One Sunday in February – Massacre on the Road to Almeria

One nefarious day in February 78 years ago, over half the population of Malaga fled to the countryside, down the long and difficult seaside road to Almeria that was their only escape route. Behind them, the invading troops of General Franco, already crowing victory. And on all sides, Italian, German and Franquist naval ships and war planes showering bombs down on the fleeing and defenceless civilians, in the forgotten Massacre of the Road to Almeria.

Malaga 1937

Most of this human column of fleeing refugees, over 150,000 souls, was made up of women, children and families, who had had nothing to do with the war. As happens in all wars, it’s the politicians and military men who make the decision to attack, and the civilian population – women, children and ordinary men just trying to make a living doing whatever they can – who pay the high price.

The Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939) was, like all wars, complicated and difficult to explain. Most people supported the Republicans. However, the opposition, led by Francisco Franco, enjoyed the support of the Fascist troops of Germany and Italy, and it wasn’t long before they began to conquer the entire country.

Wherever the Franquists went, people fled. Like all invaders, Franco’s troops were notorious for their savagery and barbarism. They looted, stole, raped, murdered, tortured and took whatever they wanted.

So it wasn’t surprising that as soon as the inhabitants of Malaga discovered that these invaders were at their doorstep, they took to the road and fled.

In those days the only unoccupied route out of Malaga was along the dangerous and sinuous road to Almeria. There was little place to hide along the road: it wound its way between the sheer cliffs that fell down towards the sea on one side, and the high mountains on the other. The distance from Malaga to Almeria: 219 km.

That ill-fated Sunday morning, people woke up to the sounds of the Franquist troops surrounding the city, grabbed their things and ran. Those who could climbed into cars, trucks or onto donkeys and mules. The rest had to make their way on foot.

16-year-old Ana María Jiménez woke up in her home in the Capuchinos neighbourhood, looked out the window and saw Francisco Franco’s troops on the mountains overlooking the city, with their cannons and their flags and their muskets.

Her family, like most other families living in Malaga, loaded their belongings onto a truck heading out of town and started on their way. In Rincon de la Victoria, on the outskirts of Malaga, they ran out of gasoline and continued the rest of the way on foot.

“I didn’t understand much about the war at that time,” recalls José Martos, who was only six back then, “but I had it clear that we were running from the Fascists.”

Malaga 1937

The journey lasted a week. Along the way, as the naval ships drew up close to the shore and began pelting them with bombs and bullets, people started to fall. The Italian and German aviation added their two cents’ worth by riddling the straggling survivors with more bombs.

There was no reason for doing this, other than the cruelty, sadism and taste for innocent blood of the militants who ordered and carried out these attacks.

The people fleeing along the road weren’t Franco’s enemies. They were just families trying to make a living during hard times. They were carpenters and farmers and cooks and schoolteachers. Mothers with babies and little children.

Malaga 1937

A woman stops to feed her baby, surrounded by dead people, on the long road from Malaga to Almeria

The man who ordered this cowardly attack against the defenceless citizens, Gonzalo Queipo de Llano, explains it thus: “Those masses of people were fleeing, they were getting away. So I thought, why not make them run a little harder?”

The people who survived did so by hiding in holes, ducking down on the ground, rolling behind stones or anything that could shelter them.

Along the way, Ana María and the other refugee children met families who had lost loved ones. Parents burying children in holes in the ground. Entire families lying dead together.

The group found respite about halfway down the road: at Motril, the International Brigade succeeded in halting the enemy attacks and the people were free to continue their journey without death raining down from the sky. However, by then most were so exhausted they could hardly walk.

Suddenly, salvation surged up out of nowhere. Like a dashing white knight in shining armour at the head of a flaming cavalry, the Canadian doctor Norman Bethune arrived with a party of trucks to drive them the rest of the way to Almeria.

Norman Bethune was a Canadian doctor working the Republican frontlines bringing medical aid during the Spanish Civil War. He was in Valencia when he received news of the forced exodus from Malaga, and he hurried to Malaga as quickly as he could.

Malaga 1937

Norman Bethune with his ambulance

Over and over again, the trucks took off overflowing with people, then returned for more. Norman Bethune himself rode in a vehicle which he had converted into an ambulance, where he attended to the ill and the wounded.

The odyssey didn’t end in Almeria for most of the families on this trail. When they arrived in that remote city, most made their way out on ships and trains and travelled to Barcelona. Some of these families remained in Barcelona for the duration of the war while others journeyed into exile, returning only after the war had ended.

Photo credits: Norman Bethune

For more information:

El camino de los olvidados (Diario Sur)

La matanza de la carretera de Almería (El País)

La matanza de la carretera de Almería (Málaga en Blanco y Negro)

 

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Stronger Than Steel / Plus Fort Que L’Epée

I’m usually quite apolitical, to the point that I usually don’t even know who is in power anywhere at any given moment. But I wanted to say:

Perhaps we are only bloggers, and not many people read us. But I want to say to all bloggers out there:

Keep blogging. Keep exercising your right to freedom of expression, and putting down on paper (or rather, on the computer screen) whatever happens to be on your minds. As long as we don’t perpetrate hatred towards any individual or groups of people, or encourage people to kill or murder……

Those people who wish to silence us or oppress us through intimidation, terror, tyranny or cowardly acts of violence will never win.

Remember that the pen is always stronger than the sword.

And yes it’s also true as some once said: Love is stronger than hatred.

Ohé les blogueurs! Peut-être nous ne sommes que des petits pseudo-écrivains dans le monde, mais nous allons continuer à exprimer tous nos sentiments plus profonds publiquement à travers de nos blogues et de nos petits coins dans le cyberespace. Rien ne peut nous empêcher d’exercer notre droit à la liberté d’expression. Pourvu qu’on n’incite pas à la haine, à tuer……

Tous ceux qui essaient de nous opprimer, de nous étouffer, en utilisant l’intimidation, la terreur, la tyrannie ou la violence lâche, doivent savoir qu’ils ne gagneront jamais.

La plume sera toujours plus forte que l’épée.

Eh ouais c’est ben vrai aussi: l’amour est plus fort que la haine.

Je Suis Charlie

We are all Charlie.

Nous sommes tous Charlie.

(At least for one day! Au moins pendant un jour!)

(After that I want to go back to being ME haha……)

Malaga’s English Cemetery – Remembering Auld Lang Syne

Tombstones in the English Cemetery Malaga

Let me take you by the hand and accompany you on a walk through the English Cemetery of Malaga.

English Cemetery Entrance Malaga

I didn’t know how to organize the photos. So in the end I decided I’d just put them in chronological order, showing you the same things you would see if you were actually to visit the cemetery for yourself, in the same order you would see them.

English Cemetery Guardhouse Malaga

This is the guardhouse, at the entrance, which as you can see was built in 1856.

Plants English Cemetery Malaga

The English Cemetery got started in 1830 when William Mark, the British consul in Malaga at the time, agonized while watching scenes of British citizens being buried on the seashore in the middle of the night because, at that time, only Catholic people were allowed holy burials on consecrated ground. He hustled and pleaded and was finally granted an extensive terrain which he could use as a cemetery.

Water Pump English Cemetery Malaga

This is a water pump at the entrance, just in front of the guardhouse. We’re not too sure why it is here, especially since it is rusted. I assume that it would have been used, in those days before modern plumbing and water hoses, to water the plants and flowers.

Path English Cemetery Malaga

This is the main path as you walk in, that leads right into the cemetery.

Benches English Cemetery Malaga

The English cemetery became very popular, because then as now, many Brits were living in Malaga, as well as non-Catholics from other countries, and the new English Cemetery soon became “home” to a large number of tombstones (as well as, of course, the people buried underneath these tombstones).

These are some of the larger tombstones for people whose families could afford large tombstones. I know that William Mark, the British consul, is of course also buried in this cemetery which he himself founded. I did take a photo of his (very large) tombstone. But I ended up with so many photos of large tombstones that I don’t know which one was his. I don’t believe it is any of these, however.

English Cemetery Malaga Panoramic View

The cemetery started growing and today, in addition to the burial grounds themselves, we can also enjoy the beauty of a guardhouse, an Anglican Church and a botanical garden with unusual species of plants.

Angel Tombstone English Cemetery Malaga

I have always loved angel tombstones and angel statues. However in this cemetery there was only one. It’s an unusual angel statue though, with an unusual pose.

These plaques are lovely, loving homages to the memories of loved ones. I’m not too sure what they are, though. I don’t know whether they are niches, or just commemorative plaques.

Tombstones English Cemetery Malaga

The English Cemetery is on Avenida Pries number 1. You have to take the road (the interior road, not the seaside road) as if going to El Palo, if you are driving from the centre of Malaga. It’s on that same road, on the left-hand side if you are facing El Palo. It’s not far after the bullring.

Or you can take a bus. Numbers 3 and 11 drop you off right in front.

War Heroes English Cemetery Malaga

This section of the cemetery is dedicated to war heroes who died in Spain, all of whom, of course, are young. Young men, in fact. In spite of women’s desires to help in war efforts, I didn’t see any women’s tombs in this section.

War Heroes Cemetery

The English Cemetery is only open to the public in the mornings, seven days a week (closes one hour earlier on Sundays). It used to be free to enter, although they welcomed donations, but now there is a small fee. I don’t remember exactly how much but it’s not expensive, perhaps 2 euros for children and 3 euros for adults.

Broken Tombstones English Cemetery Malaga

We’re not too sure what happened to these broken tombstones here. We can only assume that they aren’t cared for because the people who planted them here are themselves buried here now. (They’re almost two centuries old after all.)

German Plaque English Cemetery Malaga

English people aren’t the only ones buried here, since the cemetery opens its doors to all non-Catholics wishing a decent burial in Malaga.

“Blessed are the dead, they rest from their labour and their works (what they have accomplished in life) follow them.”

Chidren's Graves English Cemetery Malaga

I did want to save the saddest section for the end: the Children’s Cemetery. There were many tombstones here, especially since before the era of vaccinations and acetaminophen (paracetamol here in Spain) little ones died from common infectious illnesses and fevers that are easily treated today. I took photos of many of them, but in the end I’m only including these tombstones, belonging to twin babies, a boy and a girl, who died from an infectious illness. Fortunately, we don’t seem to need to grieve for the passing of Protestant children since the year 1831 (the date on the last children’s tombstone).

English Cemetery Malaga

What visit to a cemetery would be complete without a glimpse of the resident cat?

Cat English Cemetery Malaga

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Christmas Eve Musings

Can you believe it’s Christmas Eve and unlike the rest of the country, I am not:

  • munching on apéritifs with my kids
  • chatting with relatives that I only see once a year (who don’t exist anyways…… maybe imaginary relatives haha?)
  • sitting near a fireplace singing Christmas carols
  • sitting around a Christmas tree playing the zambomba

(pic of zambomba, a traditional Christmas instrument round here to mark the rhythm while singing Christmas carols)

Zambomba

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

  • out on the street setting off firecrackers (I hate firecrackers!)
  • cooking
  • cleaning the kitchen
  • washing the dishes

I am just lying around the house with my kids, surfing the net while my kids play together. And that’s wonderful.

I think of all those countless endless afternoons when I am not lying around the house surfing the net while my kids play together, because I am working.

I think of all those countless endless afternoons where my kids are not playing at all, because they have homework.

I think of all those countless endless afternoons where my kids are not together, because my youngest son stays with his father when I work.

So I dunno if our Christmas Eve is boring, by other people’s standards. And maybe I would’ve liked to have a bit more pizzazz in our festivity hehe.

But it’s okay. Christmas Eve is about being with family. And even though I live with my family (my kids), the three of us are rarely together, except late at night after work.

And right now we are together.

Just wish we could be together ALL THE TIME haha!

Well, I have been seeing lots of blogs wishing readers a Merry Christmas and happy holidays today. So whatever holiday you celebrate, I would like to wish you a happy one too.

Happy Holidays!

Butterfly

May your world always be borne…… on the wings of a butterfly……

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Hot Hot Hot!

Christmas Lights in Malaga

 

I’ve noticed that everywhere, people are posting photos of the Christmas lights where they live on their blogs. So I thought, why not do the same? When you come right down to it, the Christmas lights of Malaga are definitely worth it!

Christmas Lights Malaga

This year they had a Gothic cathedral theme.

I also took a photo from underneath the “Gothic arch”.

Christmas Lights Malaga

As you can see, the throngs of crowds admiring the Christmas lights were immense.

Of course, Christmas lights weren’t the only thing that there was to admire on the busy streets of Malaga.

There were a myriad of shows being put on by street entertainers from large groups to single artists. One very large gathering was formed of a group of about six musicians playing Christmas carols on the trumpet, clarinet and other brass instruments, plus three guys dressed up as the Three Kings of Orient to liven up the crowd. However, I couldn’t see them very well, because there was a mass of people around them, enjoying their music. Which wasn’t surprising, because their music was incredible.

Christmas Lights Malaga

But since I couldn’t photograph them because there were too many people, I went to quieter corners.

Christmas Lights Malaga

Christmas Lights Malaga

A young girl was selling these little cottages by a fountain for people to use for making their own personal “belenes”, or Nativity scenes.

Christmas Lights Malaga

What stroll would be complete without a photo of my kids? This is my son in front of the Christmas tree in la Plaza de la Constitución, Malaga’s main square.

Christmas Lights Malaga

I LOVE CHRISTMAS WITHOUT SNOW!!!

When I was a child it was the only thing I dreamt of for Christmas: a Christmas without snow. Of course, living in Canada, that was absolutely impossible.

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Snippets of Life

What is the world coming to, when such an emblematic landmark is moving house?

Bingo Paris

The sign says: “We’re moving to Sala Cayri, Martínez Maldonado St., 63″.

For those of you who aren’t from around here :) this “monument” probably doesn’t mean anything. However, for the locals of this neighbourhood, ever since anyone can remember, Bingo Paris has always been THE LANDMARK OF REFERENCE.

People would always say, Let’s meet in front of the Bingo Paris at 8 o’clock.

Or, Where do you live? Near the Bingo Paris? Oh now I know where you live!

Now, how will people situate you?

Where do you live? Oh, where the Bingo Paris used to be?

Paella Facil

It always gets to me a bit when I see Spaniards jumping onto the American bandwagon of fast food, convenient cooking and pre-prepared meals.

This package says: “Easy Paella – Just Add Rice!”

In case you didn’t know, paella is a most typical Spanish dish. Traditionally it is slow-cooked all morning in a special large, flat frying pan with chicken, seafood and any other goodies you feel like adding to it, all slowly simmered in rice with saffron.

But now all you have to do is pour out the contents of this package and – just add rice! And it’s done!

Now, I might add, I love pre-prepared food. It makes life 100% easier when you’re a working single mami.

But…… paella?

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Everyday Scenes From Everyday Life in Spain

When I read about people living in another country, I always wonder what it’s like to live in that country.

I wonder what these people do every day. How they do their shopping. Where they buy their food. What sights do they see as they walk around.

So I thought I’d show some of the things that I see every day.

Now, as a developed European country, Spain isn’t really that different from any other developed country. There are high-rise buildings, modern skyscrapers in the downtown areas, apartment buildings fully equipped with all the usual utilities and household appliances, cars, internet and mobile phones.

There is free public education for kids. Free medical care and modern hospitals. Corporate offices, shops, department stores and shopping centres.

When I visited Morocco, I found life there extremely different from life in a developed Western country. That would most definitely be a delightful country to visit for a photo shoot, or to write a blog about. However, at that time, I wasn’t in the habit of taking photos and I didn’t have a blog.

In Morocco local people usually do their shopping in the vividly coloured marketplaces filled with leather and spices, not at supermarkets. I didn’t see a single shopping centre.

However, here in Spain, life isn’t really very different from life in Canada. My kids go to school in very civilized, well-equipped elementary and high schools with amazing teachers. I usually do the shopping at a regular supermarket.

Yesterday, however, just by chance, I happened upon several interesting scenes and took photos of them. So I thought I’d share them today as typical scenes from an ordinary day here in Spain.

Flowers in November

Nothing spectacular about this photo, but it always thrills me to see green trees and flowers blooming all over the place in those chilly, arctic months when the rest of the world is covered in snow!

Misty Mountains in Malaga

Who would’ve thought you could see misty mountains in sunny Malaga?

Fire in a Building

As I was coming home I happened upon a fire in a building. Although spectacular, fortunately it wasn’t serious and nothing happened. The affected building is the one with the lighted doors in the background.

Ham in Super Vegetariano

This place really made me laugh out loud! Well, to understand the “joke” I’d have to explain it a little. As you can see, this used to be a large vegetarian supermarket called “Super Vegetariano”. It very quickly went out of business, given the *overwhelming adoration* of the Spanish public for vegetarian diets and a more ecological and ethical lifestyle haha. Now the new shop that has opened up in its place, which is quite wildly more successful than its predecessor, is called “Azabache: Jamones y Embutidos” which means “Azabache: Ham and Deli Meat”. It is enjoying far greater success than the old vegetarian supermarket. Clearly, round here, tradition and “the way things have always been done” always win out over ecology and a more ethical way of life.

Maro in November

Now here are a couple of photos that aren’t from yesterday, but they do show typical places that we can see and visit round here. This photo is from the exact same date but a few years ago. You can see the people bathing in the sea in the background, so happy that here in Spain you can swim in the sea in November!

Empty Garden

An empty playground in the rain that we pass every day on the way to school.

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