|Me with Coralia and Maruxa in 2002|
In 2002, I had the opportunity to visit Santiago de Compostela. It was only for one day and then we continued on to A Coruña. While I was here with some friends from school, we were able to visit the Cathedral, wander around the city and explore what I have since learned is the Alameda. The first thing that I noticed upon entering the park was a statue of two short older women. I had absolutely no idea who they were (as you can tell from the expression on my face!) but I had to take a picture with them anyway.
Flash forward 10 years and here I am again in Santiago. I still didn’t know who these women were, or if they were even anybody in particular. Until one day, early on in my visit here, I happened to pass by a small shop and see a photo of two women who looked very familiar. It was a picture of the women themselves, the Two Marias.
|Me with As duas Marias in 2012|
I started to investigate a little bit online but I kept coming up with conflicting information. All sources accurately stated that these two women were sisters who came from a large but poor family in Santiago. However some stated that the older of the sisters, Maruxa, was the first to die, while others said that Coralia passed away earlier than her sister. Many sources stated that there were only a few months between the deaths of the two women. There was also the question of why they were referred to as the Two Marias if neither of them was named Maria.
|An actual photo of Coralia and Maruxa|
I needed some reliable sources. I asked my instructor if she knew of anything in particular and she pointed me to the University library where I was able to look through a book of commemorative essays and poems on the two women. There was also a short biographical section which cleared up many of the date problems I had encountered online. Maruxa, born María Fandiño Ricart (Jan 4, 1898 – May 13, 1980), was the fourth born of 13 children while Coralia, whose full name was María Argentina Coralia Fandiño Ricart (Aug 24, 1914 – Jan 30, 1983), was the twelfth born. So, it turns out that there was a 3 YEAR difference in their deaths and that, in fact, both of the women did carry the name María.
However, they were not always referred to as the Two Marías. In fact at one point there were three of them since they were accompanied by another sister early on. “As duas Marías” is a name that came later on. They were more commonly called “As duas en punto” because they were known to have walked through the Alameda at exactly two o’clock each afternoon, rain or shine (although many of the essays mentioned that it wasn’t necessarily “en punto”). They came through in extravagant clothing that they had made themselves (they had been seamstresses by trade) and were said to have flirted with many of the male college students in the park.
Most of their personal history is unknown as they were not known or is unproven. It is known that their family did struggle during the Spanish Civil War and that they had at least one brother who was active in the fight against Franco and who supported the Second Republic. This is said to have caused many problems for the family and it is suggested that Maruxa and Coralia, and perhaps some of their other family members were tortured for information on his whereabouts.
Some saw (and perhaps still see) their walk through the Alameda as a sign of protest against this torture and a display of how they would continue to live, while others saw them simply as a couple of crazy women who enjoyed flirting with the young college men. Whatever they represent, they are without a doubt, symbols of Santiago who will not be forgotten thanks to the fantastic statue located at the entrance to the Alameda and the people who continue to commemorate them.
Today for example, I was privileged to attend a tribute to these two incredible women. It took place at the site of the statue at two o’clock sharp, and was led off with a reading in their honor, followed by the placing of red and purple flowers alongside the plaque which mentions who they are, and finished with the singing of three songs (“Verde ghaio,” “Xente da festa,” and “As nosas cores”) lead by Uxía Senlle and Sonia Lebedynski, two local Galega folk singers.
As you can see from the pictures the clothing on these women has been repainted over the years, in part due to graffiti, but also, I think, as a way to honor the memory of two women who were known to wear bright colors each and every day.
If you are interested, the book that I used for my information was called "As Marias: Maruxa e Coralia Fandiño," It is in both Galego and Castellano/Spanish. I hope to be able to find out more about these incredible women, but as it seems their life and personal history outside of their daily walks is largely unknown.