11 January 1933: The savage massacre in Casas Viejas

Guards search houses in the small town of Casas Viejas.
Guards search houses in the small town of Casas Viejas. / SUR

  • Agricultural workers in Andalucía took to the streets after facing year-round unemployment and near starvation

The Casas Viejas Incident, also known as the Massacre of Casas Viejas, took place on 11 January 1933 in the small village in Cadiz from which the incident takes its name.

The massacre, one of the most tragic events of the second Spanish Republic, left 21 people dead - some of whom were burned alive inside their home - leading to a national outrage that weakened the position of the revolutionary left.

The anarchist movement that spread across Spain at the beginning of the 20th century urged downtrodden workers to unite against their oppressors, namely the State, wealthy land owners and the Church. The movement was opposed by the government, but it soon gained strength among the long-exploited agricultural workers, especially in Andalucía, where many inhabitants faced year-round unemployment and near starvation. The Spanish journalist, Ramón J. Sender, claimed the poor were "maddened with hunger like stray dogs".

One of the provinces where the worst riots took place was Cadiz, so the government sent a company of assault guards to take control of the spiralling situation.

In January 1933, workers who were part of the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) organised a protest march, believing they were initiating a revolution. The government's attempts to quash the revolutionary movement came to a head on 11 January, when the assault guard arrived in Casas Viejas to round up a group of anarchists who had attacked the local Civil Guard barracks. Fearing reprisals, many residents fled the village, but a small contingent attempted to resist arrest and barricaded themselves in the home of Curro Cruz. A staunch anarchist nicknamed Seisdedos, 72-year-old Cruz and his sons were said to have initiated the attack and, because it was obvious he was not going to surrender, reinforcements arrived and tried to force the door of his home.

Shots were fired from inside the house, killing one guard and injuring another. The guards unleashed machine gun fire on the small house, after which, they set it on fire. A man and a woman who attempted to escape the blaze were shot. The charred bodies of Seisdedos, his two sons and two other relatives were found inside the house. The granddaughter of Seisdedos miraculously escaped from the house with her baby in her arms.

Afterwards, another 14 people were executed and the captain of the assault guards told reporters that he had instructions from Madrid to take no prisoners. Although the prime minister, Manuel Azaña, denied this claim, he never recovered from the consequences of the outrage. The Right accused him of "murdering the people", while others denounced the government for creating a regime of "blood, mud and tears".