According to the data provided by the latest edition of the book “Navarra, de la esperanza al terror, 1936”, the sum total of deaths caused either directly or indirectly by the criminal actions of the Military Uprising in Navarre is a spine-chilling 3,170 dead, and a very approximate figure of 4,000 orphans. No military conflict, or pandemic, or natural disaster in this era of Western civilization has left so many dead in Navarre, or so many families destroyed, humiliated, suffering reprisals for life, or drowned in the greatest depths of misery caused by the events and consequences of the Fascist Military Coup of 1936.
Castejón, as everyone knows, is located at a strategic railway junction, and that’s why it was so important geographically and economically. In 1923, it was gained its independence as a council, breaking away from Corella, which it had previously been a neighborhood of, and by January 1928, it was officially constituted as a city of Navarre. This gave rise to the dynamization of the town, with the construction of a City Hall, a Public Slaughterhouse, and four public schools were opened with a capacity of 400 students. A health plan was drawn up to ensure trash pickup and provide municipal medical services. A church was not built as it was not a high priority for the workers of the town.
While this municipal reconstruction plan is fully underway, the 1931 city elections were held, and the Leftist candidate won the most votes. Their first mayor, Valentín Plaza, in his first meeting, laid out the problems that still needed to be dealt with, including drawing the border with Corella clearly, finishing the works on the Lodosa Canal, and building two more schools, as well as revising land deeds, especially those referring to the Countess of Giraldegui, who was given a timeframe of six days to present them.
In the 1936 elections, the Popular Front won 80% of the votes. City life in Castejón had always been marked for being non-ecclesiastical, and social events were held without a church or convent; rather, they had six schools. Political and cultural life fed off numerous rallies, theatrical plays, and charity functions. In addition to the UGT Workers’ Guild, there was also the Socialist Grouping and the Republican Left, and of special importance was the role of the La Palmira cultural and recreational association, as the catalyst of Castejón, building a library, theater, cinema, billiards hall, and café.
This social, political, and cultural reality did not go unnoticed by the coup leaders, and on July 19, 1936, the Civil Guard occupied the town militarily. The day before, a train strike had been declared. The occupation was brutal, and the first arrests were made. On July 20, when returning from the jai alai court, Ángel “Angelón” Segura was shot from a window, dying right then and there.
On the 19th, Claudio Amist, commander of the Civil Guard post, on the orders of the insurgent government, fired the city government at 11:30 that night. The UGT, Socialist Grouping, and La Paloma headquarters are attacked, their books and files burned, and the furniture destroyed. The leftist hairdresser, Francisco Ramón, was forced to cut the hair of several women, including Concha Rivas and her mother; the latter was made to walk to the station to show her off to the train travelers. When she showed off her new haircut with pride, they decided to take her away.
Some of the townsfolk who had fled to the fields witnessed the murder of barber Juan Navas. At a road crossing, among the vineyards, they saw Juan Navas running away from some falangistas, who shot him down and then finished him off. When they left his body there, the witnesses approached, and despite the damage, they were able to recognize him.
Those arrested were jailed in the city hall, and then taken to Tudela or to San Cristóbal Fort. Baldomero Rivas, Pedro Ramón, Vicente Pardo, and Julián “Carrasco” Pérez were taken to the latter. Victoriano Murga was found hanged in his cell in the city hall on July 29, and two days later, Sabino Atienza was murdered.
There is evidence that another 18 people were killed. Paulino Pérez, Salustiano Plaza, aged 80, was taken to Tudela to be killed. He was the correspondent for the newspaper Trabajadores, and father to Valentín Plaza, the mayor, who fled to Alfaro. He too was captured and murdered, and his body has never been found. Gorgonio Ruiz and Cecilio Bea were forced to join the Sanjurgo Corps, and while in jail, the same night they were to be taken away on the train, they were shot. It has been testified that Félix Mellado was tied to an olive tree and his tongue cut out before his execution. His murderer was a farmer, the same one who would kill Fernando Bermejo a few days later.
Miguel Hernández, killed at the gates to the Corella cemetery on August 6, Daniel de Silos, Ambrosio Fernández, Juan Fernández, Alejandro Salinas, Raimundo Hernández, Saturnino “Enagüillas” Muñoz, Leopoldo Navas, and his son Eusebio are also on the list. Julián Falces, mason, hid in a corner of his house, behind a chest, and stayed there for eight years. Even his wife mourned his death.
“Our war is not a civil war, or an insurrection, but rather a Crusade of men who believe in God, who believe in the human soul, who believe in good, in the ideal, in sacrifice, who fight against men who have no faith, morals, or nobility…Yes, our war is a religious war. We, all those who fight, Christians or Muslims, are soldiers of God who are not fighting other men, but rather against atheism and materialism, against everything that lowers human dignity, which we wish to elevate, purify, and ennoble…”
—Francisco Franco, July 16, 1937
“It is with great joy that we address you, beloved sons of Catholic Spain, to express our paternal congratulations for the peace and the victory that God has deigned to crown the Christian heroism of your faith and charity, proven in so much generous suffering.
Happy and confident, our predecessor in our holy memory awaited this providential peace, undoubtedly the fruit of that fruitful blessing which, at the very dawn of the fighting, he sent to everyone who had risen to the difficult challenge of defending and restoring the rights and honor of God and Religion. And We do not doubt that this peace must be the same foretold since then, heralding the coming of tranquility and order and honor in prosperity.
The designs of providence, beloved children, have once again manifested themselves over heroic Spain, the nation chosen by God as the main instrument of evangelization of the new world and as an impregnable bulwark of the Catholic faith, which has just given the proselytes of the materialistic atheism of our century the highest proof that above all there are the eternal values of Religion and the Spirit.
It is up to you, venerable brothers in the episcopate, to advise each other that, in their policy of pacification, all follow the principles inculcated by the Church and proclaimed with such nobility by the Generalissimo, of justice for crime and benevolent generosity for the wrong.
As a pledge of the copious graces that they obtain from the Immaculate Virgin and the Apostle James, patron of Spain and of all the great Spanish saints, we send down upon you, our beloved children of Catholic Spain, on the head of the State and his illustrious government, over the great episcopate and its devoted clergy, over the heroic combatants and over all the faithful, OUR APOSTOLIC BLESSING. ”
—Pope Pius XII, radio address, April 19, 1939