People gathered at the Peñón del Cuevo on Sunday to remember the victims of the Desbandá / Migue Fernández

“What happened on the road to Almeria cannot be forgotten"

Dozens of people remembered the victims of La Desbandá at the Peñón del Cuervo, the starting point of the Malaga to Almeria road along which thousands fled in an attempt to escape Franco's troops as they entered Malaga city in February 1937

Francisco Jiménez
FRANCISCO JIMÉNEZ Málaga

Dozens of people gathered at the Peñón del Cuevo in La Cala del Moral on Sunday to remember the thousands of people who, during Spain’s Civil War, were forced to flee Malaga during ‘La Desbandá’, as Franco’s troops entered Malaga city.

Many were massacred as bombs were fired from planes and ships as they tried to escape. "What happened here can never be forgotten,” said Auxiliadora Jiménez, whose mother, grandmother and other family members were among those who fled. They were among the lucky ones who made it to Almeria and from there went to start a new life in Valencia.

The annual gathering is organised by the Asociación contra el Silencio y el Olvido y por la Recuperación de la Memoria Histórica (association against the silence and forgetting and for the recovery of historical memory) and this year took place it marked the 85th anniversary of the massacre.

Jiménez’s grandfather Pedro and uncle Diego, who was 18 years old, went to fight with the Republicans, while her grandmother had to escape along with her elderly parents and five children, including a three-month-old baby.

Pay respects

"My mother was six years old and doesn't remember everything, but my aunts Isabel and Antonia told me everything they suffered until they managed to reach Almería and from there, to Valencia to escape and leave their lives behind," said Jiménez, who once again this year, wanted to pay her respects to the 150,000 ‘Malagueños’ (the vast majority of them women, children and the elderly) who suffered "the largest and most terrible evacuation of a city that our time has seen," in the words of the Canadian doctor Norman Bethune. He attended to the wounded along the way.

Thanks to Bethune's story and photos and the testimonies of those who survived, this crime was not forgotten," stressed the association’s vice-president, Carmen Robles. People laid flowers next to a plaque that marks the Peñón del Cuevo as one of Andalucía's places of 'democratic memory'.

"Memory cannot be lost and here began what was probably the greatest massacre of the Civil War," said Daniel Pérez, secretary of Malaga’s socialist PSOE party. He described how his own grandfather fled Riogordo and reached Vélez-Málaga to continue along the road to Almería but also got caught as bombings.

Remembering victims

Before a minute's silence and the throwing of carnations into the sea to remember the victims, representative of the Izquierda Unida (united left) party, David Arrabalí, warned that "fascism is not a thing of the past, it is also of the present and that is why we must combat fascism, because these ideas cannot be tolerated".

The Podemos representative, Juan Jiménez, stressed "the importance of not forgetting that La Desbandá was a brutal war crime, not an act of war, because the victims were civilians who were fleeing.”

In addition to the event organised this Sunday, on Saturday a walk was organised by the Málaga Republicana platform, from Malaga city centre to the Peñón del Cuervo, and the 240 kilometre walk continues, organised for the sixth time by the La Desbandá Association, which started on Thursday from Calle Alcazabilla and stopped in Salobreña (Granada) on Sunday to unveil a monument to remember the victims in the presence of survivors, institutions and memorial associations.

Carnations were left by the plaque which marks the spot where La Desbandá started / m. f.

Familiy members of the victims and survivors were joined by local politicians / m. f.