Archives

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)

 

If you enjoyed this post (I really hope you do!), maybe you will also like:

Abandoned Sugar Factory at El Tarajal, Malaga

The Old Provincial Prison of Malaga

In the Studio of Antonio Lopez Diaz

A Treasure Huntin’ We Will Go

Advertisements

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

If you enjoyed this post (I really hope you do!), maybe you will also like:

Abandoned Sugar Factory at El Tarajal, Malaga

CBBH Photo Challenge: Reflection

The All New Metro de Malaga

The Old Provincial Prison of Malaga

Abandoned Sugar Refining Factory at El Tarajal, Malaga

Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga

I first discovered the old, historic, abandoned Sugar Refining Factory of El Tarajal, Malaga, when I was sent to work at a nearby industrial park.

Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga

I love photographing old, abandoned historic places of interest, such as the Old Provincial Prison of Malaga. So I couldn’t wait to get in a photo report about this new discovery.

Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga side

On the chosen day I set off with my oldest son. The factory is surrounded by a wall, but I hoped someone would come along and open it.

Interior Courtyard Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga

Here is a photo with open doorways, but they’re not open to the exterior. They look out onto an inner courtyard that you have to climb into through a hole.

Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga

Sure enough, we were lucky and as we arrived someone else arrived too. It was a group of farmers, they are using the factory now as a stable and dozens of horses live in it now.

Interior Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga with horses

At the beginning of the twentieth century Spain provided practically all the sugar that was consumed in Europe, so sugar production became a major industry in Spain at that time. Sugar factories were erected all over the country.

Water Tower Sugar Factory of El Tarajal Malaga

Interior Water Tower Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga

This was the water tower, where water for the factory was stored.

Chimney Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga

The Sugar Refining Factory of El Tarajal was built in 1931 (and if there was any doubt about that, the date is inscribed into the chimney along with the name “AMET”, which I assume is the company that probably built the factory).

Graffiti on the Sugar Factory El Tarajal Malaga

Graffiti on the side wall of the sugar refinery of El Tarajal, Malaga.

Interior Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga

Once considered an architectural wonder with walls dressed in sumptuous tiles, displaying a rather formal, stately classical air, the factory was built by the influential Larios family, the family that gave their name to Malaga’s main street.

Back of Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga

After the Second World War Europeans began to import sugar from Central and South America because it was cheaper, and no one wanted Spanish sugar anymore. So all the Spanish sugar refining factories were closed and left alone to their devices. To the ravages of time, abandonment and vandalism.

Latrines Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga

We assumed that these were the latrines. They were sooo indescribably disgusting, we didn’t want to step inside to find out!

Interior Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga

You can be sure this is not a place where you would want to touch anything! We made sure to touch as few things as possible. When climbing inside (through the holes as there were no open doors) we did have to touch the icky walls a bit.

Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga

I went with my oldest son, which was great, because he was able to chat with the farmers while I took photos. Farmers are very laconic and don’t think about things a lot and don’t spend a lot of time wondering about things and pondering over things. (Or at least it seems that’s what they’d like us to believe).

Back Sugar Factory Tarajal Malaga

So they didn’t think very many things about the factory. They didn’t know much about it nor did they have any interest in its history. They told my son: “It’s just a big stable!”

I’m not too sure what sugar cane looks like, but it would only make sense that it would grow near a sugar factory, right?

Sugar Cane at El Tarajal Malaga

My son told me it had been a bit boring. So I took him for a Coca-Cola to reward him afterwards for being such a game haha!

Horses El Tarajal MalagaIf you enjoyed this post (I really hope you do!), maybe you will also like:

The Old Provincial Prison of Malaga

Malaga in Black and White

CBBH Photo Challenge: Reflection

A Treasure Huntin’ We Will Go

The Old Provincial Prison of Malaga

Plants in the Courtyard

Today butterflies flit where once people despaired and lost their lives. Now the only things that move through the overgrown courtyards and patios of Malaga’s Old Provincial Prison are stray cats and flowers ruffling daintily in the breeze and pushing their inexorable way into the sun-filled peace of this highly charged space.

Antigua Prision Provincial de Malaga

The doors of Malaga’s old Provincial Prison are closed and barred now.

Provincial Prison Door

And nature continues to open a pathway through its abandoned walls.

Purple Flowers in Provincial Prison

Flowers and Locked GateThe former Provincial Prison of Malaga opened its doors in 1933, before the eruption of the Spanish Civil War, and its original purpose was similar to that of any prison: to house the usual delinquents and criminals, petty thieves, murderers, con artists, etc.

Courtyard and Guard TowerAfter the Spanish Civil War began, however, it took on a much more sinister taint. At the start of the war, Malaga was in the hands of the Republicans, the current leaders of the country at that time. Many Nationalists were held in the Provincial Prison as political prisoners, until Franco’s forces seized a hold of the city in 1937.

Guard Tower Against the SkyFranco’s bloody forces grabbed thousands of their enemies and confined them within these four square walls surrounded by guard towers and high fences, where they remained until the day of their executions.

Guard Tower and GrafittiPolitical prisoners were brought out to see the light of day one final time before being executed in public in front of thousands of on-lookers.

Plants in the WindowAfter the Civil War ended, political prisoners still filled up the ranks of those held within this small space for several years, until eventually the prison regained its original use, as a place to deprive the usual petty delinquents of their freedom.

And life went on within its walls.

Plants in the CourtyardThe prison was witness to a violent riot in 1985, where presumably some guards and police officers were killed. No one knows what became of the prisoners involved in the riot, but I doubt that they enjoyed a particularly optimistic fate.

Abandoned CourtyardThe Old Provincial Prison of Malaga began to lose its importance in 1991, when the New Provincial Prison was inaugurated in Alhaurín de la Torre, in the suburbs of the city. And finally, in 2009, this former architectural splendour closed its doors for good.

Courtyard With JacarandaIf you enjoyed this post (I really hope you do!), maybe you will also like:

Malaga in Black and White

Photographs From a Typical Day in a Life

The Orange Trees

Happy Giant Cockroach Hunting!