Via Laietana, 43: the belly of the beast

  • The book "Torturades", by Gemma Pasqual, a story about twenty-two women tortured at the Via Laietana police station in Barcelona between 1941 and 2019, portrays how the transition from dictatorship to democracy is irrelevant for this Spain from which we must run away

Gemma Pasqual
Vicent Partal
22.03.2023 - 11:56
Actualització: 22.03.2023 - 12:13

Today the book Torturades (Tortured), written by Gemma Pasqual, goes on sale. It is the story told by twenty-two women of their passage through the Spanish police station on Via Laietana in Barcelona and of the torture they had to endure there. Between 1941 and 2019. And the numbers, just these two numbers that frame the story, already have a black meaning by themselves. From the day after the entry into Barcelona of the Franco occupation army – the qualifier they put it themselves – until the battle of Urquinaona. It shows, again, that the transition from the Franco dictatorship to pseudo-democracy is irrelevant.

The same police beat in the same chambers Soledad Real on August 23, 1941 and Xènia Garcia on October 18, 2019. The same policemen in the same building beat Victòria Pujolar with a baton covered in lead in July 1945 and beat Teresa Alabèrnia’s fists with a screwdriver in 1981. The same dirty and smelly cells that locked up Soledad Real in 1941, broken after hours of receiving tortures while a group of young people, future torturers, watched while sitting, and Núria Cadenes in September 1988, who was most likely already tortured by one of those apprentices that during forty years carefully observed the technique of the older ones.

With the stories of these twenty-two women, Gemma Pasqual has built an extraordinary, priceless volume, which is not in any way the memory of an outgrown period of the past, but a volcanic cry of the present that suffocate. You can’t finish it without your heart leaping out of your mouth crying out for revenge, without your brain churning in its shell, eager for battle. From these narratives, elegantly contained to the essential point that draws the horror, emerges the belly of the beast. Located in the center of Barcelona, at Via Laietana, 43.

And the images of each and every one of its citizens emerge too, those of the past and those of now. The ones with the ridiculous Franco mustache and the disturbing trench coat with wide pockets and those who arrive today with a coffee in a designer glass in hand, with a sports bag around their neck and phosphorescent sneakers. The dirty ones of the forties, the fifties, the sixties and the seventies and the dirty ones of the eighties, the nineties, those of two thousand, of two thousand ten and of two thousand twenties. All dirties. All sadists. All degenerate. Years go by, decades go by, but they are all similar. The same. The torturers of Soledad Real, of Victòria Pujolar, of Tomasa Cuevas, of Maria Rosa Borràs, of Manola Rodríguez Lázaro, of Pilar Rebeque, of Matilde, of Maribel Fernàndez, of Carme Travesset, of la Rampova, of Carmen Gonzàlez, of Isabel López, of Eva and Blanca Serra, of Maria Teresa Lecha, of Montserrat Tarragó, of Mireia Comas, of Ruth Gavarró, of Teresa Alabèrnia, of Núria Cadenes, of Xènia Garcia and so many other women – and men -, arrested, slapped, assaulted, beaten, humiliated by people who don’t deserve to be considered people. By real inhuman beasts who nevertheless walk among us every day, who can sit at the bar on the next table, get on the subway behind us or share time in the lobby of the physician.

Torturades is one of those books that people will mark. It’s not that we don’t know what has been and is being hidden in this infected cave. The lawyers who spent so many hours on the sidewalk in front of it knew it. Our young people knew this when they attacked in 2019 the belly of the beast from Urquinaona. All those who, summoned by the Comissió per la Dignitat, often find themselves there in front of it, know this. Politicians of all colors, from all parties and from all eras knew and know that they have not been able to raze this building and water its foundations with sulphur. Unfortunately, Torturades is, above all, another bright and more than timely reminder of what is eternal Spain. The one that does not change and will never change, the one from which we must run away.

By writing her story, Gemma Pasqual now forces us to look at the faces of these twenty-one women tortured in there. And with that she urges us to redouble our efforts, to fight even harder and to win. To win to put forever an end to the beast, to all beasts. To win to live in freedom and peace of mind knowing that no one will ever be tortured there again. To win to be able to fill the empty lot on Via Laietana, 43, with fresh daisies, full of gratitude to these women, every morning. Where we can tell the children that one day the beast hid until we knew how to drive it out.


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