Ablitas, Arguedas, and Buñuel
“No hay aquí otro camino que llevar las cosas hasta el final, hasta el aplastamiento del adversario. Esta guerra tiene que terminar con el exterminio de los enemigos de España. El arte de la guerra yo lo definiría así: Es el medio de juntar veinte hombres contra uno y, a ser posible, matarlo por la espalda.”
“There is no other way than finishing things off completely, crushing the adversary. This war must be finished with the extermination of the enemies of Spain. This is how I would define the art of war: the means of getting twenty men together against one and, if possible, killing him in the back.”
In many towns in Navarre, the April 1931 elections were contested due to the irregularities committed by the right. In Ablitas, the same thing happened, and the elections were repeated three times, with the right winning. Gregorio Zueco was elected mayor.
For years, centuries, Ablitas had been controlled by the caciques. The UGT labor union rose spectacularly with the possibility and hope that the communal lands would be returned and divided. The day laborers of Ablitas demanded the 22,000 robadas (2 ha, 5 acres) of communal land be returned, as well as the corraliza of Bonnamaisson, owned by Count Peñaranda y Montijo. Other important demands were the right to gleaning to be able to enter before the cattle, wage increases, the prohibition of child labor, works to be done on the water tank and the cemetery, and that the starting time for city government meetings be seven in the evening rather than ten in the morning, when the day laborers could not attend.
In March 1933, a protest was held demanding the corralizas. In February 1936, after again losing the office of mayor in the elections, the left marched to cheer the Republic after the Popular Front had won in Navarre, and the Falangistas, with the help of the Civil Guard, beat all the leftists they found on the street; among the repressors was parish priest Julio Segura, carrying a gun.
When the military coup arrived in July, the right-wingers moved to the front and the left-wingers were taken away as slaves to the lands of the masters, and as long as there was work in the fields, they were not shot. When that work ended, at the end of July, Saturnino Escribano, secretary of the Republican Left (IR) and Pablo Antón of the Communist Party (PC) were arrested and shot. The latter, a young communist from Ablitas, had at one time tried to break up a group of Falangistas who were jeering against the Republic, and when he was arrested in order to be shot, he managed to get away, still bound, and while they chased him, they continued shooting at him. He kept getting up, until he finally didn’t.
A few days later, Gabino Escribano, aged 60; Higinio Arriazu, who had been in hiding in the mountains; Bonifacio García, father of five, murdere somewhere between Ribaforada and Fontellas; and Leonardo Enciso, 59 years old and a father of four, were arrested.
The War Committee was made up of Babil Martínez, Manuel Ruiz, and the one who was in charge and who ordered the executions, Paulino Villafranca “El Curro”, head of the local Falange, among others. No women had their hair cut in Ablitas.
The corralizas and communal lands were in the hands of the Count of Aibar, the Garbayo family, Miguel Zozaya, and two foreign families, the Migueleiz and the Marco families, from the Salazar and Roncal Valleys. Social and religious life had been very tense since the 1920s in Arguedas; social injust was rampant and the demands of the day laborers were continual. The April 12, 1931 elections were contested, and the right won, and on January 25, 1932, the City agreed to vote in favor of the Basque-Navarrese Estella Statute of Autonomy.
After the July 18 coup, weapons were brought in from Tudela, and the process of registering houses, making arrests, and carrying out executions by the town and the expelled outsider families began. Women were tortured, being made to drink castor oil and having their hair cut, and on July 22, the first murder took place, when a Civil Guard officer who was married to a woman from the town shot a young townsman, 22-year-old Joaquín Márton Arrosa, in the El Belcho corral. After that more were murdered: Manuel Resa, Esteban Moncayola, Sebastián Bronte, Donato Bienzobas, José Pardo, Ricardo Rodríguez, Anacleto and Juan Delmás, José Manuel Val, Andrés Carra, Justino León, Vicente Alfaro, Eusebia Falces, Julián Marton, Benito Samanes, Julián Zubieta, Romana Zubiria, Miguel Zubiria, and Víctor Les.
Some escaped, including Luis Irisarri, Pedro Chueca, José Conde, and Elías San Agustín. Watchmen Rufo Zubieta Jiménez and Daniel León were fired for collaborating with the Reds, and teachers Gerardo Ábrego, Alejandro Hernández, Alejandro Paris, and Juan José Gárriz were sanctioned. When José Manuel Val was killed, they dragged out all his furniture to the street and set fire to it.
The name Montecillo in Buñuel is synonymous with caciques, from the time it became the property of the Count of Altamira to 1917, when a Supreme Court decision still didn’t return the 7600 robadas (680 ha, 1680 acres) to the townsfolk, which they had been forced by the State to sell. The arrival of outsider families in the 1920s, looking for work in the fields, meant an increase in the population, in unemployment, and in day laborers uniting.
The 1931 elections got six councilmen on the left against five on the right, and Alfonso Marquina was named mayor by popular acclaim. The change with this new majority on the left was noticed by all, with the building of a new City Hall, works on the Lodosa Canal, sewage works, water works, schools, day wage increases, social assistance for needy families, increases in taxes on the rich, price freezes on essential goods, coupons for meat and milk for families with sick people, the conversion of the cemetery into a non-religious one, the drop in attendance at religious processions, and the vote in favor of the Basque-Navarrese Statute of Autonomy, as well as the issuance of public debt to raise funds.
The Montecillo property was occupied, and while two councilmen were on their way to Madrid with a Secretary’s report to have the lands returned to the Tow, the Civil Guard tried to oust the squatters, who turned around and disarmed the detachment. That would have consequences. After a Strike, the landowners were forced to cede part of their lands to the most dispossessed. Another strike managed to stop the attempt to introduce piecework to the sugar factory.
In January 1936, young Falangistas, who had organized themselves, started doing military practice in broad daylight; it was seen they were armed. Mayor Alfonso Marquina was injured by a gunshot wound in the leg several months before the July coup. On July 19, 1936, the Civil Guard fired the Republican City Council and all the leftist civil servants; the Secretary was ordered to vacate the house he lived in at the City Hall.
On July 21, at 5:00 pm, a convoy of falangistas arrived from Zaragoza, and they shot Pedro Osta when his 16-year-old brother greeted them with his closed fist shouting “Greetings, Comrades!”. On July 23, the Mayor, Alfonso Marquina, was shot, as was his Secretary, when they refused to get into a truck at the City Hall. The Black Squadron of Tudela arrived, accompanied by right-wing townsfolk.
On July 25, clerk José “Andia” Jiménez was removed from among those arrested and shot between Cortes and Gallur; as was Fausto “Quico” Lasheras, lieutenant mayor, killed in Mallen; Julián Tristán, councilman, shot on the highway; and Gregorio Doiz, leader of the UGT labor union, murdered in Zaragoza. On August 3, a large group of falangistas from Tudela, alongside falangistas from Buñuel, started a raid through the whole town; witnesses claim they were drunk and accompanied by a priest and a seminarian, so they could confess.
They arrested eight residents, while a ninth, Esteban Marcos, managed to escape, with bare feet and head. The rest were taken to La Marga Hill, between Mallen and Gallur, and shot then and there. Victoriano Marques; Retituto Lázaro, father of four; Antonio Cabestre, Iñigo Rodero, Faustino Aguirre, and Esteban Tristán, son of the murdered councilmen, died while two survived. Gregorio Mazas was saved because they didn’t give him the final shot; he was again arrested when he returned to Buñuel, and was then killed off in Cortes; his body was dumped behind a cemetery wall.
The same thing happened to Pedro “Blanqueador” Lashera, who came home with seven gunshot wounds. While his wife was caring for him, it was discovered he was at home and they went to pick him up. The doctor attending to him told them, “If you’re going to kill him, I’ll give him an injection right now and you won’t have to take him away.” They said they would take him to a hospital in Tudela, but he never got there. He was shot and his body dumped behind a Tudela cemetery wall. Jesús Villafranca, the smith, was shot on the bridge over the canal when they ran into him.
Postman Juan José Conget was fired. His daughters had fled Buñuel before him, after taking their furniture and all they could and leaving town. He was detained at 10:00 pm and a Civil Guard officer from Cortes tied him to a car and dragged him 9 km (4 mi) to Novillas. There, half-dead, he was dumped behind a hedge and died soon after. On August 18, Buñuel residents Máximo Borobia, father of four; Víctor “Brujas” Doiz; Jesús Litago, day laborer and father of six; Pedro Monreal; Román Pinzoles; and Santiago Blasco were killed in Gallur.
On August 26, they tried to kill 30 residents, but four managed to escape. The other 26 were shot between the afternoon and the night, in different places. Mariano Morales, father of eight, found with a broken skull; Alejandro Pascual; José Martínez Gascón; Gregorio Armingol; Julián Fernández; Félix Izquierdo; Esteban Ruberte; Pablo García; Sotero García and his son Manuel; Avelino Arriazu; Jesús Minchinela; Valentín Serrano; Martina Martínez, aged 63, thrown from a truck and finished off on the spot; Antonio Sáez; Pablo “El Gaitero”; Cesáreo Vicente; Santiago “Murchantino” Fernández; Martín Fernández; Jesús Lasheras; Cesar “Chire” Monquilla; Laureano “Vasco” Otamendi; and Cayo Morales, who was tied to a tree and killed by stabbing. Lucio Sánchez, Guillermo Monquillan, and Pablo “Medioelchinche” Marcos were also killed.
The local chief of the Civil Guard, Rufino “El Cometa”, played a key role in the repression of Buñuel, alongside the falangistas. All this information, and much more, can be found in official documents and in the book “Navarra, de la esperanza al terror, 1936“, with contrasted testimonies.