Teresa Pla Meseguer, Part II

A group of policemen (called Civil Guards) stopped Teresa once and forced her to strip naked. They had heard that her genitals were “weird” and wanted to see for themselves. It is needless to say that Teresa was traumatized by this horrible violation. She had been trying so hard to fit into what a woman was supposed to be like. She had even bought a red dress, curled her hair, and started attending dancing fetes. And now, she was forced to undress and reveal her body to drunken Civil Guards.

Teresa

This was when Teresa decided to stop pretending. She joined the Republican guerrilla fighters and started living her life as a man, Florencio. The guerrilla fighters were more open-minded than the villagers. They easily accepted Florencio as a man and never questioned his identity. They helped him to achieve his greatest dream, which was learning to read.

Unfortunately, the Republican guerrilla movement was administered by the Soviets. Stalin was the person who decided what they were supposed to do, when, and how. For Stalin, purges were an integral part of ruling the Communist allies all over the world. Florencio’s closest friend among the guerrilla fighters, Francisco, was accused by a Stalin’s emissary of treason. Francisco decided to escape in order to avoid being killed by his own comrades. As a good friend, Florencio joined him and the two men formed a rogue guerrilla unit.

Florencio and Francisco survived for a while in the forest until Francisco was killed. After that, Florencio remained hiding in the forest on his own. He knew the terrain so well that he managed to avoid capture for years.

At that time, the Republican guerrilleros had already withdrawn from Spain on Stalin’s orders. Florencio was left completely alone. The Civil Guards hunted him and the newspapers published articles describing Florencio as “a wild beast,” “a woman with entrails of stone” (yes, they were shitty writers, what can I say?), “a blood-thirsty hyena”, etc. The authorities were especially bothered by rumors that Florencio was living his life as a man. This gender-switching made him even more suspect in their eyes.

In 1960, Florencio was captured by the Civil Guards. He was given the capital penalty for 29 murders that were erroneously attributed to him. Florencio, however, always denied killing anybody and the authorities never managed to prove that he was guilty of murder.

At first, the authorities tried to place Florencio in a women’s jail. They dressed him in a mini-skirt and a blouse that was so tight he could barely breathe. Florencio was a man, however, and nobody could pretend he wasn’t. In the first part of the post, you have a photo of how Florencio looked right after he was captured. It soon became obvious that keeping him in a jail for female prisoners would not do.

A group of military doctors studied Florencio for a while and arrived at a unanimous conclusion that he was a man. From then on, he was placed in a men’s jail and his gender was never again disputed.

In 1977, Florencio was released from jail. In 1980, he finally managed to get the authorities to recognize him legally as a man. Florencio Pla Meseguer died in 2004 at the age of 87. He had survived the dictator Francisco Franco by 29 years and had witnessed Spain’s transition to democracy.

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Sources:

If you don’t read in Spanish, there are no good sources for this information. At least, not until my article is finished and comes out. 🙂

If you do read in Spanish, I recommend the following books:

Calvo Segarra, José. La Pastora. Del monte al mito. Vinarós: Antinea, 2009.

Giménez Bartlett, Alicia. Donde nadie te encuentre. Barcelona: Destino, 2011.

And Now Let Me Bore You With My Research: Teresa Pla Meseguer, Part I

I never do this, folks, so I think I can be excused for discussing my research just this once. Especially because you will not find this information on English-language websites and I think it’s fascinating.

Florencio, 1960

Teresa Pla Meseguer was born in a small village of Vallibona in Spain in 1917. Today, we would call Teresa intersex because her gender could not be determined at birth. In her tiny village of shepherds and poor farmers, however, nobody knew this word. Teresa’s parents registered her as a woman because being female would have allowed her to avoid being drafted into the army.

Teresa never performed femininity very convincingly, though. People ridiculed her and taunted her for looking like a guy and her elder sisters beat her mercilessly. Teresa grew up to be very tall and strong, which made people afraid of laughing at her in her face. When the Civil War started in 1936, Teresa didn’t join either of the warring sides. She was considered a woman, which gave her the right to stay in Vallibona. She could do hard physical labor as well as a man and men were scarce. This allowed Teresa to make good money and even start saving.

As we all know, the progressive Republican forces lost the Civil War in Spain. The fascists, led by the General Francisco Franco (or, as I refer to him in my lectures, vile cockroach*), won. The defeated Republican forces withdrew to France. The Republicans** fought heroically against Hitler in Europe because they believed that once the Nazis were defeated, the Allies would proceed to remove Franco and his fascists from power.

This never happened. The Allies allowed the fascist dictatorship of Franco to remain in power until 1975.

The Republican fighters decided to take matters into their own hands. They organized guerrilla units, crossed the border between France and Spain, and started engaging in subversive activities against the regime. Teresa was one of the many people in the area who helped the guerrilla  fighters by providing them with food and helping them pass messages to their families.

One day, however, a really horrible thing happened to Teresa.

[To be continued. . .]

* And I always follow this with a disclaimer that the students should feel free to form a different opinion about Franco but that this is a subject where it makes me feel better to say that he is a vile cockroach.

** These, of course, are very different from the American Republicans. The Spanish Republicans were people who defended the democratically elected legitimate government of the 2nd Republic against the military uprising of fascists between 1936-9.