Saturday, March 14, 2009


One of the tragedies of the Spanish Civil War is that no area of a city, a town, village or hamlet escaped its own act of terror and death.

The events of those times are rarely spoken of, especially to strangers, and equally it is not a topic you raise with Spaniards.

Over a decade ago I wrote a play on the last days of La Pasionaria – Dolores Ibarruri – one of the most famous figures of the Civil War. I lived at the time in a secluded valley where one of the houses had a small bar where locals would gather. In passing I happened to mention the play and was stunned that the news was greeted with shock and disbelief. I quickly changed the subject but suspected that the wide family of farmers that had lived there for generations had been supporters of Franco and the Nationalist cause. One of the younger residents of the valley did tell me later that in his village of San Pablo de Buceite there had lived a man named “the butcher” because of his deeds during the Civil War and he had only in recent years gone to wherever assassins go.

There is a lovely driver from Jimena de la Frontera to Ubrique via the Puerto de Galiz with its famous ‘venta’ bar-restaurant. En route you pass the hamlet of La Sauceda which is now a campsite and popular with walkers. Just pass Puerto de Galiz you come to a large house with a chapel – Marrufo. This was the scene of a bloody slaughter in 1936 which lives on in the local memory to this very day.

At La Sauceda, which had been inhabited from the 16 th century, was a community of communists and Republic supporters. They were attacked by a force made up of Franco’s Nationalist troops, Falange, the Guardia Civil and Militias. The captured women and children were then taken by lorry to Marrufo and the men followed on foot. Once there they were held captive in the chapel – many of the women were raped – then finally they were shot and dumped in communal graves.

There is an opportunity to learn more about those troubled times when Jimena hosts ‘I Jornadas de Memoria Histórica’ between March 27 and 29. It is being organised by the Izquierda Unida and Communist parties, the UGT union with the backing of the ecologist group Agaden, the province of Cádiz and Jimena town hall. Respected experts will discuss the tragic events of those years. In addition there will be a discussion on the slaughter at La Sauceda. For me, and I am sure many others, the most poignant moment will come on the Sunday with a visit to La Sauceda and a commemoration ceremony. I know many people would prefer that this period in Spain’s history was left to rest. However too much injustice exists to this day with many of the dead laying in unmarked graves beside roads and down gullies. Before we move on we must at least honour and understand the dreadful wrongs of the past – on both sides of the Nationalist & Republican divide.

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