Monday, March 30, 2009


Recuérdalo tú y recuérdalo a otros
Cuando asqueados de la bajeza humana,
cuando iracundos de la dureza humana:
Este hombre solo, este acto solo, esta fe sola.
Recuérdalo tú y recuérdalo a otros.
Luis Cernuda, 1936

Over the weekend Jimena de la Frontera hosted its first ‘Jornadas de Memoria Históricas’ dedicated to uncovering many of the facts surrounding the Spanish Civil War both in the village and wider province of Cádiz.

The presentations and round-table events were hosted at the Casa Verde of the environmental group Agaden. The conference itself was organised by the CGT, Partido Comunista, Izquierda Unida with the support of the Diputación de Cádiz and Jimena town hall.

Every session was packed with an audience ranging from a tall proud man, sadly now on walking sticks, who had fled the village on foot just days before Franco’s troops arrived to young people keen to learn the past and what had happened to the grand parents and great grand parents.

The weekend reached its climax on the Sunday with a visit to La Sauceda about 25 kilometres from Jimena, which is within the municipal boundaries of Cortes de la Frontera in Málaga province.

In November 1936 Lieutenant José Robles of the Instituto Armado led his troops from Ubrique to La Sauceda were they rendezvoused with other forces. La Sauceda was a small mountain top hamlet that for generations had been a refuge for bandits. Now apart from the local population it was a place of hiding for the many Republican and communist supporters that had fled the advance of Franco’s forces.

Several hundred people were sheltering there and the Nationalist force made up of the army, Falange, Guardia Civil and Militias crept up on La Sauceda through the woods. After an aerial attack in which many men were killed or fled the troops moved in and took the inhabitants prisoners.

The women and children were taken to the nearby cortijo of El Marrufo in lorries where they were held in the chapel. The men were taken on foot. Many of the women were raped before both they and the children were shot and dumped in a mass grave. The grave beneath one of the buildings is as of yet unexcavated but along with the men's graves nearer Puerto de Galis they are believed to be amongst the largest in the province with hundreds of victims.

So it was to this now ruined hamlet that the participants in the conference came. They gathered to lay flowers in the memory of all those who had perished at La Sauceda and locally in the Civil War. An emotive address was read out by José María Pedreño Gómez, the founder and president of the Federación Estatal de Foros por la Memoria, as an old woman, surrounded by her family, proudly held a photograph of her father who had died defending the Republic.

It is at these moments that the politics, the facts and the figures are stripped away. It is then you are faced with the raw emotion felt by those who suffered these deeds all these years ago. It was not statistics that perished but fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. It would take a stronger man (or woman) than me not to have been affected by their openly displayed grief and I have no shame in saying my tears mingled with theirs on this hallowed ground.

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