Carabanchel Prison

Today, we met with Carmen Ortiz, an expert on Carabanchel prison. This prison, built in 1940, was made to house nearly 2 thousand Republican prisoners. Shaped like an eight-pronged star with a cupola in the center, Carabanchel’s architecture was supposed to make the prisoners feel like they were being watched at all times. And under the reign of Francisco Franco, they were. Many prisoners were killed here, young and old alike.After it stopped being in use, the people of the surrounding neighborhood took a great interest in the prison. They covered it with graffiti, like a rendition of Picasso’s Guernica, and went inside to look around. It was an important part of the neightborhood because the prison was an important part of the people’s history. Many of them had family in Carabanchel, or could see the goings-on in the prison yard from the street. Their attachment to this prison was so great that the government had to tear it down in the middle of the night so no one could protest.Now, all that remains of Carabanchel is an empty lot. Kids of the neighborhood play sports in the space, and the people walk by and remember what it looked like that what it stood for. The government is trying to come up with a plan for what to do with the lot. Something to commemorate the prison and the prisoners that suffered there has to be built. Some ideas are that it should be a cultural space for the inhabitants of the zone, some say it should be a hospital. For right now, however, it remains an empty lot to the eye, but in the minds of the people, it is filled with the memory of those oppressed by the reign of Francisco Frano.


2 responses to “Carabanchel Prison”

  1. calesser says:

    I was extremely struck by the inclusion of Picasso´s Guernica in the graffiti that once encompassed Carabanchel. While Guernica is undoubtedly, as I have mentioned before, a symbol of the tragedies of war and such a symbol deserves to describe the story of Carabanchel, its mark upon the brick wall of the abandoned prison represents a sort of hybrid in terms of exhibitions, where on one hand it is the iconic, canonical image of war, but on the other hand it is presented in an non-iconic manner in that it is there to send a message beyond the traditiobal canon through its medium (graffiti), its location (site of former prison) and the accompanying words and additional graffiti distinguishing it from Picasso´s masterpiece.

  2. nphoba says:

    When you mentioned that they had to tear down Carabanchel prison in the night, I remembered all the examples of Franco’s orders/will being carried out by night. In the book that tells the story of the 13 rosas rojas, Carlos Fonseca writes often of the prison guards coming in the middle of the night to call out names of prisoners and take them to be executed. Also, we spoke again today with Marcos Burgos, son of an executed Republican captain; one of the documents he showed us said that his father was taken and executed at 3:45am. I’m not sure of the precise motives of Franco and his men for carrying such things out at night, but I believe part of it was to inspire fear. You mentioned in your post that people were so attached to the prison, resulting in its destruction by night, which might have been a subtle way to make people fear things being taken away from them in the night and without warning.