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Maria Jesús Corrales, ‘Las Expulsadas’: Women Workers During the Frontier Closure

Rosario Pérez | Photos: Fran Montes

LAS EXPULSADAS | Journalist María Jesús Corrales’ literary debut book “Las Expulsadas” (‘The Expelled’), is a novel based on real-life events which occurred in La Línea and Gibraltar in the 1960s.

“I wanted to write about the closure of the frontier from the perspective of all those women who, from one day to the other, were left with nothing”

“Much has been written about the closing of the frontier in 1969, but the story had never been told from the point of view of working women, even though they were the first to leave Gibraltar and lost everything overnight three years before.”


Journalist and writer María Jesús Corrales (born in Madrid, 1973) knew, once she learned about their experiences, that the story of these forgotten fighters had to be told, and that she would do so though the medium of a novel.

The product of this first literary foray, “Las Expulsadas”, published by the ‘DAURO’ publishing house, will launch as an e-book and hit the bookshops this July, so long as the “new normal” allows.

The official presentation will take place in La Línea, and although the author does not yet know when or under what conditions this might happen, she hopes that, if the “de-escalation” proceeds as planned, she will be able to have further presentations in Gibraltar and in the rest of the region, as well as in other cities in which she has connections, such as Granada and Madrid.

Maria Jesus Corrales Las Expulsadas La Linea Gibraltar
Maria Jesús Corrales, ‘Las Expulsadas’ | ©Fran Montes, Reach Alcance

Corrales is a member of the “Red de Mujeres Emprendedoras de la Costa del Sol y el Campo de Gibraltar” (Enterprising Women of the Costa del Sol and Campo de Gibraltar Network), an association that has for many years been promoting women in business. From the beginning, she was determined to pen social novel, written from a gendered perspective, and that it would reflect historical events through fiction.

“I did not want to write a historical novel, or a political one, but a novel about women … I wanted to tell their stories and bring to light the human drama, which has been hidden, and which had not been talked about until now. I wanted write a novel for various reasons; among others, because there are stories that I could not tell using real names, but that I could relay as a story”, the writer says, as she tells us of having had Mario Vargas Llosa as one of her sources of inspiration as she struck out on her first venture into Literature.

“He is a master in the art of novelizing real events and always says that in order to achieve this without losing credibility, you cannot simply invent, but that the fiction that you create must be framed in historical facts, with the utmost rigour, for plausibility.”

La Linea and Gibraltar
La Línea | ©Fran Montes, Reach Alcance

To follow the wise counsel of the Nobel Prize for Literature, María Jesús Corrales already had the necessary tools: her profession as a journalist and the vast accumulated knowledge and experience of the recent history of Gibraltar and La Línea, the city she arrived at twenty years ago to work in a regional newspaper, and where she has ended up laying her professional and personal roots to become a confirmed ‘Campogibraltareña’.

With extensive documentation on the closure and the subsequent reopening of the frontier, accumulated over many years of work and experience on the ground, the inspiration to write “Las Expulsadas” came to her while working as a correspondent in Spain for the Gibraltar Chronicle newspaper.

Maria Jesús Corrales, ‘Las Expulsadas’ | ©Fran Montes, Reach Alcance

“The ‘fault’ was that of the editor, Brian Reyes, who commissioned me last year to write a comprehensive report, including interviews, to mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the border closure. Looking for these testimonies, I found tremendous and wonderful stories, and the discovery that the first exodus did not take place in 1969, as the newspaper archives recall, but had already started three years earlier, in August 1966, when exit permits were withdrawn from all the women who worked in Gibraltar, who then had to start looking for a livelihood as best they could, because most of them were the source of income for their families, at a time, moreover, when most of Spanish women did not work”.

Although until now, the economic and social drama experienced on both sides of the border has been discussed from the post 1969 lens, the expulsion of these workers had already caused three years of progressive emigration from the area, families were broken up and lives took different paths, in a way that they had never imagined.

Maria Jesus Corrales Las Expulsadas La Linea Gibraltar
Maria Jesús Corrales, ‘Las Expulsadas’ | ©Fran Montes, Reach Alcance

“Those independent women, who I personify in the novel in the character of Inmaculada Márquez, had to arm themselves with courage and start again from scratch… Many of them, had to do so thousands of kilometres away, seeking new lives in England or Australia… others who were luckier were able to do so closer to home for example, in the hotels and restaurants of the Costa del Sol”.

In the novel, which contains a preface by Brian Reyes, whom Corrales says she “respects and admires”, Corrales narrates events and experiences on both sides of the frontier from different angles, and different sensitivities, about what the frontier closure meant. One could not expect less from a rigorous journalist who, by working as a novelist and allowing herself to story-tell, has also been able to alight at a description of that time, to recreate how life was in those neighbourhoods and to address, with the greatest sensitivity, “some things that I had inside me and that I wanted to relate”.

Synopsis of Las Expulsadas

“The night that the border pass was withdrawn from the female workers in Gibraltar, Inmaculada Márquez sees her whole world fall apart in one fell swoop; alone in the complex city of La Línea de la Concepción in 1966, without an income to support her two adolescent children, in the middle of a Spanish offensive to recover Gibraltar and separate cross-border society. Whilst affecting normality, Inmaculada sets about achieving something great. Will she manage to circumvent the progressive political confinement of the Rock? ”

Journalist María Jesús Corrales’ literary debut book “Las Expulsadas” (‘The Expelled’), is a novel based on real-life events which occurred in La Línea and Gibraltar in the 1960s.

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