ANY DAY NOW the first snows will blanket the summit of one of southern Spain’s highest mountains — just a short distance from the Mediterranean beaches where (hardier) folk swim all year around.
La Maroma, soaring 2,068 metres, is the highest peak in Málaga province — and probably the closest thing to a holy mountain in these parts.
In the days before refrigeration the neveros (literally, “snowmen”) would trek to the top of Maroma to seek snow and ice. This they would pack hard in straw and load it in esparto baskets on the backs of mules. Transported to the coast, the ice was used to cool drinks or make ice-cream. Read the rest of this entry »
WE’RE ALL ESCAPISTS AT HEART, dreaming of another life in another place without the nagging worries that go with our daily routine.
However, if you take the big step and launch yourself into a new life, a “simple life” in a totally different environment, it can turn out rather more complicated than you expected.
In the case of one not-so-innocent Britisher, his escapist dream turn turns into a dramatic adventure with sinister surprises lying in wait. Don’t Miss The Fiesta!, a thriller set in a Spanish village, takes the lid off the surprises that could await a stranger in an outwardly tranquil Andalusian pueblo. Read the rest of this entry »
WANDER along the seafront of a certain lesser-known Spanish resort and you will find a phallic-looking structure bearing a small plaque.
It honours a penniless youth whose writings helped put the town, Almuñecar in Granada province, on the tourist map.
“Laurie Lee? Who he?” Spanish visitors may ask.
But in his native England Lee is a celebrity — and this year the centenary of his birth has been celebrated with special events and the publishing of new editions of his books. Read the rest of this entry »
Between Two Fires — Guerrilla war in the Spanish sierras, a poignant account of how a village was trapped in a brutal conflict for years after the Civil War, has been setting sales records in the United States.
Since it became available in the Lightning Source edition, which can be ordered through Amazon online, it has been selling steadily to American readers keen to know more about this forgotten war — a war which went virtually unreported due to strict censorship.
The book has won critical praise from across the world. “As exciting as any thriller yet deeply moving, it deserves to be read by everyone concerned with the history of contemporary Spain,”says historian Paul Preston, author of The Spanish Civil War and Franco – A Biography. Read the rest of this entry »
HIS EXPLOITS have entertained millions. And they willingly suspend belief as they enjoy the crazy escapades of Indiana Jones in the various films in which he is portrayed by Harrison Ford.
But hold on! Could Indiana Jones have ever existed in real life? Not with that name maybe. But somebody remarkably like Indiana Jones did play a dramatic role in the war against the Nazis.
His name: Carleton S. Coon and when you read of his exploits it seems quite likely that the film character was based on him. Colourful background information, lending substance to this, is detailed in David Baird’s book Between Two Fires – Guerrilla war in the Spanish sierras. Read the rest of this entry »
“This superbly written book could not be more timely.”
So says Paul Preston, one of the most respected authors concentrating on recent Spanish history.
He is referring to Between Two Fires — Guerrilla war in the Spanish sierras, a poignant account of how a Spanish village was trapped in a brutal conflict — one which went virtually unreported due to strict censorship.
A new edition of this in-depth investigation written by longtime resident of Spain David Baird is just out. Praise has come from across the world. Read the rest of this entry »
With Don’t Miss the Fiesta! journalist and author David Baird (born in Shropshire, England) does a remarkable job both of entertaining and enlightening his readers, writes Miguel Booth, Hispanist, writer and polemicist.
At first glance this engaging book is just a compelling tale of mystery and adventure: Scully, a degenerate British fraudster takes refuge in a remote Andalusian mountain village, bringing with him his baggage of regrets and sordid secrets. But he’s unaware of the mysteries the seemingly innocent village of Benamargo harbors. A hint: The name itself denotes bitterness.
On another level the book is a vibrant fictionalized account of the secret lives of so many real-life Spanish villages which—at the time the story is set, in the 1980s—were still largely trapped between the hammer of the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath, and the anvil of cruel medieval religious “obligations”. Read the rest of this entry »
EVEN TODAY Spain is different. A visit to a huge monument 50 kilometres from Madrid demonstrates that.
Europe’s fascist dictators perished in appropriate fashion. Hitler committed suicide as Berlin collapsed in flames and Mussolini was killed and humiliated by Italian partisans.
General Franco, however, died of old age and is interred in a vast granite mausoleum at the Valle de los Caídos. Alongside Franco lie the bodies of 33,800 victims of the Spanish Civil War, combatants from both sides. They were brought there from mass graves all over the country.
Far from being a monument to all those who died in the terrible conflict, the Valle de los Caídos has become a symbol of a brutal dictatorship and a place of pilgrimage for unreconstructed fascists.
Dolores Cabra, of the Asociación Guerra y Exilio, one of many demanding justice for those who suffered under the Franco regime, wants the dictator’s remains removed to a family grave. For her and many others it is “a bloody and painful contradiction for victims of reprisals to lie next to their executioner”.
The mausoleum, topped by a 150-metre cross, is reminiscent of the grandiose structures built by the Nazis. Some 20,000 Republican prisoners toiled to construct it, many of them suffering fatal accidents.
Today some Spaniards want the whole structure demolished, others believe it should be converted into a permanent exhibition to remind the world of the consequences of fascism — something which has long been done in Germany with gory relics of the Hitler regime.
Thousands of foreign tourists visit the Valley of the Fallen every year. Few realise what extreme emotions this symbol stirs in a Spain still grappling with its past.
WHILE thousands of families wait anxiously for the chance to give a dignified burial to their loved ones, the drive to investigate Spain’s thousands of mass graves has bogged down in a legal quagmire.
Seventy years have passed since the end of the country’s civil war and 34 since Franco died, but Spain still finds it painful to come to terms with its recent history.
Not everybody wants the victims of executions during the Franco era to be exhumed. Some claim that it will only open old wounds and that the dead should be allowed to rest in peace.
But the real problem is the lack of will on the part of politicians and judicial institutions to tackle the problem. Years of haggling and foot-dragging have delayed a full-scale investigation.
Associations formed by the families “para la recuperación de la memoria histórica” have been labouring to open some of the graves and have the remains identified via DNA tests. But they are often working in a legal limbo and receiving little official support.
They took their case to Spain’s High Court, furnishing details of 143,000 persons executed and tossed into mass graves during and after the Civil War.
Judge Baltasar Garzón, always ready to stick his neck out, gave the interminable legal process a sharp kick, ordering the opening of a case against the Franco regime of crimes against humanity and that 19 graves should be investigated.
But he ran into a brick wall when his fellow judges rejected the case and blocked the exhumations. Garzón reacted by retiring from the case and turning the matter over to courts in the districts where the graves are located.
However, the local courts are proving reluctant to act. Spain’s national government has asked regional governments to take responsibility but most have declined.
Meanwhile, many of the relatives of the victims are old and failing in health. Their hopes of at last seeing their fathers, uncles, mothers interred in properly identified graves fade by the day.
Spain is still arguing about the bitter legacy from the Franco years. Passions are aroused about events during the long years of dictatorship. A new law, the Ley de la Memoria Histórica, aims to heal some of the lingering wounds but has only succeeded in exacerbating the fierce debate.
Thus, Between Two Fires could not be more timely. This important new book throws fresh light on a forgotten war, which raged years after Spain’s Civil War and went largely unreported.
Author David Baird has scoured official archives from Barcelona to Washington and interviewed scores of survivors to dig out the true story behind the anti-Franco resistance movement.
Now — after more than five years’ research — his book, Between Two Fires — Guerrilla war in the Spanish sierras, is out.
This is the true story of what happens when humble country folk find themselves in the front line in a secret war. Leading the guerrillas against Franco’s Civil Guard was a legendary figure, Roberto, a veteran of the Civil War and the French Resistance, charismatic but doomed.
Guerrilleros, villagers, Civil Guards give a moving account of bloodshed and betrayal, courage and heroism. Little did they know that as the guerrilla war raged, politicians as far apart as London and Moscow were pulling the strings.
In the words of noted British historian Paul Preston: “As exciting as any thriller, yet deeply moving, it deserves to be read by everyone concerned with the history of contemporary Spain.”
See the pages of this Maroma Press website for more details and how to order this fascinating and significant book.