Introduction

Visual Index (Entire Poster Collection)

Catalogue

Chronology of the War

Acknowledgements

Lists of References

Afterword: Herbert R. Southworth Collection


 

El oso de Madrid destrozara al fascismo

[The bear of Madrid will destroy fascism]. Junta Delegada de Defensa de Madrid, Delegación de Propaganda y Prensa.. Sindicato Profesionales Bellas Artes, U.G.T. "Helios" Artes Gráficas, Duque de Sexto 32. Madrid U.G.T. Lithograph, 2 colors; 100 x 70 cm.

On September 18, 1936, generals Francisco Franco and Emilio Mola announced what they hoped would be the triumphant culmination of the military insurrection that they headed. The two generals planned to capture Spain's capital city of Madrid on October 12, 1936. When this date came and went without the predicted invasion, a handful of confident madrileños celebrated by placing a fully set table and chairs on the Gran Vía, the main avenue in Madrid, with a placecard that read "Reserved for General Mola." Although Franco's forces did not achieve their October goal, they quickly set about organizing a new offensive for November 7. Certain that taking the capital would be an easy task, the rebels sent out newspaper stories about the fall of Madrid to foreign correspondents, leaving only a few blanks for minor details. In their mind, the victory was already won. As this poster suggests, the many Spaniards who organized the defense of the capital against the rebel invasion hoped that the struggle to save Madrid would not only signal the end of Franco's rebellion but would also be the decisive moment in the defeat of Fascism. Huge streamers hanging across the Gran Vía announced that Madrid would be the "tomb of Fascism." As the poster's caption indicates, the large brown bear represents the city of Madrid, a common reference for Spaniards since the bear had been the emblem of the city since 1248. Thus, the bear's rending of the swastika represents the destruction of Fascism at the hands of Madrid. This poster, part of the effort of the Junta Delegada de Defensa de Madrid to maintain continued support for the defense of the capital, was published between November 31, 1936 and April 21, 1937, the dates of the Junta's existence.

In the end, the inhabitants of Madrid could not prevent the devastation of their city or defeat Fascism; but their defense of the capital was more successful than anyone had anticipated. In fact, the government of the Republic was so concerned about the fall of the city that on the eve of the attack, it packed up and fled to Valencia. Before Francisco Largo Caballero, the acting Prime Minister, left Madrid, he met with General José Miaja and put him in charge of the city's defense. In the wee hours of the night, Miaja scraped together the few government officials who were left, combed the streets for volunteers, and quickly put together a defensive strategy. Male and female volunteers of all ages helped to build crude fortifications and dig trenches to prepare the city for the fight. Communist speaker Dolores Ibárruri pronounced her famous slogan, "¡No pasarán!" (They will not pass!), and groups of women marched through the streets chanting, "'Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, siete,/ Todos los hombres al frente'" (One, two, three, four, seven,/ All men to the front). Through the combined efforts of the newly formed communist Fifth Regiment, the more than 2000 members of the Eleventh International Brigade who arrived on the morning of November 8, Soviet strategists, and the numerous madrileños who heeded Miaja's call for support, enabled Madrid to hold out against rebel troops for almost three years. Franco's troops finally marched into the city on March 28, 1939, just four days before the end of the war. Although in some sense the strenuous effort to keep Franco out of Madrid was in vain-after all, Franco was victorious in the end-the response of the poet Antonio Machado to the question of whether Madrid would win alludes to the everlasting significance of the struggle: "Will Madrid triumph? It has already won a thousand times, that is to say a thousand times it has earned it."

 
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