Wednesday, February 21

Congress supports declaring La Desbandá as a Place of Democratic Memory with the opposition of Vox and the abstention of the PP

The Congress of Deputies has approved this Thursday an initiative to declare La Desbandá as a place of historical memory and include it in the State Inventory of Places of Democratic Memory, without the support of the Popular Party and Vox. It is a non-law proposal (PNL) presented by the Socialist Group and defended by the Malaga deputy Ignacio López last Tuesday, when the position of the majority of the groups was already clear: all in favor, except the party of extreme right, against, and the PP, which however was ambiguous with its final position. Finally, in the vote held on Thursday the popular have abstained. The PNL was approved with 201 votes in favor, 53 against (Vox) and 86 abstentions (PP).

Málaga-Almería, February 37: ‘La desbandá’, hell on the road

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The PNL urges the Government to declare La Desbandá as a Place of Democratic Memory, “based on its intangible and symbolic historical values”, guaranteeing its “durability, identification, explanation and adequate signage”. An effort championed in the last decade by a civil association established for this purpose.

It also asks him to establish the means to spread and interpret the massacre perpetrated by the Francoist troops, the Italian aviation and the Cervera and Baleares ships against the civilian population that fled from Malaga towards Almeria from February 7, 1937. PNL asks the Government to install plates or badges in one of the most important locations along the Malaga-Almería highway.

This initiative collides with a reality. The state law that includes this figure has not been approved. Another option is for the Government to carry out the recognition using some other instrument, such as a Royal Decree. The Andalusian Historical Memory Law It already catalogs three places: the Paseo de los Canadienses in Malaga, the mouth of the Guadalfeo and the Almería prison.

“Hemiplegic historical memory”

In his speech last Tuesday, deputy Francisco José Contreras had already announced the vote against the extreme right, hiding behind the alleged revenge spirit that the proposal would inspire. “Initiatives like this seem to fulfill the promise of the Pasionaria [en alusión a unas supuestas declaraciones de Dolores Ibárruri en 1974]because they are not inspired by compassion but by the desire for revenge, the need to rewrite history in an Orwellian way, and the pathological obsession to finally win the Civil War 83 years after its end,” said Contreras, who described the initiative as his own. of the “hemiplegic historical memory”.

Contreras came to question the veracity of La Desbandá as reported by the NLP, which recalls the flight of more than 100,000 people (some investigations put the figure at 300,000), harassed by land, sea and air. Historical research estimates that about 5,000 died. “In reality, the apocalyptic version of La Desbandá as a deliberate massacre is supported by the testimony of a single person, the communist doctor Norman Bethune, who was not on the road but in Almería,” said Contreras, who blamed the victims on the “logistical improvidence” of the evacuation of Malaga by the Republic.

Thus, he ignored the many dozens of oral testimonies, silenced for years but sustained and reiterated in recent decades. Some of those who were bombed as children are still alive. This medium has spoken with dozens of them in recent years. Now they regret the questioning of the event, which is championed by the professor of the Malaga University Anthony Nadal. “Can you believe that a historian can say that this is a lie? That those who went were militiamen, who took their women and children? People came from the towns of Malaga and Cadiz. My father was a fisherman and he had nothing to do with the war”, Ana Pomares, who was nine years old and who fled with her parents and her brothers from Comenar to Almería, wondered recently.

Contreras also ignored the reports of operations of the Canarias, the investigations of historians such as Encarnación Barranquero, Andrés Fernández and Maribel Brenes, or the writings of those who were witnesses, such as the French novelist André Malraux.

Jaime Istúriz (PP) had not advanced the abstention, but he did say that his group would not support the initiative. According to Istúriz, urging the government to recognize La Desbandá confirms the commitment of the left to “open the bleeding wound” of the Civil War, as opposed to forgetting the “disastrous period” of the Second Republic, according to what he said. In addition, Istúriz pointed to a formal reason, to which some of those who have supported the initiative also alluded: the figure of “place of historical memory” is contemplated in a law, that of Democratic Memory, which has not been approved due to discrepancies between government partners.

“The question is why it took us 85 years to do it”

López had defended the initiative as a “moral duty”, assuring that it is an episode that is still unknown to a large part of the citizenry. “The question is not why we bring it 85 years later, but why it took us 85 years to do it. But better late than never. It is a debt to the victims.” And he linked it to the present: “Surely we can today be more aware of what a mass exodus entails. We see it on television in Ukraine, and it causes us pain. And the indignation is added when that exodus is bombarded. How can it be so evil? But it happened here, in Andalusia, in February 1937”. López also asked the mayor of Madrid to remove the street again in tribute to the Balearic cruise ship: “It is absolute nonsense that the executioners of a massacre have a street and we have not yet recognized the victims.”

Despite the support for the initiative, the PSOE had to listen to the reproach of some of those who contributed to carrying it out, for different reasons. Martina Velarde made her ugly that she has refused to modify the Penal Code to be able to judge crimes against humanity and genocide committed by the Franco regime, adding her votes to those of Ciudadanos, PP and Vox. “The best tribute we can pay to the victims of La Desbandá is to end impunity for the crimes of Francoism.”

Néstor Rego, deputy of the BNG, recalled that Salvador Moreno, in command of the Canarias cruiser, is still buried in the pantheon of illustrious sailors of the San Fernando Navy NCO School.

Words of Bethune in the proceedings of the Congress

Perhaps the most enthusiastic support for the socialist proposal was found in Guillermo Díaz. The Malaga deputy for Ciudadanos is passionate about history, and made the strongest argument in favor of recognizing La Desbandá for what it was: a terrible crime against the civilian population, against thousands of people, many women, children, elderly, who fled with what they were wearing, two hundred kilometers on foot, from the reprisals they sensed against Málaga la Roja. Along the way, the Cervera and the Baleares shelled them, the Italian Fiats machine-gunned them, and the regulars harassed them. Upon reaching Almería they were again bombed.

Diaz read a passage from Bethune’s writings, “which must appear in the acts of Congress.” “It is difficult to decide who to take. Our vehicle was besieged by a mob of desperate fathers and mothers who, with tired arms outstretched towards us, handed over their children. Eyes and faces swollen and congested from four days of sun and thirst. Take this one, look at this child, this one is injured. Children with bloodstained rags around their arms and legs, shoeless children with feet so swollen they had doubled in size, crying their hearts out in pain and hunger and exhaustion. 200 kilometers of misery”.

“Spaniards did this to Spaniards,” lamented Díaz, between calls to Jünger and Chaves Nogales. “Barbarism and tragedy replace normality without a break in continuity. Do not frivolize with these matters. Spanish democracy is founded on the blood of people like those of La Desbandá, and that of hundreds of thousands who, like them, for an ideal or simply because of where the war caught them, lost their lives. Those who want to confront Spaniards with Spaniards looking for political gain, should ask themselves what ideology a baby that cries in its mother’s arms had.