Tag Archive | Spanish history

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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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!

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