Cortes (and the Death of Maravillas Lamberto)
Cortes and Fitero were the first Navarrese towns that had their own workers’ groups around 1917, although there’s mention of one in Cortes in 1916. The CNT had been active in the sugar factory. The anarcho-unionist participation was key in the strikes of 1920 at the town’s two sugar factories.
In the April 1931 city elections, socialists and republicans nominated separate candidates, and the socialists ended up without any seats. On April 15, the Republic was declared, and Esteban Urzaiz, the new mayor, had to step in to keep the portrait of Alfonso XIII from being thrown out the balcony by the large number of people gathered. The city government was once again reformed after the left made allegations regarding the irregularities committed by the right throughout the whole electoral process. After the new elections, there was a tie at five seats each, and a child tossed a coin, making the candidate on the right, Mario León de Gaviria, the mayor. He stepped down in 1932, paving the way for republican Domingo Ciriza to step in.
Social tensions ran high in Cortes, and old conflicts came back. The Grandee of Spain, Duke of Miranda, owned one third of the city’s land area, 11,600 robadas (1,000 ha/2,600 acres). Most of the corralizas had been left out of the Mendizábal Breakup. Despite keeping 15,000 robadas (1,300 ha/3,200 acres) as common land, the problems of unequal distribution of land were palpable. Just over half, 52%, of the residents had no land, and the closure of the sugar factory only made the social injustice situation worse.
Despite the initial attempts at peaceful negotiations, the non-application of the Agrarian Reforem Law radicalized the postures of the labor unions and anarcho-unionists, and they would start burning haystacks, squatting on properties, and in July 1933, they would call for a complete strike of day laborers and shepherds. In June 1934, a new three-day strike will lead to the civil trial of seven socialists and the closure of the labor union UGT’s meeting hall. The October Revolution in Cortes, when a large group of protestors tried to take the City Hall, failed, and fourteen residents were sentenced to a year in prison, and another ten to two months and a day.
When the Popular Front arrived, these issues were still latent, and a month before the military coup, several criminals were arrested and then freed by the judge. The Fascio was getting organized. On July 19, the basement of the city hall was full of people who had been arrested, and special rooms had to be prepared upstairs and in the youth dance hall. Starting then, prisoners started being “taken out”.
On July 27, a truck from Tudela was loaded with eleven townsmen, as well as two from Olite and two from Ribaforada, and they were shot to death in Dehesa de Robaforada, at kilometer post 106 on the highway. Before taking Pedro “Caracho” Segura away, they forced him to burn a flag in the middle of the plaza. Alonside him, Juan Mendoza “Picón”, father of eight, Pedro Hueso, Anastasio Faldos, Cándido Clavería, Félix Cascan, and Casino Abad also died. Gregorio Bonel and Juan Pérez escaped en route. Gregorio went to Llueca, where he was originally from; a shepherd reported him and he was killed. Juan managed to get away, and he never returned to Cortes.
That July 19, the Civil Guard commander, José García Fernández, fired the city government and named Santiago Fernández as the new mayor. Communism was persecuted so much that even wearing red sandals could get you in trouble, so many women were made to them off. One mother with four daughters was forced to strip naked because it was said she had a tattoo of the hammer and sickle. One of the daughters, Misericordia Abad, was shot on the road to Zaragoza alongside Enolasca Vela after having been insulted, humiliated, and abused. Before killing them, they cut their hair, and Fidel Lostado volunteered to be the hairdresser. Julián García, married to Enolasca Vela, was also killed.
Vicente Castro was killed on August 9, close to the White Houses of Buñuel. Around that same time, Vicente Navarro, ex-city councilman, Guillermo Alcázar, Delfín Saldaña, Isidro “El Cojo” Torres, Jacinto Lostado, Catalino Lázaro, Julián Tristán, and others were also shot to death. Those who participated in the shootings were from the town, and when they stopped killing fellow townsmen, some went to the war front. The Civil Guard Corporal was the lead instigator of the repression, and he, along with the head of the Falange, were the most feared by leftist and republican townsmen.
One Sunday, they took José “Pachico” Pérez, Miguel “Agrio” Duarte, Miguel “Tío Chanflin” Sanz, and Esteban Sánchez to the banks of the Ebro and killed them; their bodies were dumped in the river and carried away. They have never been found. Rogelio Sánchez was hidden by his brothers in the Borja Sanctuary; when the townsmen found out, they went there and killed him. Felipe “Alpargatero” Grávalos was injured with an awl (a screwdriver-like tool) in the side when, after his arrest, he was taken to the courthouse between two members of the Falange. That afternoon, his confessor found him tied to a chair, severely injured. He was then shot to death at the gates to Buñuel Cemetery. His family was kicked out of town.
Julio Vinuesa, the doctor, led a raid in the early morning of September 3 that arrested Ciriaco Navarro, Manuel Aranda, and Antonio Faldos. Antonio’s daughter offered them the family’s lamb and donkey if they set her father free; she was told they were simply taking him for questioning. When they tried to tie him up, he tried to escape and was killed right then and there. Two more bodies appeared the next day in the “Plantaus de Novillas”. Román Martínez was also registered as killed that day.
On September 9, Pepe Sánchez and Pablo Arellano, each a father of four, were taken away. A group of families finally moved out: those of Juanico Royo, Cándido Clavería, and Antonio Bona. The last family owned a toy factory. The Falangistas destroyed many molds and figurines, some of which represented Alfonso XIII leaving Spain. Neighbors helped Antonio load the wagon full of the toys he had left before hurriedly fleeing Cortes.
Celestino “Guarnicionero” Cerdán was another who was shot next to the Ebro and his body dumped in the river. Justo Jiménez was killed in Zaragoza, and Matías Guerrero was taken while taking a walk near his home after recovering from a disease that he had had for a long time and killed. As reflected in “Navarra, de la esperanza al terror, 1936”, Luisa Cerdán, Eulalia Vera, Higinia Rodríguez, Carmen Lacosta, Ángeles Bonel, Mercedes Mendoza, Aurelia Huerta, Enolasca Vela, Victoria Villafranca, Mª Soledad Heredia, Aurora Urzaiz, Esperanza Buñuel, María Cerdán, Prudencia Pérez, Luisa Jiménez, and María Aznar had their hair cut.
THE DEATH OF MARAVILLAS LAMBERTO (LARRAGA)
“I can only attest to what I saw and remember even though I was only 10. On August 15, around two in the morning, two townsmen and a guard came to the house. We had a room with two alcoves. My parents slept in one and my sister Maravillas and I in the other. As I said, Julio Redín Sanz, who would later die on the Fraga front burned alive in a truck accident — which everyone said was divine retribution — and the son of the churro maker, who’s still alive, came up. I think one was in the Falange and the other was a requeté. A couple of Civil Guard officers from the Artajona base also came; one of them, Arana, came up to the room and the other stayed at the front door with the others who had come to take my father away. I don’t know who they were because I didn’t see them. When they told my father to get up, my sister, who was with me in the bed, asked them where they were taking him: ‘Well, we’re taking him to the City Hall to ask him some questions.’ And since my sister was already 14 and knew a bit more than I did, and knew that they were taking the men away to kill them, told them, ‘I want to know what you do to my father.’ ‘Then come, if you like.’ Maravillas got out of bed, got dressed, and went with them. My father was locked up in jail, which is on the ground floor of the city hall, and they took her upstairs. And that’s where they raped her and did what they wanted with her. Am I sure? Very sure. Because they themselves said so, and everyone in town knew it. And it is also known who they were. The first, the city secretary, who’s now dead. After they had finished, they couldn’t leave her like that, with her clothes ripped, after all the atrocities they had done to her, because they were afraid she’d tell on them. That’s why they killed her.”
(Pilar Lamberto, in testimony which appears in the book “Navarra, de la esperanza al terror, 1936”)
Last Updated on Jan 16, 2021 by About Basque Country