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The baby rattle found next to the body of a woman killed in the Spanish Civil War.
The baby rattle found next to the body of a woman killed in the Spanish Civil War.

The baby rattle that survived the Spanish Civil War

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Catalina Muñoz took the toy with her to her execution in 1936. Now, 83 years after her death, we know the full story

  • The remains of Catalina Muñoz Arranz and the baby rattle were found in La Carcavilla park in Palencia in 2011. The pink, flower-shaped toy was next to the body, which was sprayed with quicklime and buried without a coffin.
    1The remains of Catalina Muñoz Arranz and the baby rattle were found in La Carcavilla park in Palencia in 2011. The pink, flower-shaped toy was next to the body, which was sprayed with quicklime and buried without a coffin.
  • The toy and the story behind it also helped a family learn new facts about events that had been buried for decades. Records from Palencia’s old cemetery showed that the body was that of Catalina Muñoz Arranz, a 37-year-old woman from Cevico de la Torre, a village located 30 kilometers from the provincial capital. She had four children when she was killed. The youngest, Martín de la Torre Muñoz, was nine months old, and he was probably the owner of the rattle. In this photo, Martín sits in the living room of his home in Cevico de la Torre, Palencia.
    2The toy and the story behind it also helped a family learn new facts about events that had been buried for decades. Records from Palencia’s old cemetery showed that the body was that of Catalina Muñoz Arranz, a 37-year-old woman from Cevico de la Torre, a village located 30 kilometers from the provincial capital. She had four children when she was killed. The youngest, Martín de la Torre Muñoz, was nine months old, and he was probably the owner of the rattle. In this photo, Martín sits in the living room of his home in Cevico de la Torre, Palencia.
  • That baby is now an 83-year-old man who lives in a humble home on the main street in Cevico de la Torre, which has a population of around 400. He does not say much, stares straight ahead, and his hands are thick from a lifetime of manual labor that began at age eight. In this photo, Martín de la Torre Muñoz is in the doorway of his house, next to his daughter, Martina de la Torre Atienza, who is kissing him, and his wife, Francisca Atienza Ocasar.
    3That baby is now an 83-year-old man who lives in a humble home on the main street in Cevico de la Torre, which has a population of around 400. He does not say much, stares straight ahead, and his hands are thick from a lifetime of manual labor that began at age eight. In this photo, Martín de la Torre Muñoz is in the doorway of his house, next to his daughter, Martina de la Torre Atienza, who is kissing him, and his wife, Francisca Atienza Ocasar.
  • The tombstone of Catalina Muñoz Arranz in the local cemetery in Palencia. She died on September 22 “at 5.30pm [...] from injuries caused by a small-caliber firearm to her skull and chest,” the records read. This description fits neatly with the bone analysis conducted in 2011 by the anthropologists who disinterred the body.
    4The tombstone of Catalina Muñoz Arranz in the local cemetery in Palencia. She died on September 22 “at 5.30pm [...] from injuries caused by a small-caliber firearm to her skull and chest,” the records read. This description fits neatly with the bone analysis conducted in 2011 by the anthropologists who disinterred the body.
  • Lucía de la Torre Muñoz, 94, recounts what she remembers about the arrest and execution of her mother, Catalina Muñoz Arranz, the only woman who was tried and sentenced to death by court-martial in Palencia. Catalina did not know how to read or write, according to the records of the trial, which are kept at the military archives in Ferrol. But she could sign her name. Her file describes her as a woman standing 1.51 meters tall, with dark eyes and hair, and nicknamed “Pitilina.”
    5Lucía de la Torre Muñoz, 94, recounts what she remembers about the arrest and execution of her mother, Catalina Muñoz Arranz, the only woman who was tried and sentenced to death by court-martial in Palencia. Catalina did not know how to read or write, according to the records of the trial, which are kept at the military archives in Ferrol. But she could sign her name. Her file describes her as a woman standing 1.51 meters tall, with dark eyes and hair, and nicknamed “Pitilina.”
  • Francisca Atienza Ocasar holds an envelope containing the paperwork from the burial of her father-in-law, Tomás de la Torre. When Martín’s father was released from prison, he went to work in Bilbao. Many years later, once he had retired, he returned to Cevico and lived the last eight years of his life there. They never spoke about what happened during the Civil War, and Martín never asked him about his mother to avoid bringing up painful memories.
    6Francisca Atienza Ocasar holds an envelope containing the paperwork from the burial of her father-in-law, Tomás de la Torre. When Martín’s father was released from prison, he went to work in Bilbao. Many years later, once he had retired, he returned to Cevico and lived the last eight years of his life there. They never spoke about what happened during the Civil War, and Martín never asked him about his mother to avoid bringing up painful memories.
  • Martín did not even know that his mother had been buried alone in Palencia, and only recently saw a photograph of the toy that she took to the grave. Since nobody showed up to claim the body or her belongings, when the new cemetery was built in Palencia her remains were transferred there along with other victims of repression. This photo shows the entrance sign to a Cevico de la Torre, in Palencia.
    7Martín did not even know that his mother had been buried alone in Palencia, and only recently saw a photograph of the toy that she took to the grave. Since nobody showed up to claim the body or her belongings, when the new cemetery was built in Palencia her remains were transferred there along with other victims of repression. This photo shows the entrance sign to a Cevico de la Torre, in Palencia.
  • Martín’s rattle, which was found next to the body of his mother. The toy was handed over to Fermín Leizaola, an ethnographer, who cut off a section of the toy and brought it close to a flame. The fragment quickly caught fire, leaving behind “a characteristic smell of camphor.” This proved that it was made of celluloid, a plastic developed in 1870 and widely used in everyday objects until the 1970s. The toy could indeed date back to the Civil War.
    8Martín’s rattle, which was found next to the body of his mother. The toy was handed over to Fermín Leizaola, an ethnographer, who cut off a section of the toy and brought it close to a flame. The fragment quickly caught fire, leaving behind “a characteristic smell of camphor.” This proved that it was made of celluloid, a plastic developed in 1870 and widely used in everyday objects until the 1970s. The toy could indeed date back to the Civil War.
  • After learning about the story of the rattle, Martín’s daughter Martina began the paperwork to recover Catalina’s body as well as the toy, which was returned to the hands of her father 83 years later. In this image, sheep cross Pedro Monedero street in Cevico de la Torre, Palencia.
    9After learning about the story of the rattle, Martín’s daughter Martina began the paperwork to recover Catalina’s body as well as the toy, which was returned to the hands of her father 83 years later. In this image, sheep cross Pedro Monedero street in Cevico de la Torre, Palencia.