Spanish civil war exile Judith Gomez talks to EFE at her home in Bogota. EFE/Carlos Ortega

Civil war exile casts vote in Spanish election from Colombia

By Irene Escudero

Spanish civil war exile Judith Gomez talks to EFE at her home in Bogota. EFE/Carlos Ortega

Bogota, July 19 (EFE).- Judith Gomez, daughter of a member of the the Spanish republican government toppled in 1939, says she doesn’t talk politics during visits to Spain because she doesn’t like to argue. But she freely acknowledges her unhappiness over the possibility the July 23 general elections will lead to a government in Madrid that included the far right.

Civil war exile Judith Gomez casts her vote in Spain's general election at the Spanish Consulate in Bogota on 17 July 2023. EFE/Carlos Ortega

“A government of Goths? No, no,” she says, using the Colombian slang word for right-wingers.

“I call the fascists Goths,” 95-year-old Judith adds with a smile during visit to the Spanish Consulate in Bogota to cast her vote for the governing Socialist Workers Party of Spain (PSOE).

Her father, Paulino Gomez, served in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Juan Negrin, whose government fell in 1939 to rebel forces led by Gen. Francisco Franco.

Like tens of thousands of children, Judith and her brothers – Paulino and Eduardo – were sent abroad during the 1936-1939 civil war.

After a sojourn in the United Kingdom, they were re-united with their mother in France and the family left for the Americas, stopping first in Mexico and eventually settling in Colombia, which was not especially welcoming to republican exiles.

While the country’s mainly conservative political class feared admitting people they saw as communists, the 1938-1942 administration of President Eduardo Santos granted asylum to hundreds of Spaniards, Judith says.

Judith, who lives in a building designed by architect brother Paulino in Bogota’s Teusaquillo neighborhood, proclaims herself proud to be Colombian and says that she never returned to Spain because by the time of Franco’s death in 1975, she had already built a life here.

Thanks to her command of French, she was able to get a job with the Swiss trade office in Bogota.

And most of her free time has been devoted to efforts on behalf of the Spanish community in Colombia, such as establishing a foundation to aid expats who don’t have health insurance.

Nearly a half-century after the death of Franco, Vox, a party that shares some of the values of the 1939-1975 dictatorship, may become the junior partner in a government led by the center-right Popular Party.

The PP is expected to garner the most votes of any single party on Sunday, but could fall short of winning a working majority in parliament and be forced to ally with Vox to form a government.

Gomez, however, remains optimistic.

“I believe that they (the right) have civilized themselves a little, they are no longer so … so much like they were,” she says, suggesting that Spain’s integration in Europe will also have a moderating effect on Vox if they enter the national government.

Judith also confesses to be tired of fighting.

“One cannot live fighting with compatriots over a political question from 30 years ago,” she says, raising a glass of wine. “One must be free to vote.” EFE