Soles made of reused tire
Repository: Museo de León, León (Spain)
Repository: Museo de Guadalajara, Guadalajara, Spain
Fond or Collection
Alfredo González-Ruibal, “Arqueología del Fascismo: materialidad y memoria”, Proyecto Intramural Especial, CSIC, 2011
Date Created: 1937 to 1938
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: Castiltejón, Spain; Abánades, Spain
43.03951, -5.31711 , 40.89645, -2.46918
Quality footwear was one of the things soldiers valued most during the Spanish Civil War, but it was uncommon, particularly in the Republican Army. The soles in the picture belonged to espadrilles used respectively by a Republican soldier fighting in the mountains between León and Asturias and a Francoist soldier who fought in the battle of Alto Tajuña (Guadalajara) in April 1938. Both were made from a piece of reused tire and the Firestone logo can be made out in both.
The use of tire rubber to make shoes was popular in rural areas before the war. It is illustrative both of the arrival of industrial materials in the countryside—where most of the objects were still produced within the household or the peasant community—and of the economy of limited goods that was prevalent in rural Spain during the first half of the twentieth century: everything was reused and repaired a thousand times. Tire soles became even more popular during the postwar period, in a context of impoverishment and autarky.
These soles are commonly found in mass graves, associated with the remains of wage laborers and peasants. They are also documented in the frontlines, as in this case. Espadrilles are inadequate to make war in any type of terrain: they are extremely uncomfortable in long marches and do not protect the foot well. But of all war scenarios, mountain environments are the worse: rubber soles slide on the rocks, stones stick in the feet and, in winter, low temperatures and ice provoke severe frostbite and chilblains. Many of the amputations and deaths by frostbite in the Battle of Teruel (15 December 1937-22 February 1938) were related to the soldiers’ inadequate foot protection.
The Republican sole appeared in a dugout of a front-line position in Castiltejón (Puebla de Lillo, León), a Republican stronghold defending a strategic mountain pass giving access to Asturias, the government’s last bastion in the north. In Castiltejón, everything conveys the impression of want: the scarce goods, the reused material, the obsolete weaponry. The need was even greater in the north because of its isolation from the rest of the Republican territory. However, even in the better-equipped Francoist army, espadrilles were common late in the war, as evinced by the sole of Guadalajara. The soldier who wore it was a young recruit, perhaps a teenager, who fell near the village of Abánades in the first days of the Republican offensive of April 1938.