lot. It was preached a lot. They could leave two or three thousand letters a month, and without the authorities knowing. ”
Many of the letters that came to circumvent the control of the guards came embuchadas in the diapers of the children of Viruel. “It was lined!” He insists. “And so many cards came out. Until one day, he had colitis, “he says, laughing,” and we spend hours cleaning letters, throwing them at colonies … ”
By his profession, Viruel was responsible for making the wedding cakes at the weddings of his brothers. And he even married them in court. “He had a power to marry in the name of imprisoned witnesses. I went so many times that they told me ‘the bigamist’, you know the guasa that is in Cádiz “, José Manuel resolves.
Once the sentences were over, many of the families stayed to live in Cádiz, in Algeciras, Chiclana or Seville. Not even for that reason is known what happened in Santa Catalina. “Cádiz ignored what happened in this prison”, ditch Viruel.
Chapter V. Beatings of the inmate of the longest sentence: 22 years
Jesús Martín Noales never set foot on Santa Catalina. He does it for the first time today in the company of his brothers summoned by EL ESPAÑOL. He was born in Madrid and corresponds to the fifth of 1957, although he was imprisoned in February 1958, in the Spanish protectorate in Africa, in Nador. From there he went to the Rostrogordo military prison in Melilla and finally entered the adult reformatory in Ocaña.
“He was the first conscientious objector they came across and they did not understand it,” explains the witness. In Nador they tried to make him part of a squad, to do the instruction, to put on his uniform. All without success. “I resisted peacefully,” recalls Martin Noales at 81. Until he was hit with the knee in the lower parts and fell down to the ground. I was 21 years old.
He was sent to Melilla, a prison frequented by legionnaires convicted of common crimes. The first five days went unnoticed. The sixth he met a capital nicknamed Pisamondongos, famous for beatings. “A lieutenant general asked him to bend me,” he recalls, “and he used it thoroughly.”
“With a whip he hit me, insulted me, threw me to the ground, fell unconscious and stepped on my head. He only stopped when he saw the blood “, narrates Martín Noales. “I ended up in a punishment cell. There he announced that every day he would beat me up. I thought he wanted to scare me, but no. He kept his word. And so on day after day. On the third day they put me in a quarry. Until a court secretary told me they were never going to hit me anymore. ”
Shortly after the trial was held, he was sentenced to 15 years for disobedience and four for sedition. To that was added another additional sentence of three years. Article 328 of the Military Penal Code: disobedience to a superior. “And when you finished the first sentence they condemned you again, because there was always military service, it was a life sentence.”
In total, 22 years of which he served six years and six months thanks to several pardons with which he reduced the sentence: the death of John XXIII, Pius XII and what they called the 25 years of peace of Franco. Jesús Martín Noales is the prisoner with the longest sentence of all Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“The most traumatic thing was to see my mother suffer,” he regrets, “that she was not a Jehovah’s Witness.” She asked the Franco for a pardon for her son. And it prospered. But when it was time for him to accept the pardon, with the paper that granted him on the table and in the absence of only a signature of conformity, he said no. “I love my mother very much, but I can not ask for forgiveness, because I was there in my own conscience.” And I broke the document.
Chapter VI. Consciousness before freedom
José Rodríguez Parejo was never weighed by the eight years and three months he spent in prison, in Santa Catalina. “I was able to escape abroad when I saw how they were imprisoning other comrades, but I understood that I had to comply as far as possible with the laws of the country, as long as it did not clash with any law of God. In that case I will always comply with God’s. Whatever happens to us. ”
At 75, this Granada, tells how he had the opportunity to escape from prison on several occasions. He never did. The first, when a couple of guards left him alone, handcuffed and with a rifle in his hands, in a transfer by train; the second, when they left the jail open and the guards went to hear mass; the third, a day that accompanied his mother to the door during a visit and they asked him: “Are you leaving too?” “If I leave, you enter,” he answered, and he went back to his cell.
-If they had opened the doors of the prison, all the prisoners would have left except Jehovah’s Witnesses, right?
– He never thought about leaving?
-Never never. I did not leave because I was here out of conscience, complying with all the laws that do not go against the laws of Jehovah.
Chapter VII. ‘A mili’ who still yearn
It has been 44 years since the Cortes recognized a law of conscientious objection, a little less since the first prisoners in February 1974 to benefit from the amnesty. It has rained a lot since Fernando Marín, one of the first inmates, was admitted to an insane asylum because he believed he was crazy when he refused to do military service, when still nobody in Spain knew what it was like to be a conscientious objector.
Now they meet in Cádiz, summoned by EL ESPAÑOL, in which was the Santa Catalina prison. An exhibition recalls his years there. Although nothing is the same. There are no guards posted on the walls, but all are seen with decades less. Imagine what the prison was. And nobody sour the gesture.
“This experience, very enriching, gave us a very important spiritual background in our lives,” explains Falcó. “The common feeling when talking about being imprisoned is negative, depressing, but for my colleagues it has been very enriching for life.”
“In difficult situations you turn to Jehovah and we can count all lots and lots of prayers answered by God. We felt that the almighty God was with us and I believe that there is nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing – Falcó insists – in the life of a human being that can be equated to the feeling of knowing that you please God and that he answers you when you pray to him. “
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