The Tale of the Two Marias
The Two Marias were two sisters who lived in Santiago de Compostela and became famous in the 1950s and 1960s. They became famous for strolling together every day dressed in an eccentric way and provoking students in their own exquisite way.
The sisters, Maruxa and Coralia, are immortalized in a sculpture in the Alameda Park in Santiago de Compostela.
They became popular characters in the city due to the strolls they took every day at two in the afternoon, when most students went to lunch and, therefore, when there was more movement in the streets of downtown Santiago.
The Two Marias: The humble life of a hard-working family
Maruxa, Coralia, Sarita, Manuel, Alfonso, and Antonio were part of a large family composed of thirteen brothers. Their parents, Arturo Fandiño and Consuelo Ricart, were a couple of artisans. To be a craft worker was a common trade in that Santiago de Compostela at the beginning of the 20th century. The sisters were part of a liberal-thinking family.
Arturo was a cobbler, with a workshop in Algalia de Arriba, nº 32. Consuelo, the mother seamstress, and embroiderer had a workshop in her own house, on the street of the Holy Spirit, a profession that her daughters learn to work together.
Their youth was nourished by the climate of animation and hoped that was lived in Santiago. When the Fandiño sisters went out for a walk dressed in homemade clothes, with colorful fabrics, cheerful and lively like them, the Galician and Republican students they called “liberty, equality and fraternity” and the right-wing students of the CEDA, “faith, hope, and charity.”
To their misfortune, some of their brothers were anarchists that fought in the Spanish civil war against Franco’s army. Their brothers Manuel, Antonio, and Alfonso were prominent activists and leaders of the CNT. That was an organization that in 1925 moved its regional headquarters to Santiago. Manuel Fandiño, by trade as a painter, and also was the general secretary.
Persecution and Nightmares of the Two Marias
But this revolutionary dream died in blood on July 18, 1936. Franco’s military uprising and fierce repression reached the Fandiño Ricart family. The sisters’ nightmare began when the Falangists (Franco’s supporters) started using the family to find out the whereabouts of the anarchist brothers.
In the middle of the night, the Social-Political Brigade went to their house, undressing the sisters on the public road to humiliate and torture them.
The Sisters were called “red.” They were called “whores”.
The mortal and inquisitive triangle that was formed by the Falangists, the Church, and Army in the triumphant Francoism after the war. Together they shattered their fragility, and their lives broke like glass.
Work disappeared as a means of sustenance and dignity, and hunger was present daily in their lives from then on. This destroyed their mental health.
Coralia and Maruxa became popular by the nickname ‘As dúas en punto’ (2 o’clock’). As that was the time they chose to go for their daily stroll around the Old Town and Alameda Park.
Their particular fashion sense, always wearing eclectic clothes and loud makeup was very unusual in the grey years of the dictatorship. It certainly made them stand out from the crowd.
They continued living on Rúa do Medio, in that Compostela of the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s, where there was only darkness, fear, and silence, a lot of silence.
The Sisters: The Silent symbol of Grace under fire
Over the years, the story of the two Fandiño sisters fell into oblivion. But the neighbor César Lombera managed to convince the then-mayor, Xerardo Estévez. In 1994, after nine years proposing to the City Council, to install a sculpture in their memory.
Conceived by César Lombera himself, the work consisted of realistic and polychrome reproduction of the two women during their famous walks.
It was based on the best-known photo of the two sisters, with Maruxa on the right, with her arm outstretched, and Coralia holding an umbrella.
Coralia, the youngest and tallest, was shy and not very talkative. While Maruxa, the smallest and oldest, was talkative and spoke as if she was singing.
The Statue was then located in Alameda, where it remains today. Since then, the sculpture has been one of the best known in the city. For two reasons: both for the curiosity it arouses among tourists and for serving as a meeting point for locals. Ironically, it became set as the outlet for social and cultural demonstrations.
Now when you visit Santiago de Compostela, go to Piazza da la Alameda. Take a moment to see this sculpture and also one of the most beautiful views of the Cathedral of Santiago!