Twelve families owned almost half of the 12,000 robadas (1,080 ha or 2,700 acres) of irrigated land, and 43,000 robadas (3,900 ha or 9,600 acres) of non-irrigated land, to be found in Villafranca. One member of these families, who belonged to the nobility, would play a transcendental role in representing the interests of the extreme right and of the Navarrese caciques: Tomás Domínguez Arévalo, Count of Rodezno. The division of the town between “yellows” and “coloreds” had been known since 1924, the former being the reactionary Carlists, and the latter the liberal republicans, and this had a lot to do with the failure of the Catholic cooperative movement.
In the April 12 elections, the local republican-socialist group had a decisive victory, with seven councilmen to the monarchists’ four. Teacher Pelayo Sánchez was elected the first mayor of the Second Republic, and all through 1931, marches, rallies, street name changes, and new center openings were the means of expression of the republican euphoria.
Julia Álvarez, law university graduate, extraordinary militant, exceptional speaker, Villafranca teacher, and socialist organization promoter throughout Navarre, even becoming a Member of Parliament in Madrid in 1936, is required reading. In 1932, she was honored in a huge rally, and all of her speeches and writings denounced taverns, demanded schools and libraries, and showed her militantly pro-union and anti-clerical stance.
The only act of violence that was recorded in Villafranca during the republic was the death of a socialist, Juan Mañas, in a shooting by the Civil Guard, which also injured several in front of City Hall. This death raised tensions, and lengthened the presence of the Civil Guard’s stay in the town by months. The UGT labor union, given how long reforms were taking and seeing what was happening, published: “During these dark two years, there have been thorough searches in the homes of our comrades. Now it is known that almost all the enemies of the Republic are armed, and that requetés are practicing shooting in the Soto, that they are wearing uniforms…”.
Starting on July 18, terror took over in the town for three days, and many residents hid or wandered in hiding in the Bardenas. On the 19th, musician Pablo Lafraya, Francisco Lafraya, Manuel “El Caramelero” González, Bonifacio Malo, Santiago Segura, and Francisco Adrían Murugarren were arrested, and after spending three days in the Tudela jail, they were killed in Arguedas.
On July 20, the Civil Guard, under the orders of Lieutenant Ángel Castellanos, sacked the Republican Town Council and named Cándido Aranda mayor, as well as other councilmen, some of whom had stood out in the earlier repression. Civil servants were sacked, and Félix Moreno, Andrés Lafraya, Félix Arrondo, Gregorio Sola, and Andrés Malo are relieved of their duties. The arrival of a corps of soldiers from Estella meant vandalism broke loose in Villafranca. Leftist townspeople were subjected to insults and beatings, and shops were looted while the wives of the Civil Guards trampled the republican flag. The crowd screamed “Die, you bitch Julia, die!” At the headquarters of the Civil Guard, people gathered round to listen to Radio Sevilla, which was put on at full volume. Sixty volunteers signed up for the Northern front. July ended with the shootings of Miguel Cristóbal, Crisanto Bretos, and Macario Lafraya. Sixto Malo, the president of the Socialist Center in Villafranca, was arrested by the Civil Guard in Caparroso on July 29.
Victorio Adrián (father of six), Victoriano “Aquilan” Arana, Vicente Arrondo, Primitivo Lafraya, Ángel Lafraya and his son Andrés, Estanislao Las Bertol, Agapito Muñoz, Emilio Malo, and Francisco Sánchez were killed in Valtierra. They were not shot in the back of the head and so were beaten to death with the gun butts. That same day, the local teacher Sixto Alonso was shot to death in Etxauri. Many young leftists were forced to choose between death and serving on the front in the Sanjurgo Corps.
Arrests continued, and on August 15, Blas Soret, Agapito Amigot, and José Muñoz were arrested. A few days later, another nine were also arrested. The arrests and the repression were carried out by falangistas and the Civil Guard. These names, which many in Villafranca could never forget, were Plácido Segura, Mauro San Juan, José Burgui, Victoriano “Visen” Arrondo, Serafín Olcoz, Germán Amigot, Tomás Las Navas, Rogelio Catalán, Sixto Castillejo, “Victoria”, Julio Fabo, Julián Bertol, Pedro Pugeo, Antonio Aranda, Teófilo Aguado, Ramón Moneo, Francisco “Pavolo” Yetano…and all with the blessings of priest Vicente Azcona.
Fifty-three people were brought in from Pamplona on August 23 and shot to death. On Thursday the 27th, young Lucio Rudi, who had just turned 18, was executed in Vuelta del Castillo. The haircuts on women started on September 2. In the storefront at Nº61 on the Main Street that the Falange had taken over, and then at the headquarters of the Civil Guard, women’s heads were shaved and they were then paraded about the town until they were practically thrown into their houses among insults and harassment.
In the early morning of September 13, Balbino Alcalde, father of six, Faustino “Hoyico” Arizala, Martin Arrondo, and Isaac Aznarez were taken from their homes to a place two kilometers outside Rincón de Soto, where they were shot. Isaac Aznarez was not killed by the shot, only severely injured; he was left to die. Nevertheless, despite his condition, he somehow managed to reach Rincón, and before dying, he was able to tell his partner who had shot him.
On September 25, Manuel Azcona, from Villafranca, was killed in Vitoria. In Cadreita on the 29th came the turn of Esteban Lafraya and his 24-year-old daughter Carmen, whose hair had been cut a month earlier. Esteban was dragged behind a truck and almost killed; he was then hospitalized. Carmen insisted on accompanying him to the hospital, and according to neighbors, was raped and killed in front of her father. Also witnessing was Coadjutor Luis Igoa, who would later become the Bishop’s Secretary.
In mid-November, Julián Muñoz was killed at an unknown location. Carmelo Arrondo, Justo “Marcilles” Uriz, Víctor Les, Donato “Caparrosico” Martínez, Francisco Martínez, Juan “Pajavano” Resano, and Pedro Romero were killed in Fustiñana on December 8. A few days later, Agustín Arana was killed cruelly, and Civil Guard Sargeant Serafín Olcoz testified he had shot him to keep him from suffering. Placido “Charango” Segura then cut off his head, which did not turn up when his remains were later exhumed.
Agustín Arana was the last person to be “officially” killed in Villafranca, as Miguel Cristóbal and Felipe Fuertes do not appear in the book “Navarra, de la esperanza al terror, 1936”, since where and when they were killed is not reliably known. Similarly, Blas Sorel appears as “missing” on August 2, 1936. Of all those who fled Villafranca, only one, Nemesio “Cosco” Les, managed to escape to the Republican zone, fighting to the end of the war, and then dying in France fighting the Nazis.
News such as the following appeared in the fascist press in March of 1938: “Pilar Arizu and Fermina López, of Villafranca, have been arrested for sympathizing with the Popular Front and for having aided and abetted in their homes, without telling the authorities, the wives of two ‘gudaris’ who belong to a workers’ battalion”.
Women whose hair was cut were: Inés “La Charrina” Peralta, Teresa “La Cacha” Peralta, Trinidad “La Diosita” Arrondo, Lucia “La Cayola” Muñoz, María “La Pataca”, Nazaria “La molinera” Serrano, María Sánchez, Carmen Moran, Elena Azcona, Juliana Catalán “la Santa” Corpus, Casilda Gastón, Isabel Alcalde, Josefina Muñoz, Carmen “la minuta”, Tomasa “la rojilla”, Carmen “la cosca”, Frca. “la mora” López, Primitiva López, Adela Garde, Inés Garde, Corpus “la pierras” Fernández, Sofía “la menudera” Herrero, Pilar “la tarabilla” Yetano, Margarita “la barrera” Rudi, Rufina “la tarabilla” Yetano, Carmen “la mainata” Lafraya, Emilia “la manzanera” Bretos, Juana “la barrera” Rudi, María “la de Saro” Arregui, María Rota, Victoria Azcona, and Tomasa Cerdán.
Gone were the days when a Monteagudo jota songwriter sang this song to Julia Álvarez on September 25, 1932, at a people’s ceremony to honor socialism in the Ribera and in many Navarrese towns:
“Soy hijo de Monteagudo
y he venido a saludar
a la compañera Julia
y a nuestra Unión General”.
(I am a son of Monteagudo
and I have come to greet
our companion Julia
and our General Union)