SE TRATA DE UNA GUERRA OLVIDADA — la lucha de unos guerrilleros en los años 1940 contra el regimen de Franco. Una guerra de que el público no fue informada, ni dentro del país ni afuera. Ahora hay una nueva edición en castellano del libro de David Baird, La gente de la sierra — Lucha sin cuartel contra las fuerzas franquistas.
Cada día hay menos gente que vivío en su propia carne aquella lucha. Uno por uno, los testigos se van desapareciendo. Pero el libro La gente de la sierra deja constancia del impacto terrible de aquella guerra desconocida en las sierras de Málaga y Granada.
Recoge el testimonio — apasionante, espeluznante y emocionante — de los campesinos de la Axarquía. Y también de los guerrilleros y de la Guardia Civil.
Comenta el escritor Ian Gibson en el prólogo: “Para muchos españoles el libro va a ser una revelación…es el resultado de muchos años de paciente indagación y de numerosas entrevistas, a veces muy dificiles de conseguir.”
En Andalucía ‘El Roberto’, un jefe enigmático y carismático, organizó la rebelión de la gente de la sierra. En medio se encontraban los campesinos, víctimas de decisiones llegadas en Madrid, Moscú, Paris, Londres, Washington…
Hablan en este libro gente del pueblo, gente sin pretensiones, gente sin voz. Cuentan cómo una comunidad se encontró en medio de un torbellino de fuerzas sobre el cual no tenía ningún control. Es la historia de lo que pasó en un pueblo entre muchos, un trocito de la historia de España.
Entre la información inédita se incluyen detalles de cómo:
- agentes secretos americanos adiestraron y armaron
a los guerrilleros comunistas
- quedó encubierta durante más de 50 años la verdad
sobre el asesinato de tres jóvenes
‘Merece ser leído por todo aquel interesado
en la historia contemporánea de España’ — Paul Preston, historiador
La gente de la sierra está disponible también en ingles.
Also available in English.
Ive just discovered your books and work, looking forward to digging in. Do you know anything of bandeleros in the sierra around velez malaga and arenas? Just a thought as we have some land there up in the hills and the history is quite unknown.
All I know is that the bandoleros operated in large parts of Andalucia and certainly around Vélez Málaga.
Here’s a piece I wrote for The Olive Press:
THE ROUTE OF THE BANDOLEROS
It’s time to take a trip through Andalusia’s bandolero country, a spectacular region of chasms and cliffs, eagle-patrolled sierras and secluded, whitewashed villages.
Following the Napoleonic Wars, these were lawless roads where there was always the chance you would encounter a desperado armed with a blunderbuss. Richard Ford, the 19th-century English writer, advised the wise traveller to bring along “a decent bag of dollars” to appease any highwaymen.
He also suggested carrying an impressive-looking watch, noting “The absence of a watch can only be accounted for by a premeditated intention of not being robbed of it, which the ladrón considers as a most unjustifiable attempt to defraud him of his right.”
Today, about the biggest hazard you will meet on the by-roads of southern Spain is a herd of goats, a farmer hurrying to market or a hostelry inviting you to dally for a lazy hour or so.
Allow plenty of time for this tour — the back-roads are tortuous affairs. The adventure begins about 15 kilometres east of Málaga where a minor road branches off the A7 autovía to Moclinejo and Almáchar.
Olive groves and vineyards clothe the steep hillsides. Just below Almáchar you join the road from Vélez-Málaga, turning left to the village of El Borge, birthplace of the notorious bandit El Bizco (the one-eyed).
Immense pillars support the three naves of the Mudejar-Renaissance Rosario church. Look for two holes in the weather-vane, said to have been made by El Bizco’s shotgun. It had never worked. After he blasted away, it functioned perfectly.
That’s about the best thing El Bizco ever did. With his comrades in crime, Frasco Antonio and Manuel Melgarez, he terrorised the area in the late 19th century.
The olive mill where El Bizco was born has been converted into the Posada del Bandolero, an attractive hotel and restaurant. You can see the original mill-stones and a deep well at the side of the bar.
From here a circuitous route, with stupendous views of limestone crags, brings you to Colmenar and the old road from Málaga to Granada, the A6103. Turn northwards and climb over the mountains to a remote cross-roads.
There stands the Venta de Alfarnate, reputedly the oldest inn in Andalusia. A plaque notes: “In this Venta on April 21 1850 the Mail on the way to Malaga was stolen by a group of 12 armed men. The bandits took particular care to seize a packet of Government prosecutions and criminal lawsuits coming from the Granada chancery.”
At weekends the inn is crowded as “domingueros” (trippers) tuck into roast kid, partridge and pork, but on weekdays you may have it to yourself.
Time has cast a romantic aura over the bandoleros. Popular mythology has embroidered their characters. But they were hardly gallant Robin Hoods. Most would have robbed their own grandmother given the chance.
However, the most famous, José María El Tempranillo did have a certain style. If he stripped a lady of her jewellery, he would kiss her hand and assure her: “Such a pretty hand needs no adornment.” His most famous saying was: “In Spain the king rules, but in the sierra I do.” And indeed for a while his word was law in remoter areas — he even issued passports.
One day, as customers at the Alfarnate inn were tucking into gazpacho from a common bowl, a stranger rode up. When they rebuffed him, saying there were no spoons left, he calmly used a bread crust to scoop up the cold soup.
Then he produced a pistol and ordered: “Do the same as I do. Eat your spoons!” Recognising him as El Tempranillo, the diners had to chew their wooden spoons.
El Tempranillo met his end near the village of Alameda, amid undulating fields of corn and olive groves. It lies northwest of Antequera, a few kilometres off the A92, the autovía to Seville.
You’ll know you are on the right track when — just outside Alameda — you see the Posada José Tempranillo, a recreation of an old inn complete with stonework and ancient doors.
Copies of the bandit’s birth certificate and last testament hang on one wall and the rooms are named after members of his gang — one of whom shot El Tempranillo on September 22, 1833. He had changed sides and was trying to bring his former colleagues to justice. His tomb lies in a tiled patio behind the fine Purísima Concepción church.
Head south from Alameda to pick up the A384, running from Antequera to Jerez. Soon you come to Olvera, its castle and Encarnación church dominating town and ridge. Even more striking is Zahara de la Sierra, overlooking a large reservoir.
One of Spain’s most dramatic roads links Zahara to Grazalema, where El Tempranillo once defied the authorities by baptising his son in the parish church. The road climbs to Las Palomas pass, 1,357 metres above sea-level.
This is the heart of bandolero country, the Serranía de Ronda, where smuggling was a traditional occupation — anybody who fell foul of the law used to echarse al monte (take to the hills). Ronda, famed for its breath-taking location, even has a museum devoted to the outlaws.
Due south of Ronda (take the A376 then the MA525), the Hotel El Bandolero in tiny Júzcar offers a handy overnight stop. In winter the friendly Torricheli bar has a log fire.
To reach the Last Bandolero’s home territory, take the A366 from Ronda to El Burgo, in an amphitheatre of mountains. Pasos Largo, nicknamed thus because of his giant stride, was born near here and allegedly frequented the Canónigo inn.
Solitary and embittered, he murdered those he thought had betrayed him. A skilled poacher, he hid out in caves as the Civil Guard hunted him. But he finally met his maker in 1934.
Song and legend often exalted the outlaws and an El Burgo monument to the Last Bandolero (a disputed title) bears the inscription “Exceptional in his life and his death”. Now there’s even a wine named after him.
Some travellers exaggerated the bandit peril, believed Ford. When he inquired about thieves, “according to all sensible Spaniards, it was not on the road that they were most likely to be found, but in the confessional boxes, the lawyers’ offices, and still more in the bureaux of government.”
So some things don’t change.