Patent-Leather Warriors

They have skulls of lead

Therefore they never weep

With souls of patent leather

They come along the road . . .

When García Lorca wrote The Ballad of the Spanish Civil Guard in 1924, twelve years before he was murdered by Franco sympathizers at the beginning of the Civil War, the paramilitary Guardia Civil was already a widely feared institution in Spain. Since its formation in 1844 during the Bourbon monarchy, the corps had been the efficient internal security force of the central government in Madrid. Under Franco, it became part of the dictatorship's apparatus of repression. For many Spaniards, the...

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