At one time it looked as if the world was moving towards the end of capital punishment, but lately it seems to be making a comeback in the news.

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Deposed Prime Minister’s execution

[after the memoirs of María Consuelo Ochoa, prison warden]

© Toe Tag  




That day I awoke up at 5 in the morning. I took a shower and dressed myself up in a nice dress. Is not like in the old days when you have to dress so formal just to notify a rapist about his release. Today I can get dressed in dark blue satin trousers and light blue blouse and if an inmate gets uncomfortable about what he sees that’s his problem. At 6 am I personally checked the execution chamber. I’m a big girl and I'm not going to get nervous over a death sentence, even if it is the deposed Prime Minister’s.

Mr. Quesada had been awaken at 7 a.m. and told that his execution would take place in a couple of hours. The deposed Prime Minister sat on his cot and took a couple of seconds to get himself used to the idea, as he seemingly believed he would be reprieved. Then he got up, got himself dressed and was given a light breakfast. Having only accepted the coffee, Mr. Quesada was then given the chance to conclude some of his worldly matters. He wrote two short letters for his wife and children, under forewarn that they would be inspected by censors.

The official witnesses started arriving at Madrid’s Carcel Modelo by 8 am. It was rather early for the top dignitaries of the new founded regime to be summoned but it was an historic occasion. One by one, about twenty well dressed women entered through a small door on the prison gate and were lead through the main hall to the room next to gallows. The selected witnesses gathered outside the death chamber, smoking and chatting in their best silk and satin dresses and high heeled shoes, resembling a fashion event. Although asked to speak quietly by the head matron, conversation was unavoidable as each and every one of these elegant women was thrilled by the meaning of their presence there. Because on that day the deposed Prime Minister was having his date with the hangwoman.

Fernanda Sivori was among them, in the quality of mayor of Madrid, dressed in a black leather business suit with skirt and wearing her best high heeled shoes. Her gloved hand lighted a cigarette and she joined the other ladies chatting just outside the gallows cell. General Milagros Sánchez arrived at 08:25, followed by judge Pureza Contreras. The crowd was now formed by about 25 women, but they all had to wait for another one to come.

In the meantime, Mr. Quesada was offered to have an interview with a clergyman and make his peace with God. The deposed Prime Minister, a lifetime atheist, promptly accepted and spent half an hour in prayer with the priest.

At about 08:40 am Ángela Jurado arrived and was immediately escorted to join the witnesses. She was dressed in a lovely maroon satin gown. By that time the hangwoman was warned of her arrival and ordered her assistants to unlock the door and let in the witnesses. As the women were allowed into the spacious gallows chamber, they were invited to take their seats in chairs that were conveniently placed alongside the walls, so everyone could see the noose and the trap without interference. The room itself was 8x10 meters.

Meanwhile, the condemned was being readied in his cell and the hangwoman, a tall blonde woman in her late thirties, dressed in a black business suit, whose facial features hinted her Slavic origins, sent for me to fetch the condemned. I was talking to her when Miss Fernanda Sivori approached us and spoke softly and briefly to the executioner:

- Be so kind to use this on our poor prime minister.

And then she gave the hangwoman a black hand-made polyester-satin hood. I admired Miss Sivori’s kind gesture towards the deposed head of state. It seemed to me like a fine example of a fair treatment to those who were defeated under feminine power. We were able to impose punishment without loosing our femininity and our manners. 

I then went to Quesada’s cell with four female guards. The priest was dismissed and departed, after wishing good riddance to Quesada. We then instructed Mr. Quesada to remove his bedroom slippers – his shoes had been confiscated along with his jacket, belt and tie – and proceeded to cuff his hands behind his back. In my quality of warden I then read the death warrant to the condemned prisoner:

- Gabriel Adolfo Quesada Fábregas, you have been arrested and tried for political crimes against the Spanish people, in the person of its women, and having been found guilty of the said crimes it was the sentence of the High Feminist Court that you would be taken to a place of lawful execution and there to be hanged by your neck until you are dead. The sentence will be carried out immediately.

Deeply shaken by these words, but managing to hold his dignity, he was led out of his cell and brought to the hanging chamber under the escort of the four female guards. I was leading the way and opened the door to the execution chamber for him when they reached the end of the 20 meters barefoot walk. The deposed Prime Minister seemed meek and ashamed, desperately clinging to a shred of dignity while supported by a guard at each side. Contrasting with the glamour and finesse of the female public, he was dressed in the same clothes he was arrested with and walked barefoot to the noose. The witnesses remained silent as he took a pause to glance around the room. Mr. Quesada exchanged glances with Ángela Jurado, whose eye contact he could not bear, and then lowered his head. We hastened him forward and he let himself be taken. As he was handed to the hangwoman, and her two assistants, the escort withdrew and left the execution area. Mr. Quesada was placed on the trap, held in place by the assistants, and with professional ease the hangwoman had him strapped hands and feet. The hood Miss Sivori had so tastefully offered for the prisoner was drawn over his pallid face and then the hangwoman raised the noose above his head and carefully slipped it around his neck. The hangwoman stood beside the lever and a microphone was passed to Miss Jurado who voiced the words:

- Have you any last words before the sentence is carried out?

Quesada’s breath seemed to quicken, struggling to find the words. He finally was able to speak out:

- I never foresaw I could ever end this way, but if I have deserved it for offending the people, I humbly beg the people’s forgiveness. - statements which were quickly recorded by Victoria, the Head of State’s personal stenographer.

A subtle nod from Miss Jurado’s indicated the executioner it was time. The hangwoman signaled her assistants to stand aside, which they did by backing off the trapdoor. The hangwoman pulled the lever with all her strength, activating the trap and sending the unfortunate Mr. Quesada into the shadows of the pit with the rope around his neck. I remember hearing a collective sigh as he reached the end of his rope, making it twang as it tensioned to extreme. For a few moments every person in that room stood motionless, eyes placed on the ever swinging rope, both sunk in the tension of the whole scene and pondering on the meaning of what had just happened. The first to react was the Slavic hangwoman, who approached the trap and glanced down to see the results of her work. Then she looked at her assistants and nodded positively, a clear sign everything was as it was supposed to be.

The assistants then opened a hatch leading to a staircase down to the pit, turned on the lights in the pit and implicitly invited the witnesses to descend. All in a orderly row, all the women stood up and went down the steps, passing before the pitiful corpse of the deposed Prime Minister. He hanged about a meter above the ground, over a pool of his own urine, a wet patch on the front of his trousers, his head tilted to the right on top of a stretched neck. No one dared to speak but quiet whispers as they crossed the pit room and left through a door to a hallway leading to the mortuary and then to the yard. I recall I met Miss Sivori there and we talked a little while smoking a couple of much needed cigarettes. She confided to me:

- Now that he is gone, the whole thing is irreversible and the people will know we mean what we preach. – there was a slight smile in her lips, and her eyes were sparkling with joy. – I can’t say I hated him, but I am so glad he is dead. It’s like we got rid of a dead weight today.

- Speaking of which, that is where he’ll be buried. – I said, pointing out a dug up spot in a corner of the yard. It was the first time the execution protocol was implemented, and I described it to Miss Sivori. After the drop, they hanged for a full hour, after which they were stripped, washed and lowered down. Finally they were buried in unmarked graves in the prison yard or potter’s field. Their next of kin were informed by a closed letter transmitted via a courier and handed their last letters. Later that day, a press release would be faxed to the news agencies and a notice of the executions was televised, referring only to the names and time of execution, without giving up any details of the event.

Fernanda Sivori looked at the narrow grave for a couple of moments and then commented:

- Quite suitable. Not even a cross or a marker to be remembered by, just a footnote at the end of a male history book. Quite suitable.

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