My friend Megan has recently come back from a holiday in Spain, and while she was there she sent me a postcard of two quirky looking women wandering along a street – from a photo originally taken quite a few years ago. The story of the women is quite something. They were sisters who used to get dressed up in bright and eccentric clothes and walk in the university area flirting with the students every afternoon at 2 o’clock (hence they are known as the 2 at 2). At the time Spain was ruled by a fascist dictator, and most women dressed very soberly in black.
Apparently the sisters, also called The Two Marias (their real names were Maruxa and Coralia Fandino), were persecuted because of the political activity of their family. Their brothers belonged to a group that had opposed the regime and when they went into hiding the girls were harassed in order to get them to reveal information about them. Eventually the men were discovered and the harrassment eased but from the 1940’s the women started dressing up and walking through the town each day perhaps as a form of resistance and protest, but at the same time providing a daily dose of fun, encouragement and entertainment. They continued the daily ritual till the first one died in 1980 and her sister decided not to continue without her. Statues of both sisters have been erected in the city (see the photos below).
Megan didn’t know the story when she first saw the figures of the women in the park in Santiago. She and her friends took photos of each other with the statues, and generally thought nothing much about it, until a Spanish woman came up to them and talked to them very seriously, telling them off almost. Megan and her friends didn’t speak Spanish so couldn’t understand what the woman was really saying, except that she didn’t want them to laugh at the statues, or to belittle them. This led Megan to finding out what their story was all about. One man she spoke to said he remembered them as a little boy, and had found them a bit scary!
They obviously became famous in Santiago – they were characters who meant a lot to people – and it is easy to be moved by their persistence and their spirited challenge to the dourness of the society around them and the political repression of the time. All they did was walk about in bright clothes, but they made a big difference, and they remind me that small gestures of resistance and protest can have a lasting impact.