Title: Breaking the Silence
Author: Maria Nieto
Genre: Historical Thriller
On a sweltering summer day, the streets of Old Madrid that once resonated with the laughter of children playing are empty and silent. But inside the apartment buildings there is life as families faithfully wait for updates about an army uprising in Spanish Morocco. Before long, their greatest fears come true. As rebel troops storm Madrid and chaos fills the streets, six-year-old Mari wonders why she cannot go outside to play. Unfortunately, she has no idea she is about to be trapped inside the abyss of what is rapidly becoming a ruthless civil war. Already emotionally wounded by the absence of her mother, Mari attempts to go about her fear-filled days living with her father’s family, which includes a grandfather who lovingly teaches her about the history leading up to the conflict. As she embarks on a coming-of-age journey submerged in the darkness of war, Mari somehow stays alive despite the decisions of an intimidating, ruthless dictator, starvation, and brainwashing by the new Fascist regime. But when circumstances lead her to inadvertently commit the ultimate betrayal, Mari must face the horrifying consequences of her actions. Breaking the Silence shares the compelling tale of a little girl’s experiences as she attempts to survive amid the horror and death surrounding the Spanish Civil War.
There is not much known about Spain during Francisco Franco’s dictatorship from 1939 to 1975. Tourists began to travel to Spain after the end of the Second World War and experienced well-dressed people walking the streets, sidewalk cafes filled with tourists laughing and talking as they enjoyed good food and good wine. Spaniards were reserved but friendly and looked content. What the tourists did not know was that Spaniards in the cities HAD to dress well. Men were made to wear full suits with tie and jackets, women had to wear skirts and dresses or blouses with sleeves to the elbow. What tourists did not know as they ate tapas and tasted wine was that thousands of Spaniards were being tortured and executed in Spain’s prisons every day. What tourists did not know what that Spanish children were being brainwashed every moment of every day in schools and churches to listen at home for any talk against Franco, and report this to the police. What tourists did not know was that at the end of the war pregnant women had been executed in prisons before giving birth because the state could not wait nine months for the executions of the mother. What tourist did not know was that most poor Spaniards were starving, afraid of being carried to prison and tortured and executed for the least suspicion that they may still hold ideas of a democratic government. The story goes on forever. After the war, a Franco appointed king simulated a democracy with a constitutional monarchy. A law was passed demanding silence of any of the events during Franco’s dictatorship. Franco’s criminals who had killed, raped, and tortured thousands and thousands of Spaniards were never charged for their crimes. The people of Spain were not allowed to remember, speak or share any of the tragic events that happened to them, or to their families or friends during the tragic years of Franco’s dictatorship. This law was supposedly imposed to prevent any further bloodshed in the country.
My book, Breaking the Silence, attempts to do just that: break the silence of what happened in Spain during the Civil War, and what happened after the war. It is narrated in story form from the emotional point of view of a six year old child, and using fictional characters. It is the story of a small girl with emotional problems caused by an absent mother, and living through the horrors of the everyday war as she watches friends torn apart and decapitated by bombs and enemy fire. It is the story of a little girl after the Civil War, brainwashed by Franco’s psychological techniques making her commit an unpardonable act. An act for which she must pay.
The author spent her childhood in Spain during the Spanish Civil War and the post war years that followed the war under a brutal dictatorship. As an adult, and after four years in the US Navy, Maria graduated from Temple University in Philadelphia with degrees in nursing and nursing education followed by graduate and post graduate degrees in mental health education and counseling psychology. After teaching psychiatric nursing in Philadelphia, the author moved to New Mexico where she worked in mental health services for the Indian Health Service, and later worked for the University of New Mexico in the department of Emergency Psychiatry. Now retired, Maria still lives in New Mexico with her horse.