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Who is Emilia Pardo Bazan? The feminist novelist who lived in Pazo de Meirás before the Franco family

Publication: Thursday, December 10, 2020 4:11 PM

This Thursday, December 10, the Franco family will have to hand over the keys of the Pazo de Meirás to the State. The dictator’s family has owned the estate for 82 years. However, the way they were made with it has been labeled as illegal on several occasions.

After years of disputes between the Franks and the state, the farm will become state property, although provisionally pending a final judgment. Faced with this controversial situation, doubts have been expressed about the origin of this pazo, located in Sada, 18 kilometers from La Coruña.

The Pazo de Meirás dates back to 1870, when Emilia Pardo Bazán commissioned its construction. It turns out that, paradoxically, the dictator’s seaside resort was previously the home of an “extraordinarily feminist” writer, as defined by historian Isabel Burdiel, professor of contemporary history at the University of Valencia, in statements collected by Efe on February 27, 2019.

Pardo Bazán “was a Carlist when he was young, and has always had a special relationship with the anti-liberal world”, explains the expert. However, in some respects she was totally “abnormal in her social class and ideological environment”. Burdiel points out that the writer fought for the sentimental education of women to change and go beyond the fact that they must be limited to being mothers. For the expert in history, Pardo Bazán was a “loose link, in the lineage of Virginia Woolf and Simone de Beauvoir”.

Pardo Bazán: daughter of counts and passionate about literature

Her full name was Emilia Pardo-Bazán y de la Rúa-Figueroa. As their name reveals, the writer was the daughter of some counts. For this he received a good education. Thanks to her teachers and her father, José Pardo Bazán y Mosquera, Pardo-Bazán chose literature and writing since she was little, passions that led her to write her first stories when she was only nine years old, according to the Miguel Virtual Library. by Cervantes. His first novel, “Dangerous Hobbies”, he wrote at the age of thirteen.

In addition to novels, Pardo-Bazán also wrote short stories, travel books, dramatic works, poetic compositions and numerous journalistic collaborations. Through her work, she revealed her beliefs, convictions that the author already expressed when she was just a child: she refused to study what her gender required, such as music and home economics. Instead, Pardo-Bazán opted for languages, literature, history and philosophy, according to the Miguel de Cervantes Library website.

In this way, the writer managed to become “the best Spanish novelist of the 19th century and one of the most remarkable writers in our literary history”, according to the aforementioned website.

An author in a man’s world

In addition to reflecting in his writings his ideals that women could occupy the same place in society as men, the author has defended his position throughout his personal and professional career.

At the age of sixteen, the novelist married a law student four years older than her, José Quiroga. Despite her husband’s insistence that she give up literature, Emilia Pardo Bazán decided to devote herself to it professionally, a task that was not easy for her. The author had to face a long list of insults from the great academics of the language of her time and also several refusals: she was refused an armchair three times at the Royal Spanish Academy.

Despite this, Pardo Bazán continued to devote himself to what he did best: to write and, through his words, to try to change and denounce the reality of the moment. The writer has spoken out on controversial issues such as divorce, which she also had to contend with at 40, violence against women or same-sex marriages.

Thanks to her efforts, she succeeded in obtaining public recognition from Alfonso XIII, who in 1910 appointed his adviser to public education. Five years later, she became the first woman to chair the literature section of the Athenaeum of Madrid, as well as the first woman to hold a chair of literature at the Central University of Madrid.

El Pazo de Meirás: from the writer to the Franco family

After having devoted sixty years of life to literature, Pardo Bazán died on May 12, 1921 from a complication of diabetes from which he suffered, according to the Miguel de Cervantes virtual library. After her death, the pazo, which she herself built in 1893, passed into Frankish hands during the Civil War.

It was in 1938, in the middle of the conflict, that the “Junta pro Pazo del Caudillo” was created, made up of the civil governor and several mayors of La Coruña. The objective was to raise funds to buy the pazo from the heirs of Pardo Bazán and give it to Franco. This meeting forced the inhabitants of the area to put money for this purpose, “whether they are rich or poor,” some told the investigative team.

Otherwise, “they would send you to the secret office, grab you and beat you,” they explained. In this way, up to 93 municipalities contributed money for the purchase of the Pazo de Meirás. The city council that donated the most was A Coruña, which paid some 25,000 pesetas, as the city’s mayor, Inés Rey, explained to the research team.

In addition to not paying for the purchase of the farm, the Francos did not bring money to maintain the pazo. Although being the dictator’s summer residence and enjoying all the benefits, the daily expenses of the farm were borne by the state. This was confirmed by Fernando Souto, president of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory, at Sexta.com. According to the expert, the public funds also financed “the expansion of the baths, the fitting out of the chapel” or “the facade of the towers of Meirás”.

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