La maternidad de los horrores que sobrevivió a Franco
Reviewed by: Rachel Dixon and Maggi Delgado
Review started: April 4, 2021
Review finished: April 29, 2021
Data and Sources
- Primary sources: personal accounts
- Audio and video interviews
- Social, city, and community population data
- Location blueprint (map)
- Interviews have been edited to fit both a narrative and audio format
- Documents and photos have been digitized
- Documents have been formatted into an audio piece (read)
- Powered by Titania Compañía Editorial who owns and operates El Confidencial newspaper
- Directly associated with and operated as part of one of El Confidencial’s productions
- Format creators: P. Learte, T. Osona, C. Castellón, L. Rodríguez, and A. Esquembre
Digital Tools Used to Build It
- Information not prominently displayed on site
- Spanish (Castellano) only
Peñagrande, La maternidad de los horrores que sobrevivió a Franco, created by María Zuil, is a digitization of atrocities committed at Peñagrande maternity center located in Madrid, where several pregnant women were forced to give up their babies, were auctioned, or were otherwise abused and harmed by multiple official entities during and after Francisco Franco’s dictatorship (1965–1984). The article and archive are within the website of El Confidencial—a Spanish-language digital newspaper—and as such are all in Spanish. According to the audio recordings within the article, the church-run residential maternity (Orden de la Cruzadas Evangélicas) and reformatory took in women as young as 16 years old and detained them until they were 25 for having a pregnancy out of wedlock, being homeless/poor, smoking, and many other “socially unacceptable behavior.” During their time there, the young women were abused physically, mentally, and emotionally. They were threatened, harassed, forced into labor, obligated and tricked into giving their newborns up for adoption, and auctioned to men as wives and maids. The nuns were aided by entities such as the police, the Spanish Government under Franco, and the medical establishment.
Digitization efforts include archived audio interviews, a video, documents, and photos. This archive is housed within an interactive article format that contains links to previous related artifacts, both from the host newspaper and external sources. The article is structured by chapters referencing the different wings of the maternity center and pulls quotes from the various interviews.
The project is limited in scope suggesting general regional usage. Unlike larger projects that deal with maternity abuses during Franco’s rule and beyond, Peñagrande is the main focus here. Focusing on the space and architecture as well as the individual voices of the survivors may have also served to emphasize the needs of this local audience. Though the project is rich in text, it does not contain metadata, an intuitively described index, or an easily searchable functionality that would aid a scholar or researcher. The project is text-driven and only offered in Spanish, which again implies a regional and not global range. It does not necessarily provide readers with actions or an argument, instead offering both reporting and the use of artifacts themselves as sources.
Though the aesthetics (dark colors and bold letters), especially the red among the white, pull in the reader and help the audience immerse themselves into this tragic narrative, the project as a whole could have a larger impact with some improvements. The audio interviews are personal narrative accounts serving to further set the tone for the narrative; however, the article does not provide any context or third person narration from the interviewer as to who this subject is and what they’re describing. This information is mostly within the lengthy narrative. Media such as photos and scanned documents are static; there’s no option to zoom in for a closer look, nor do they have captions.
Another opportunity where interactivity could have been improved is within the map presented at the beginning of the site. The narrative is already divided by the locations such as “el jardín” (the garden) and “el botiquín” (the medical ward); it would have made sense that once the audience clicks on the map, they are taken to that chapter/section of the extensive piece. Though beautifully, skillfully, and professionally written narrative compels the reader to keep going and learn more, the links, in red letters, take the reader out of the experience by sending them outside of the website instead of another tab or location within the site. This feels as if the articles, PDF documents (evidence), and books referenced are outside or disconnected from the actual project.
The story presented is moving and captivating, yet it’s inaccessible to those who can’t read Spanish and /or do not have enough context about these crimes, regime, or knowledge of the geographical location. Even as a native Spanish speaker/reader, we had to leave the site several times to gather information and define terms, to better understand the references within the project. Lastly, we thought maybe their social media networks might contain updated information or a call to action, but the links on the sidebar are not of their social media profiles, rather a generated share post for the reader to automatically share the project. As important as these stories are, especially as a memory project—one with voices almost erased for decades—it’s hard to share when the project is accessible only to a select few.