Repository: Museo Arqueológico Regional de la Comunidad de Madrid, Alcalá de Henares, Spain
Fond or Collection
Alfredo González-Ruibal, “Spain: Modern Warfare”, Field school of the Institute for Field Research (IFR), Los Angeles, USA, 2017
Date Created: 1936 to 1939
Type: Kitchen utensils
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: Ciudad Universitaria, Madrid, Spain
Archaeological surveys around the University Hospital in Madrid’s University City documented a metal tea strainer. This sector, probably the most brutal on the Madrid frontline, was a wedge of the rebel army inside the city, which was held by the Republicans. Units of legionnaires and Moroccan regulares were stationed here. The tea strainer must be related to the latter.
On tea consumption among the Moroccans at the University City we have the exceptional testimony of Bobby Deglané’s, a Chilean journalist who backed the Francoists and worked as a spy in Republican territory before crossing the lines. One of his reports, published in the Falangist illustrated weekly Fotos, is titled “Moorish tea at the University City”. There he describes an expedition into the front line of the University Hospital sector. After crossing the bridge on the Manzanares river and getting lost in a labyrinth of trenches, he reaches the rebel headquarters. He sits down in the basement with a group of Moroccan soldiers:
“The details, the suggestions and the influence of that atmosphere adhered to my spirit, inebriating it with its exotic beauty, as in the scenario of a legend. And while the Moors ate their spice-scented food and drank the golden Moorish beverage, in my imagination I traveled... through the fearful places where war raged as in a far-away Apocalypse, yet very close to us.
There they were, the Moors that night, with their peaceful conversations. Death lurked outside. They would sleep that night as one sleeps at the University City, rifle in hand, to wake up, perhaps, before the sun announces the arrival of the day, hurried by the alarm of a surprise attack or the typical explosion of one of those shocking subterranean mines.”
Tea consumption was very important for the Moroccan troops. According to Mohamed Tahar, a veteran Moroccan soldier interviewed in 1995, the items every soldier carried included some typical of North Africa, including dates, figs and “something to prepare Moorish tea”. The Quran prohibits the consumption of alcohol, and thus, Muslims, unlike the rest of the soldiers, could not drink wine or liquor that was regularly supplied to the troops. As substitutes they had hashish and tea. Beyond its (limited) usefulness as an stimulant, tea facilitated socialization among Moroccan troops, as alcohol did among Christians—as is evident in Deglané’s account. The ceremony for the preparation and consumption of tea was an occasion to meet kinsfolk and coreligionists, to speak their mother tongue and reproduce the gestures and practices typical of their culture. The slow ritual of brewing and spicing tea had a soothing effect on the colonial troops in the doubly hostile context of fighting a war in a foreign country, especially in those environments like the University City, where attacks and mines were part of the daily routine, that were particularly unpredictable and violent. The smell and flavor of tea doubtless evoked the homes they had left behind in Morocco.