Gloria Fuertes was a poet and member of the Generación del 50, the first post-war generation of Spanish writers and a famous writer of children’s poetry. She was a lesbian and feminist, and an important one in Francoist Spain at a time when the regime demanded conformity to strict ideological gender roles. She was a chain smoker, remained single her whole life and described herself as lonely in her autobiography.
Fuertes was born in Madrid on 28 July 1917. Her roots were working-class; her father was a janitor and her mother was a servant and seamstress. Fuertes enrolled at the Instituto de Educación Profesional de la Mujer at the age of 14, eventually obtaining several diplomas from the school. Fuertes wanted to be a writer and her first poem was published at the same age in 1932, with her first book of poetry published when she was a 17-year-old. Her work often dealt with issues of gender equality, presenting a new model for women under the heavily restrictive Franco regime. Fuertes went on to edit children’s magazines and poetry magazines, eventually becoming the director of one. All the time, she continued to write, perform her poems at poetry recitals, give readings of her work, visit schools, organizing a mobile library for children in rural areas, and contributing to literacy on Spanish radio and television. She died in Madrid on 27 November 1998 from lung cancer.
The shortest walking route for the important places for Gloria Fuertes in the Lavapies area starts at Metro Lavapies, takes around a half hour if you’re walking at a decent speed and not stopping to actually see anything or eat anything. It is about 2.3 km in distance. I highly suggest actually stopping and seeing things.
Information below gives more details on each place. This is just a brief route overview. From Metro Lavapies, head towards Calle de Tribulete, 14. It was in this area that Gloria Fuertes lived during the Civil War.
Then head to Calle del Ave María, 45, where Café Barbieri is located. Have a tapa of traditional Spanish food. This place is where Gloria Fuertes once gave literary performances.
Then take a short walk to Taberna de Antonio Sánchez at Calle del Mesón de Paredes, 13 and enjoy a glass of wine where Fuertes used to also enjoy a copa. Next head to Calle de la Espada, 3, and see the Placa honoring the house where Fuertes was alleged to have been born. Head up the street just a little bit to number 9, to building where it is much more likely Fuertes was born.
From there, head to Calle del Mesón de la Paredes and Fuente de Cabestreros. This is the area where the primary school Fuertes attended was originally located. Sadly, it is no more. From there, head to Plaza de Tirso de Molina. This plaza is where Fuertes played games during her childhood.
Then head to Calle de los Dos Hermanas. The historic street is where Fuertes lived for a while as a child. If doing your walk on a Sunday morning, finish it off by visiting the Rastro, which you’ve likely encountered several times already, at Plaza del General Vara de Rey. The market featured in a number of Fuertes’ poems.
Lavapies is a historic ward in the barrio. Starting in the 1970s and accelerating into the 1990s, it became the neighborhood of lesbians in Madrid, the lesbian equivalent of Chueca. Lesbians were attracted to the barrio because, unlike Chueca, it was often much more affordable to live in; this was important as lesbians have historically had less purchasing power in Spain than our gay male counterparts. It is in this barrio that Gloria Fuertes spent her youth and parts of her adult life. It was a place where, because Francoism was not very concerned with female homosexuals, Fuertes could walk hand in hand with her American girlfriend Phyllis Turnbull without attracting undue attention. While Fuertes sometimes lived elsewhere, she often revisited it in her writing in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. People in the ward are very proud to claim Fuertes, and often celebrate historic anniversaries related to the author. Guided tours of Lavapies with a focus on the author are offered by various guides.
UNED – Centro Escuelas Pías, 14, located at Calle de Tribulete, 14, was burned heavily in July 1936 during the Civil War. Much of the area faced similar problems, making life very difficult for residents during the war. Among those living in the immediate area during that period include Gloria Fuertes.
Calle del Mesón de Paredes, near Fuente de Cabestreros, is the area where the school that Gloria Fuertes attended in 1920s was located. Fuertes spent much of her childhood in this area.
Calle de los Dos Hermanas is a Street in the historic La Latina area of the barrio where writer Gloria Fuertes lived for a while as a child.
Placa de Calle de la Espada, 3, is where the city government has put a plaque honoring where the author Gloria Fuertes was allegedly born on 28 July 1917 in attic apartment. Fuertes was a poet and member of the Generación del 50, the first post-war generation of Spanish writers. Later researchers revealed this address was incorrect, with the plaque commemorating her birth really should have been being placed at Calle de la Espada, 9. Fuertes’s father was a doorman at a very nearby Gota de Leche, an early type of Madrid childcare center that also taught mothers parenting skills.
Plaza de Tirso de Molina is a triangle shaped public square named in honor of 17th century writer Tirso de Molina. The square was created in 1840 following the demolition of the Convento de Nuestra Senora de los Remedios with the idea of using the space to make a clean and green area for local residents. Among those who would go there was Gloria Fuertes, who played games in the plaza during her childhood in the 1920s.
El Rastro is an open-air market in Madrid. It has featured in the art and writing of generations of lesbians from the city. Victorina Duran had had a novel based on the the market. Gloria Fuertes had a collection of children’s stories published with the name of the market. Both women frequently visited the market, which has over 1,000 vendors. The market, open on Sundays from 9am to 3pm, is bounded by Calle Toledo, Calle Embajadores and Ronda de Toledo.
Taberna de Antonio Sánchez, located at Calle del Mesón de Paredes, 13 and founded in 1768, is where Gloria Fuertes often went as an adult to drink white wine, eat a pan de mollete and read when she lived in the area. Even after she moved to Avenida de Alberto de Alcocer, she continued to frequent the tavern.
Café Barbieri, located at Calle del Ave María, 45, was founded in 1902, borrowing its name from the nearby Teatro Barbieri. It has served as an important literary gathering place in Madrid. Among those who have given literary performances there is Gloria Fuertes. Unlike a number of other literary cafes, it still exists and serves traditional Spanish food.