"The Baby Bottle Conscription" - Stories from the Spanish Civil War
While there were many historical advancements made in the year 1920, this year is viewed as cursed for those who were part of the “Lleva del Biberó.” “Lleva del Biberó” directly translates to the “Baby Bottle Conscription,” and the phrase refers to 27,000 soldiers born in 1920 who were conscripted into the Spanish Civil War in 1938 (Minder, 2020). At the time of conscription, these soldiers were only 17 to 18 years old, yet they were forced to fight in the war’s deadliest and most brutal battles and face almost certain death.
The Spanish Civil War lasted from 1936 to 1939, with the Republican Army’s defeat securing power for General Francisco Franco. Under Franco’s dictatorship, which would last until his death in 1975, civilians faced dire oppression and over 450,000 fled the country as refugees (Terol, 2017). Those who had just fought for the Republican Army were then conscripted into Franco’s military, facing abuse and humiliation (Minder, 2020). The traumas endured by the Baby Bottled Conscription lasted for decades, and there are calls for the Spanish government to make public reparations today (Minder, 2020).
Andreu Canet, one of the few survivors from the “Baby Bottle Conscription,” celebrates his 100th birthday this year. For Canet, who makes an annual pilgrimage to a peace monument built near the site of the Battle of Ebro, this year has been especially difficult as it was the first time in 30 years that he was the only visitor on the day of commemoration (Minder, 2020). Other survivors, such as 97 year-old Miquel Morera, fear that the oppression under Franco’s ruthless rule may one day be forgotten, lamenting “I have met students who don’t even know who Franco was” (Terol, 2017).
It is important to remember history, to honor the memories of those who paved the way for future generations and to actively learn from mistakes in the past. Both Canet and Morera try to bridge the gap between generations, by giving interviews and visiting schools to teach children about their experiences. Now, it is time for future generations to carry their legacies and preserve the memories of these brave survivors.
Minder, Raphael. 2020. “Turning 100, a Former Spanish Soldier Laments the Curse of His Birth Year.” New York Times, October 24, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/24/world/europe/spain-civil-war-baby-bottlers.html?searchResultPosition=6.
Terol, Alan Ruiz. 2017. “‘Some students don’t even know who Franco was’ says 97-year-old Civil War veteran.” Catalan News, July 20, 2017.