In 1931, Fritero, with a population of close to 3,000 inhabitants, was suffering from the lack of common lands and of the economic profitability of said lands. For a long time, the fighting and mutinies of the residents against the Cistercian monastery were the cause of social disagreements, and the arrival of the Mendizábal expropriation once again was unable to make the people’s needs and hunger disappear. It was in 1917 that we finally found an active Workers’ Center, influenced by Pablo Iglesias, a regular customer at the New Spa. In 1920, there was a dayworkers’ strike which threatened the owner with clubs.
Fitero was the first Navarrese town that had a City Government with a socialist majority in 1921, and Donancio Andrés was its first mayor. In 1923, he was sacked by Dictator Primo de Rivera and replaced with a cacique. In 1931, the Workers’ Center swept the city elections, obtaining seven of the eleven seats, and again a socialist, Jacinto Yanguas, was named mayor. New names were placed on the streets, and official representation at the religious processions ceased, though the Sisters of Charity did not stop receiving the aid they asked for.
The social activities of the leftist organization were very important. The socialist youths had a theater group and taught the dayworkers how to read. The labor union UGT, with its headquarters on Pablo Iglesias Street, got the landowners to write up a list of hiring order, organized a social group to help out dayworkers who were ill or needy, and created a cooperative to collect the grapes and directly sell wine. There was another consumer co-op in 1935 with the name La Unión.
In August 1932, there was a large demonstration against the attempted Military Coup. Confrontations for religious and political reasons increase. The social tension favored the right in the next City elections. In October 1934, the dayworkers organize a work stoppage to support the revolutionary movement. A few days later, the City Government is sacked and the new mayor was Sixto Huarte. The rising number of confrontations due to the attitudes of those on the right is palpable, and in July 1935, a group of fascists, led by a Jesuit priest, shouting “Live Christ the King!” faced off against a leftist group that would end up in Tudela jail: socialists Félix Calleja, Andrés Aznar, and Dionisio Fernández. The reactions against the Jesuit were not long in coming, and the violent intervention of the Civil Guard, brandishing firearm butts, will again send more socialists to jail.
Civil, rather than religious, events in the town of Fitero were numerous, from weddings to baptisms to funerals. The priests called unbaptized children “moros”, and their curious names started filling the civil registry: Progreso Ramírez, Luz Fernández, Alivio Calleja, Claudina Sesma, Alegría Rodríguez, etc. The right won the municipal elections in February, while the left celebrated the Popular Front’s national victory with joy.
On May Day 1936, the normal march began, but the right cut off the route and some arrogant and provocative groups of miscreants showed off their guns. The tension grew towards July 18. After the coup began, the Carlists and a group of Falangistas were armed. Los Cejeros, Fernández, Dionisio Pina, the Andalusian, Estrepa, the Olcoz Civil Guard brigade, all took charge. The Town Hall is attacked and destroyed, and the first arrests were made, with people escaping, mostly to Soria and Logroño.
Martín Latorre was arrested at a Cervera café on July 20 and immediately killed. Leocadio Pérez befell the same fate in Valdoprado on the following day. Then city employee Luis Fernández on Cervera on the 22nd. Dayworkers Manuel María Gómez and Emeterio Millán died in Cintruénigo on the 23rd. Brothers Gaudencio and Secundino Andrés were killed on the 25th and the 28th, again in Cintruénigo.
Before the end of the first week of the military coup, already 30 townsmen of Fitero are prisoners in Tudela jail. Joaquín Mustienes, the city secretary, was taken from the jail on the 27th and shot to death. On the 28th, townsmen Ricardo Sesma and Gervasio González were killed in Corella. Acting mayor Fernando Escudero wrote a report on the behavior of the town’s teachers, Fermín Oses and Valentín Lorente, saying they sympathized with the Popular Front.
The murders picked up pace in August, and Donancio Andrés, rural guard and the first socialist mayor in Navarre in 1921, was taken from Tudela to Valtierra on the 3rd to be killed. With him went court secretary Carmelo Mustienes, Martín Calleja, and Justo Casado, father of three. At that time, the murderers decided to kill ten for every one townsman that died on the Front. And they followed through.
Again on the 3rd, Miguel Calleja, brothers José and Martín Aguirre, Andrés Alfaro, Carlos Bermejo, José Calvo, Enrique Duarte, Dionisio Fernández, Francisco Rodríguez, José Calleja, and Emilio Albero, father of six, were killed. All of them were poor workers, and their only crime was being socialist or of the UGT labor union. Enrique Duarte was shot twice: the first time they didn’t succeed and he escaped to Cervera, where he received help and recovered; they found out and went out to shoot him again. This time, they succeeded.
The shootings were seen by many Fitero residents. When another body arrived from the Front, the family refused to allow anyone to be killed for their relative, so the ten were sentenced to forced labor harvesting in the fields and cleaning the cemetery and the Falange headquarters. They ate at home and were then sent back to jail.
Carlos Gómez and Manuel Fernández were killed on August 4; two days later, they killed mayor Jacinto Yanguas, who had escaped through the fields of Cintruénigo and was arrested when shopping for food. Those in Fitero wanted to lynch him, but he was taken to Corella jail and shot with four more from Corella in Ballariain. Residents of Fitero, Corella, and Cintruénigo were among the dead, as well as some Civil Guard officers. The story told in Fitero is that before he was killed, they ripped out his eyes with a fork and cut out his tongue.
On August 8, 66-year-old León Jiménez was killed in Cintruéngio, and Manuel Díez two days later. Eugenio González, father of four, was killed on the 19th, and Pedro Atienza and Pedro Bayo were shot on the Front on the 28th. Teacher Valentín Lorente was also shot, in September. To celebrate the town’s festival on September 14, a group of leftists was taken to the City Hall and given a brutal beating of kicks, hits, and gun butts. Fines forced them to sell their harvests at a loss as “donations for the Salvation Movement”.
Over 20 women’s hair was shaved off in the bandstand in St. Raymond’s Square; the humiliation was increased with insults, jeers, and laughs from the people who’d come out to see the show. They jeered the women should be fed “fish” head-first and be called “Abyssinians”. They were made to march through the town, and to clean and work for free. There were some rape attempts. Some of those women were Felipa Díaz, Julia Díaz, Isabel Alfaro, Carmen Alfaro, Josefina Alfaro, Ángeles Liñán, Florentina Muñoz, Elena and Amparo Bermejo, Joaquina González, Paca Atienza, María Martínez, Josefina Lacarra, etc. The property of Genaro Andrés, Jacinto Yanguas, and Joaquín Mustienes were expropriated, as the latter two had already been shot. Industrialist Genaro Andrés was taken prisoner to Tudela and then freed; after that his whereabouts are unknown.
More townsmen were shot in 1937. On May 14, Félix Calleja, Miguel Barca, Manuel Alfaro, Demetrio Andrés (father of four), Patricio Bermejo, Juan Cruz Hernández, Julián Jiménez, Fidel Fernández, and Antonio Bermejo were taken out of Tudela jail to be shot in Etxarri.
“The Sanjurgo Corps, disarmed and shot”
In October 1936, the Insurgent Chief of Staff in Zaragoza decided to destroy the Sanjurgo Corps for fear it should end up on the republican side. All the legionnaires were disarmed and locked in their barracks, and then taken out in small groups to the back of the Army Academy in San Gregorio. A hundred meters away, they were lined up and gunned down. Felipe Martín de Marcilla was taken out in the third group and managed to escape at the last minute; he was later captured. The dead were loaded onto trucks and taken to Torrero cemetery, where they were dumped in a mass grave.
Several sources say that 600 were killed. It is most likely that over 300 were, and Navarrese historian Jimeno Jurio speaks of 203 shot. The number mentioned as most likely closest to reality in “Navarra, de la esperanza al terror, 1936” is 218, from 22 Navarrese towns. Of the 218 Navarrese dead, those from La Ribera included 2 from Ablitas, 6 from Cadreita, 7 from Carcastillo, and 3 from Monteagudo. More knowledge was gained after 1979 about what had happened and the existence of hundreds of murders. The City of Zaragoza allowed the bodies to be exhumed, and city services reported their findings. Several drills had to be taken along 250 meters from the block 4 path until the Sanjurgo Corps’ bodies were found. They had been buried without caskets, and were unquestionably identified by several personal objects, including cigarette holders, razors, false teeth, and even a leg that had been broken and wired back together. It should be noted that the Sanjurgo Corps is not registered in the logs. It must also be said that the military records have been hidden for many years, and I cannot be sure that they still aren’t.