Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

When it was time to go

Just down the road from us, about 5kms away, is a small village called Hondon. In May 1938 a group of Republican soldiers turned up in the village, requisitioned the house next door to the pine tree that gave the best shade and set about building a munitions dump, a couple of machine gun nests, a lookout tower and an aerodrome. Nearly a year later the reasons became clear.

First a bit more background. On July 18th 1936 the Army rebelled against the elected Republican Government of Spain and so the Spanish Civil War began. At first it was a pretty equal contest but slowly but surely the rebels gained territory. On 30th March 1939 Alicante City fell to the rebels and a day later rebel troops entered Murcia, Cartagena and Almeria. The war was officially won, or lost, on 1st April 1939. So the area where we live was the last bit of Spain to fall to, what were by then, Franco's troops. Franco ruled, as a dictator, in Spain until November 1975.

Alicante province was loyal, right to the end, and for that reason the last headquarters of the legitimate government of the day, given the codename Posición Yuste, was in Elda/Petrer which is only about 20km from Culebrón. That must have been one possible contingency plan from the time those troops were sent to Hondon.

Elda/Petrer fell on the 29th March. At the very end there was infighting within the Republican Government as the situation became hopeless. The recently promoted Colonel Casado raised a revolt with the intention of doing a deal with Franco to end the war. In the event the Official Government fled Spain in the early morning of 5th March. Doctor Negrín the President, Dolores Ibarruri or La Pasionaria a Communist Party leader, Rafael Alberti a famous writer of the time, Enrique Lister one of the Republic's top military commanders and several others were among the group that left in two twin engined Douglas planes heading for Oran in Algeria from the aerodrome at Hondon.

I knew most of this before today. I knew about the house that had been used by Republican big wigs near the turn down towards Salinas off the Monóvar road. I knew about the flight from the aerodrome. However, it wasn't until the 85th anniversary of the birth of the Republic the other day that I realised that there were air raid shelters in Hondon. So today I went looking for them.

Whilst I was searching for information on the Internet I came across a walker's itinerary. The particular group had been to Hondon to see the shelter and then walked on to a place called Las Casas de Collado Azorín where the, one time famous, writer Azorín used to spend his summers. Azorín was born in Monóvar, another local town, and was one of several Spanish writers known as the Generation of '98 - the year in which Spain lost the last remnants of its once mighty empire. That turned out to be an interesting little spot too. I can't find out whether the hamlet takes its name from the writer or if the writer, José Augusto Trinidad Martínez Ruiz, took his pen name from the place. The latter seems more likely.

Good to know that there are still new things to be discovered so close to home.

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