Cantabria is a small country located in the north-central coast situated of the Iberian Peninsula with at no more less 600.000 citizens at the present. The Capital is in Santander the biggest city of the Country.
The first evidences of human occupation in Cantabria went back to 100,000 B..C. In the industrial assemblies found in the cave of The Castle . Of the period of the years 35,000 to 8,000 B.C. are the Caves of Altamira, The Pasiega or Morín. In this period the first artistic expression of the man arises, the rock art of the one that find in Cantabria the better examples (Altamira and the assemblies of Ramales and Puente Viesgu). The Caves of Altamira have reached a world recognition and they have been declared world heritage by the UNESCO.
Cantabria is a nation with more than 2,000 years of History, with own personality but with a important Celtic influence as well. An example of this influence and relationship is the "Calderu of Cabarcenu" original from Ireland , that shows that in elder times the contact between the two nations exist.
In the century II B.C. the Roman historians already identify -and wrote down- the Cantabrian People as a People a Nation differentiated of the ones that inhabited the Iberian Peninsula .
The Cantabrian Nation was organized in Tribes and then in Clans. The Cantabrian were: the Orgenomescos; the Vanidienses; the Tamaricos; the Plentusios; the Blendios; the Coniscos; the Saleanos; the Concanos; the Avariginios. Apart from this a very tighten relation exists with the tribe of the Autrigones in the east of our territory, although itself does not be included in Cantabria by the official historians
Cantabria was the last nation to fall under the Roman Empire . The Cantabrian Wars took place between the years 29 and 19 B.C. With the name of Cantabrian Wars is known to the hard campaign that developed the Roman Imperial army against the Cantabrian People in which they utilized 7 legions (70,000 soldiers). But the conquest and romanizatión in if lasted some 200 years and the Romanization itself wasn’t very deep. Many disturbances happened against the occupation.
For example a lot of time after the occupation of Cantabria by the Romans the cantabrian kept and maintaining its beliefs and its old pagan religion. In fact , it was discovered an ”Ara” dedicated to some Cantabrian Gods in the Mount Dobra in the 399 A.C. The Cantabrian they practiced worships of naturalistic type: venerated to the mounts, forests, lakes, rivers, some animals ... The solar representations of the numerous gigantic rock wakes that have been found, they cause they suppose that also the worship to a solar God would exist. They had a Gods Council and this Solar God could be one of –or the- the principals. This gigantic rock wake have been found in Zurita de Piélagos, Barros y Lombera en Buelna y San Vicente de Toranzo.
It seems that the cremation with the deceased was practiced, except with the ones that died in the battlefield, that should remain lying down there until the vultures to open their bowels to transport their souls to the sky (this it is a custom that has remained reflected in one of the faces of the wake of Zurita). The Cantabrian they used as strategy the guerrilla warfare and were skillful riders (some Cantabrian strategies of cavalry were adopted by the Roman army). They had hymns of battle that intoned even when they were crucified. Of brutal, self-sacrificing, and heroic character at the same time, illustrative anecdotes of the war arrive that maintained with the Romans.
When Roman Empire collapses Cantabria recover Independence with the same territory than before the Roman occupation. This was from III-IV century till VI century when the Visigoths started attacking Cantabria.
Cantabrian do not give samples of roman influence, therefore they conserve their preroman language in great measure and are pagans. Thus, Cantabria remains alien to the Visigoth kingdom to Leovigildo that was proposed to submit to the towns that still they escaped to their control in the middle of the century VI B.C. It penetrated in Cantabria and took Amaya in the year 574 destroying and burning it. Amaya, located in the south of the country was the historical capital of the Cantabrian Country. And the headquarters of Cantabrian Senate. This “senate” was the Council where all the tribes were represented and was the head of the nation. The Visigoth killed most of the members of it and then started to try to occupied the rest of the territory. But it wasn’t easy and they weren’t available to finish it. Many deep valleys, high mountains, lost villages didn’t see never Visigoth presence and the revolts and the resistance against them was high and bloody.
The real expansion of Catholicism started with them. For example the Catholic Church of that age give the Visigoth knights the right of attacked and killed all the Cantabrian people (including women) that they were been saw or were belief to keep the old worship and pagan cult.
But worship of naturalistic type and bits of pagan essences survive quite strongly till the early XX century. When the Moorish tribes attacked the Visigoth kingdoms they defeat them and many of them come to Cantabria to find refuge. After the Covadonga Battle, the Moorish army was defeated by Cantabrian and Asturian troops. They never reach Cantabria. But unfortunately for the Cantabrian People the Visigoth, Catholic fanatics and Landlords that escape from the south and came to find refuge started to build their power, expand their influence and religion (catholic). Here began the Dark ages for Cantabria. Even the name was forgotten by the cantabrian people. The territory was divided by foreign kingdoms: the Asturias de Santillana and Castilla mainly. But in villages and cities the basic form of govern was the council, usually under the biggest and oldest, near the churches or sacred places. But Cantabrian national identity was near forgotten by the people. Even some priests take out theories that the Cantabrian were the ascendants of the Basques. Or that ist was situated in La Rioja.
During the middle ages the power of the monasteries in the countryside was huge, but small cities started to grow. In the subsequent centuries, the so call "Cuatro Villas" of the coast (Castru, Laredu, Sanander and San Vicenti de la Barquera) they grow economic- mind to good rhythm. They export to the north of Europe and then to the Mediterranean Castillian wool, the fishing activity grows (even whales were fish), they trade with Castilla and they become the more important shipyards. This four villas or cities (Sanander for example reach at one stage 25.000 citizens) were very independent, and they have special statutes, even to carry out international treaties by their own. Apart of this at one stage the villages of the Cantabrian coast and the Basques, they formed in 1296 the “Hemandad of the Marismas”, a union to defend their common interests. The councils they formed it were: Sanander, Laredu, Castru, San Vicenti de la Barquera -cantabrian-, Bermeo, Getaria, San Sebastián and Fuenterrabía -Basques- that joined with the following year. They had their capital in Castru (Cantabria). This confederacy supposed a leading naval power to the service of the Castillan kings but maintaining its autonomy.
At this stage they appear in Cantabria many pirates that they attacked boats of other countries and ever they make raids in the English coasts.
At this Cantabria was the Country with more free-men of all Europe. The hidalgos and families were very important and powerful, and many people have the right and possibility of choosing the Lord to whom they were going to serve.
July 28, 1778
They keep their culture, worships, language but they didn’t call them-self cantabrians. Sometimes they call themselves Highlanders a name that some people still use today.
THE HISTORIC SUIT OF THE VALLEYS
In the XVIII century some valleys and their councils that resisted to remain under the stately control and the will of the landlords (many descendants of the Visigoth) and they began the famous one "Suit of the Valleys"
The historic personality of the “Juntas de Puenti San Miguel” does not correspond only with there to be a representative Assembly of the common interests of the Nine Valleys (part at that time of the Asturias of Santillana), but by to have been the embryo of the own provincial constitution carried out through the Ordinance of July 28, 1778 in Puenti San Miguel.
Its origin comes given in which already immemorial from times this nation of Cantabria had an important tradition of Meetings and Assemblies and thus these Meetings were not but representation supralocal, such as, they were it in the Modern Age the Meeting of the Four Villages of the Coast of the Sea (Sanander, Laredu, Castru, San Vicente de la Barquera), Liébana, Trasmiera and Campoo. This is mostly the original national territory, but as we see not united and sometimes under other kingdoms.
To the old province of the nine valleys they would go uniting many territories of that ancestral Cantabria and in July 28, 1778 is built in the House of Meetings, for the first time, the “Province of Cantabria”. The name of our Country was used again in this Land
The number of Meetings that were celebrated in that province of Cantabria they were around 50 until 1824, because in 1833 under the regency of María Cristina and being minister Javier of Hamlets, that Cantabria would pass to be province with the name of Santander and to be included in the region of Old Castile along with Hamlets, Logroño, Soria, Segovia, Ávila. Then from this point, and mainly in the second half of XIX century, Cantabria was divided again and many territories where given to the neighbors more powerful now, like Euskadi, Asturias and obviously Castile.
The biggest part after this forced and unnatural division remains as the Province of Santander under Castile. Nowadays is the territory of the Autonomy of Cantabria no longer under Castile. But the division is still there, and provoked that in some of the territories the Cantabrian identity have loose power, but culturally remains in the majority of them. This is the reason that since quite many years ago the 28 of July is declared by the Cantabrian Popular Movement of Liberation the National Day.
It started like a demo against the politicians that they went that day to “celebrated” what they name the “Day of the Institutions”, with no national, political sense, even with the presence of high officials of the Spanish army.
But know it have a popular essence. Year by year we increase in the people coming to attend it, with traditional music, food, political speech, traditional sports…and there is no doubt of its popularity in the youth, in the real left minds and in the people.
Cantabria, under the form of Province of Santander , began the century in a good economic situation : fishing, agriculture, ganadery, minery, shipyards and some heavy industry. This is with some international commercial relationships. Santander’s port was very important with regular connections with America .
Even in this good situation, obviously poverty existed in many places of the country and social oppression carried out by Church and the Spanish State was very heavy. No tolerance with our culture or Identity was allowed from the administration. It was a total disrespectful and aggressive politic against our culture, the left thinkers and republicans, and with all matters related to Cantabrian independence, History or real autonomy, our way of living and thinking.
Thousand of Cantabrian choose the emigration as the solution for the problems, and also many thousand stay at home and fight. Many died, many became outsider of the law, many died, and many end imprisoned.
The Republican movement in Cantabria against Spanish monarchy was powerful. This was part of the republican movement in all the state included Euskadi, but more powerful and active that in many of other countries. Many people start to think about the autonomy of Cantabrian Country apart of a Spanish Republican State.
And many people weren’t thinking in a centralized Spanish State with the Republican form but a Confederate State of Republic, with a Republic for Cantabria obviously. The cultural activity was high and increasing, with writers of local customs and manners, recovering tales of our mithology, our music, our culture, our Cantabrian pride. And most important is that this feelings, almost all of this activity was carried and rest in the People, the peasants and workers and let-wing thinkers or democratic intellectual, not by the elite that always remains loyal to the Monarchy, Castile and of course to a centralized an despotic Spain
Nothing specially changed during the II Spanish republic. Only that was a President instead a King at the head of the Spanish State. The reality of the vast majority of Cantabrian People remains the same in the city and more clearly in the villages. The social relations remains untouched, the influence of the Church was more that deep, the repression of the State forces still remains, the Landlord were the parallel power…
Is true that the cultural activity was growing and the Cantabrian identity was growing as well. It existed even a Cantabrist and Socialist newspaper “La Region”, one of the most read and popular in Cantabria at the time, and of course between the People. His director, Luciano Malumbres, became latter the first victim to be killed by fascist terrorists in Cantabria even after the so-call Civil War.
As it had been said the II Republic brought really only light improvements for the People. And no steps forward a real autonomy and national recognition was made. Cantabria was of course under Spanish State and still part of Castilla, as the so call Province of Santander.
In Social terms the Aristocracy, the Church, the big businessmen and the Landlords were ruling the country as in the times of Monarchy.
Is important to realize that (different than in other nations) in Cantabria the high classes were and are the classes that they are interest in stop any step forward our self-determination as a nation, and to stop any step made in the direction of achieve any bit of real freedom and national recognition. Only few individuals of the low business class (neighbor stores, bars, hand-makers and similar) had been interested in making progress in that direction and have national recognition.
The popular classes, the working class has always rebel and the one that tried and still try to move forward in the social and national issues. The working class symbolized since then our real identity, the people that keeps our music, our culture, and is where our real traditions rest.
One of the best, probably the best, writer that this country ever had was Manuel Llano, a person who knew how to “capture” in the letters the essence of the villages, the daily life and believes of the peasants in the countryside of the beginning of the XX century. He was a left-wing person, with some Christian believes as well and a cultural activist, close to Luciano Malumbres. He wrote articles for many news-paper including “La Region”. He suffer prison with him because his Republican activities . He died only one year after the fascists occupied Cantabria.
It was a quite big cultural develop during the II Spanish Republic, probably the biggest difference with the Monarchy. Many schools were created, without religion influence. Many theatre companies go around the Country (and in the Spanish State as well) where poor peasants were. They were campaigns to teach how to read and write.
The laicism started to be slowly a open part of the public life in a country where since old times many people opposed and dislike the reactionary Catholic Church even they were christian or catholic themselves.
But this few progress it was far from be enough. For example the Catholic Church control most of the schools. It was near in the same level of influence that the administration and still its power inside some structures of the State was as deep as in Monarchy days.
The Revolution of October 1934
With this picture we reach October 1934. The People was still waiting for real changes in their lives, for real social progress and the end of centuries of oppression and exploitation
In October ’34 in some countries of the Spanish State was a workers uprising, a Revolution that unfortunately was defeated. The most powerful of the uprising was in Asturias, our neighbour, with the miners in front of the struggle. But in Cantabria the fight wasn’t small and the revolutionaries and workers fought bravely.
During a period of more than ten days all around the Country many bridges were blow, many sabotages were made, many armed fights with the State forces, many strikes, demos and marches, many head-quarters of right-wing and fascists organizations were attacked, many clubs of rich and healthy people were attacked, in some councils the workers declare the Communism and the Red Flag of Liberty flies in top, many workers died in the barricades and the fights, many workers were wounded, many suffer afterwards trial, and thousand were imprison…
Reinforcements from outside Cantabria were brought to defeat this popular and socialist uprising. State forces, police and army killed many workers…
They take control of the country with brought more suffer to the People after the defeat. Many, most of the working class families had or know someone in prison. In Santander even a ship was made available as a prison, for more than 1500 revolutionaries, because all the prisons and camps were full. The censorship was an open reality as in many stages of the Spanish –capitalist- Republic.
From this point, the left-wing realized that some sort of unity was need, and of course the struggle for amnesty for the political prisoners was a central issue for all the working class and revolutionaries organizations.
This was the picture till the elections of February of 1936, when a big change was going to happen. The Popular Front won the State Elections. This event had influence in the all the State, in all the countries, even in that ones where the right-wing was more powerful and the have more influence in the People than the left.
Many people said that from this point the Army, Church and Fascist started to organized the fascist coup d'etat. This was the initial idea, but the resistance and the division of the people between lefts and rights in many places develop the situation to a bloody civil war that last three years.
But the fact is that was no Civil War in Cantabria. The fascist were defeated the first day. It was a simple and open invasion from outside by the fascist forces.
The first event of the bloody fight that was going to come, was the coward murder of Luciano Malumbres. This man was a very respectful journalist with clear ideals and a political activist. Also director of the Cantabrist left-wing and revolutionary newspaper “La Region” Himself was a clear cantabrist and socialist. With time he developed himself politically from socialism to communist ideals, but keeping the love ant interest for his Country.
The editorial line was since many years ago (since Monarchy times) that the Republican fight was not only to achieve a Spanish Republic. Was, or need to be, a fight to achieve a Confederal Republic of States, in which Cantabria had its own Republic-State. Of course a real democratic and socialistic one.
In June of 36 he was in a bar of Santander was playing cards with some friends when a fascist terrorist brought from Madrid that was in a table near him waiting for the moment… shoot him cowardly killing Malumbres. The fascist tried to escape but the people of the bar caught him and was killed. Another man related with this coward murder was killed in the city the next day.
The people was shocked. Luciano Malumbres was loved and respect by the mayority of the working class that see in him a honest leader, a true defender of their interest and of the interest of Cantabria.
The day of the funeral the mass demonstration of pain and respect for the coward action was impressive. Thousands and thousand of persons pack the central streets of Santander. Even the right-wing leaders were impress by such a demonstration and popular respond. The elder people that were really young kids and the time remember it as an impressive day, saying after that he was a really loved and respected person. The People listen to him and they kill him because that.
Not much later it was created the “Project of Cantabrian- Castilian Statute” that didn’t have the chance to be put in practice because the war. In this project was pictured a near independent state for Cantabria, with the possibility for the cantabrian territories under other countries or provinces to go back to the original motherland. This is the more progressive statute project that we have since then. Much more progressive in all aspects that the actual one.
The Invasion of Cantabria
In the north the situation was complicated. The connection was the central and south part of the State was broken because the coup d’etat was a success and fascist were dominant and powerful in Castilla. But also Galicia the coup d’etat was a success . In Asturias parts of the west and the most important city, Oviedo, fall in their hands. In the other side in Euskadi, where the catholic were very influent half of the territory follow the fascists. The nationalists, catholic themselves, in the other half had not a very clear position in the first moments but at the end they decide to be loyal to the Republic.
Only Cantabria remains from the first day, 18 of July the day of the coup d’etat, loyal to the Republic of the Popular Front. The People, the revolutionaries organizations move fast and they were decided to fight and defeat the fascist. They found true allies in some soldiers and some members of the State forces. The fascist were defeat the same day in all the Country and even no big fight happened.
High officers off the Police, some high officers of the Army and the high politicians and members of the Spanish Administration keep the support for the Republic. They had little chance.
The People, the working class support the left and were deeply antifascist. Even some people tough Cantabrian People were conservative and that they were going to support the fascist. They have a deep and quick sad view of the reality. Most of the people oppose the coup d’etat and the fascism. And more important is that thousand and thousand of Cantabrians were decided to fight against them. Even kids try to join the reds militias.
After the Cup d’etat the Independence of Cantabria was a fact. Our Country was no longer physically dependant of the Spanish State. But the difficult situation outside Cantabria was going to influence.
The day after the defeat of the fascist the political contacts to make a Cantabrian Council started. It was set up fast. Apart of the official representation of the old administration (representatives of the army, state forces and old politicians like the province president were there) was some representation from the trade-unions and left-wing organizations. We passed in one day to be part of Castile,a Province, to a separated Land and independent Country..
The structures of the administration where filled with locals and nationals (an unusual fact because under direct Spanish Republic rule and before the majority was from other parts of the State, specially teachers). The Cantabrian Council organize without external help the daily life. Cantabria eat what Cantabria produce and what was able to exchange out of it borders (something very difficult indeed). And finally the Cantabrian Council organize quickly the Cantabrian Army (Santanderinian called at that time) to defend the territory. A Special Unit of volunteers was formed with the name of “Luciano Malumbres” to honour the popular leader killed by fascists terrorists. And it was trained by a former legionary that was surprise of their decision, discipline and will to fight as he told in a interview to a newspaper at that time. Even people with more than 50 years present themselves as volunteers to go to fight the fascism and defend Cantabria.
Many battalions were also sent both to Asturias and to Euskadi to help in the defence.
A tragic and the event was going to shock again the People of Santander and Cantabria when at the end of the year, in Christmas time Santander was going to be attack.
The Bombing of Santander:
Cantabrian coast and specially Santander sometimes was bombed by Spanish warships that they were blocking the Cantabrian harbours and people were getting used to that.
But something different was going to happened the 27 of December, when the people was in the streets enjoying a peaceful day, when the kids were without school enjoying Christmas holidays. The first bombing of a city -for sure in the north including the world know Gernika- was going to happened.
Up to near 20 planes appear in the skies of Santander. At that time the people didn’t saw many of them and for sure they didn’t fell the threat. The planes were going around in the air and the people were looking at them curious… Suddenly they start to the thrown dozens of bombs many of them fire bombs. The people tried to reach the anti-air refuges but many never get into them. In some cases even the anti-air refuges places were attacked with fire bombs. The horror was huge. Houses falling in many working class neighbourhoods, fires everywhere, dozens (more than probably hundreds) of bodies dead and mutilated in the streets, most of them women and children….this was the result of the coward attack. Germans planes of the Legion Condor, at the service of Spanish Fascism had the “honour” of attacking a city and make a massacre in the middle of Christmas time.
The day after hundreds of furious persons went to a ship-prison in the Santander’s bay, where they were hundreds of fascist prisoners and they killed more than a hundred in response to the coward massacre of the day before.The feelings of the People were boiling with anger and hate.
But a good new was going to come thanks to the old republicans planes based in La Albericia airfield, in Santander. So old that even most of them have to drop the bombs manually.
Since near the 18 of July Cantabria was suffering a hard sea-blockade by the Spanish fascist navy. Also fishing boats and fishing men were kidnapped by the war ships. The most important ship of all their Navy was the battleship “ España”. Also its artillery was reinforced in German shipyards. The battleship was involved along with other war ships in many bombing of Cantabrian coast and of Santander itself.
One day when it was pursuing a merchant ship that was trying to reach Santander, was sighted by the Coast defence of the Cantabrian Army. Then the attack began from La Albericia airfield, where no many planes start the attack. The planes went to the battleship, dropped the bombs and went back to the airfield for more bombs. They were hit many times by the heavy anti-air artillery of the warship but they managed to continue. Many people were looking from the coast line without breathing.
At one point one of the bombs dropped hit the target. A huge explosion was heard even from the coast and the battleship started to get water. Then another bomb hit again. This was the end of the “ España”. Slowly went east (Euskadi direction) trying to reach a save harbour but he disappear in the waters of the Cantabrian Sea few miles and minutes later, taking with itself many lives of fascist sailors.
The people were really happy and celebrated the sink of this battleship symbol of the Spanish fascist navy.
We reach the middle of 1937. Franco’s mind was focused in the North, The fascist themselves said that here was the key for the victory.
The front line was in the beginning in the south of Cantabria, the east of Euskadi and the west of Asturias. The situation was this: in the West of Asturias the resistance was big, and were still fights around Oviedo, attacks and counter attacks. In the south of Cantabria the geography was an allied of the antifascist defenders and made the attack much more difficult. The east of Euskadi was then the most predictable way.
Then the fascist started attacking in that direction. But surprisingly the resistance wasn’t hard. The fascist move forward very fast and reached San Sebastian and conquer Gipuzkoa. Then the Basque Government order to leave the city without battle. The Basque army followed the instructions and forced the asturians and cantabrians militia battalions that were there to withdrew also to Vizcaya.
They defence was settled around Bilbao, a big industrial city. In theory a ring of bunkers were going to make really hard for the fascist to take the city. Or at least it was going to cost them a lot of effort and lifes. But again, without any serious fight in the city or around it the Basque government decided to withdrew and give the city to the fascist without resistance. Actually most of the willing of resistance came from some the asturian and cantabrian militias. The basque police removed them from the city and stay in it waiting for the arrival of the fascist troops to avoid any disturbance. Most of the Basque government flee to Santander, and the rests of the Basque Army follow them. Then thousands of basque refugees head Cantabria also where they were received friendly by the people. In few days Vizcaya in Gipuzkoa were in the fascist hands. Now the front line was in our borders, in the east and south of Cantabria.
Surprisingly some orders came from Madrid. It was to reorganize the Structures of the Governments and of the Armies. To united them in one body for all the North (Asturias, Cantabria… and Euskadi). This was in order to make space in them and give direct power for the Basque Government and Basque army even that they had already loose their territory. This reorganization happened in the worst moments with the enemy at the gates of our country. But unfortunately, many in the high level of the Cantabrian council were Spanish nationalist and many others still very mentally dependant of Madrid orders. The real independence was in the ground, in the daily life, in the mind of the People, in the militias, not in the army, police officials, generals or in the old politicians.
The main attack started the 14 of August in both south and east directions. The enemy had concentrate tons of ammunition, all the Italian Expeditionary Corps, Moors troops, Spanish divisions, planes, tanks and hundreds of trucks.
The fights were heavy in the South. The defenders make many casualties in the Italians troops. They resist three days, but without planes our tanks was very difficult. In fast movements the fascist were available to surrounded dozens of battalions of the Cantabrian Army and to took Reinosa, a small and industrial city and the most important of the south of Cantabria. But in the east front something shocking was going to happen. This was the front where the vast majority of Basque battalions where located.
At one point this battalions started to withdrew (without a shoot against the fascist troops) from the front line. They started to march to Santoña, a fishing village in the East Coast of Cantabria. The Basque police organize all the arrival of the Basque army.
The took control of it, they freed more than 1.000 fascist prisoners and drove them into the fascist lines, and they keep a dozens of the high profile fascist prisoners with themselves to protected them against Cantabrian militias and soldiers. The fascist took quickly all the territory that they left behind.
The only resistance was by lonely Cantabrian battalions and militias, all shocked by the withdrew of the Basque army
This happened because since many, many months before they were negotiations between the Basque Governments and the Fascist side. The contacts were with the Basque representatives and the Church and the Italians, that after contact the Spanish Fascist leadership. The withdrew was the result of all this, but not the only one. As part of the new Government after the reorganization they were between the people that organized the defence of Cantabria before the fascist attack. And also they give more military information of the fronts to the enemy. Thanks to this the fascist advanced quickly (in few days) into Cantabrian territory, from South to East heading the Capital, Santander.
Even this they found resistance and fascists paid with lives and blood the metres they advance, but the chaos produced by all this was big and the defence was uncoordinated. The civilians and the villages were a permanent target in the fascist advance to Santander. In Barreda and Torlavega -industrial areas- (Torlavega is the second big city of the country) the resistance was high, but not for much time. The columns of Cantabrian refugees (elder, women and children most of them) started to moved to the west, and many were cowardly attacked by fascist airplanes.
The rest of the Cantabrian Army started to concentrated in Santander waiting to defence the city and fight there with the fascist. Dozens of thousand of soldiers and militia men wait for an opportunity to fight properly the enemy. Many of course not, but even that they were there.
The generals and some government members flee to Asturias in a submarine two days before the arrival of the first fascist troops. And just before that the Basque Government and the fascist leader were rescue from Santander by a ship of the Royal Navy. The Cantabrian army was left behind by it high officials, the new government and generals. That this is not the only thing.
In secret, with no knowledge of the Cantabrian soldiers and militias a representative of the Police, a high rank office and a Basque official went to meet the fascist out the city. They give them all the military information pointing them the battalions that were going to fight to dead. Then the 26 of august of 1937 Santander was captured. Thanks to the traitors the fascist make the biggest number of prisoners of the “Civil War”. More than 60.000.
But many soldier and fighters managed to escape to the west. A defence line was made from the Coast line to the Cantabrian Cordillera. The resistance was still going. The first of September Unquera, a village in the west coast was captured by the fascist, but the valleys of Polaciones and Liebana resist. In Asturies the fascist were moving forward to the coast.
It was still fights Asturias but the resistance started to move to the mountains. Less than 5.000 defenders (many came from Asturias) were fighting again 33.000 fascists, well armed, with warship firing from the coast with planes bombing all the day. During the resistance was created a new Cantabrian Brigade (called Highlander at that time) and also were battalions named like the “Blood of October”… all decided to fight to the end.
The last resistance and fights were around two peaks of the Cantabrian cordillera: El Mazucu y Peñas Blancas. The fight was hard. The environment and the conditions were very difficult for all.
In the official history said that all North Front (Asturias, Cantabria, Euskadi) collapsed and the antifascist troops were defeated the 20 of October, when Gijon - the second Asturian city- was captured.
But the fight in Peñas Blancas last to the 22 of October. Till that day the resistance continue with Red flag in the top of the peak. After this day all Cantabria was military in hands of the fascist, and the long and dark night of the fascist dictator ship started.
The first years of occupation were really dramatic. With no doubt the Cantabrian People, specially the working class and poor peasants suffer a brutal genocide.
Thousands of Cantabrians were killed, many dozens of entire families disappear, even kids and elder people were put in front of firing squad. Is record in the Santander graveyard that as young as 9 and as old as 83 were murdered by them. We don’t know of the un-record killings. But its know that even heavy pregnant women were killed without mercy. That was the bloody price that Cantabria and its People had to pay in the defeat
Dozens of Concentration Camps were settled all across the territory and the prisons were full. The justice of the invaders was merciless. Hundreds of more Cantabrian (from communist to democrats or even apolitical) were to be killed in front of firing squads and other hundreds in the hand of uncontrolled fascist, or by the torture and the conditions in the prisons and concentration camps. And all this happened not for month but for years.
The fascist used POW as slave workers, specially in the most dangerous jobs. The properties of hundreds of Cantabrians end in fascist hands. The looting of animals, houses, money and property was massive and of course all went to the invaders hands and to local fascists, that they were willing to revenge the shame of being defeat the first day without big fights by the People. Many fascists get rich and healthy and they still are.
Many of the Cantabrian soldiers and former members of the militia were still free, armed and with the will to resist. And many other people that accept the defeat and went back home, were horrified by what they saw and what they experienced and joined them.
The Cantabrian Resistance started the same day that the invader took down the Red Flag of the last peak. In many valley the sensation of being occupied only happened when the fascist forces came looking for the freedom fighters. They had Cantabria militarily in their hands but they were far from having it under control. Only many weeks after official defeat of the Cantabrian Army the Fascist soldiers were withdrew from the direct repression and occupation of villages and cities. But they helped after that when big operations took place.
In Cantabrian regions like Tresmiera, Polaciones Campoo and Liebana the resistance was powerful since the beginning and it was no doubt of the popular support they have. Even with all the bloody repression that was going on. For the working class they were heroes and freedom fighters against the hatred fascist oppression.
Many Guerrilla Brigades were created with the past of the years. One of that Brigades was named “Luciano Malumbres” (as the Regiment of the Cantabrian Army) to honour the Cantabrist and Socialist Leader.
The activity of the Brigades were many. Often related to their power in the moment and capability to carry out operations, but the State forces were always scared of them. Sometimes they avoid confrontation because they State forces were much more in number and wasn’t sure the possibility of escape but the State forces avoid fight because they fear them. The Guerrilla primary targets were the fascist with war crimes, traitors of the war, and bad landlord that used the power of the army and Police to oppressed without mercy the People, and of course the State Force if they have a collision with them. In some occasions they target directly them as a revenge for killing of freedom fighters Sabotages were carried out as well. One main activity and targets of the Guerrilla were the healthy landlord and rich right-wing people. Many times they kidnapped them and asked for big quantities of money, or they went directly to their homes.
After the official decision (in france) of ending Guerrilla war in all the Spanish State in Cantabria many freedom fighters leave. Others didn’t. Many of them want to stay to the victory or to the end in their Country. As Juanin said, the most loved and famous one: “I prefer to die here as a brave man, that go away and have the chance of been call a coward”. That was a example of the spirit of many of this brave men. Most of the fighters that stay were killed in action in the early years of the 50 decade as Gildo (a very brave man and good soldier) or Ayala, a communist that found the Cantabria Brigade around the Besaya Valley. Many other were take prisoners. But Juanin and Bedoya, a legendary couple of fighters remains in the mountains and valleys of our Country till they were murdered in 1957.
Juanin was killed the 24 of April in an ambush. It said as the most probably fact that a woman that have relation with him was tortured by the Guardia Civil till she give the information of when he was going to pass by that place and make able the set up of it. Bedoya managed to escape
The lonely Bedoya was shoot down in December of 1957 in the East of Cantabria, in his way to France. A reward of 500.000 pts of the time was offer for Juanin ( 3.000 thousand euros today, at that time was a fortune, the biggest reward offer in all the Spanish State) and to kill Paco Bedoya the Police (Guardia Civil) set up probably the biggest human hunt in its history. They infiltrated a spy in his family, the husband of his wife. Then he convinced him to escape from Cantabria because he offer a safe way, a powerful motorbike. But that motorbike was a motorbike of Franco’s personal guard! So interest they had to hunt him. So the police knew all the movements and the route they were going to take. They settled cover guards and patrols in every corner of the way. Then at one point members of the political police (special branch) approached them in a car. Bedoya realized that he had been betrayed and kill the driver. They went to the ground. The policemen shoot him and he answer the fire. He was bounded many times but he managed to escape 400 metres up in a small hill shooting from there. In short time dozens of guards were in the scene with dogs. But they wait to the day light to pursuit him. So fear was he. The official history is that they found him dead. The forensic analysis said that a bullet in his temple carried out in a close distance finish his life. They are two possibilities: he killed himself as before some freedom fighters did or that when badly wounded was found and then murdered him. He pas away the 2 of december of 1957. His grave isn’t in a graveyard but always had nice flowers in it.
From Franco’s dead till the end of the XX century:
Franco’s successor is Juan Carlos I King of Spain. The genocidal Dictator assigned him as Head of State after his dead, and today is still in the place. The King of Spain is nowadays a healthy millionaire with many business around the world, even in the oil trade.
Basically the Spanish State remains the same spirit that with Franco. A Spanish nationalism/imperialism that fights against the wishes of freedom and recognition of the Countries. Even more deeply is the defend and loyalty to the Capitalists ideals. And finally but no less important he keep the influence of Catholic Church (not very openly) that still received money from the State, and of course its powerful voice is listen very important in Spanish politics and to the State.
They were many facial changes but inside the internal structures of the State didn’t change much. Most of its top members, Police officials and Army officials remain in their places. No a single genocide, no a single fascist was judge by the crimes they committed. Impunity became law and still remains like that. And the people that became rich by the looting of the possessions of many working class and middle class after the war are still rich.
In Cantabria after the black years, the genocide suffered and the killing of the last freedom fighters many good people refused to talk or even to think about politics. This still happens today in many elder and no so elder. Fear and the memory of the repression is too much for many people.
But the Red flame was still burning in our Country. Many socialist and communist remain active, even inside Christian- catholic organizations you found them and for example the 1 of May was celebrated secretly.
The workers keep getting organized. In the ’60 strikes started to be a reality, even under the dictatorship. Cantabria at that time was quite economically powerful and still have quite big industry and of course fishing industry, agricultural activity, and cows, the main animal of Cantabria. We export many milk. But some industries started to close or to fire workers. Even they were strikes for better conditions. The international revolutionaries winds reach our small country as well.
This developed in the ’70 with a powerful general left-wing mentality and young movement that even confront the fascist activists quite openly in the streets. Strikes were increasing. The trade-unions, with class conscious were very active in that time. The social and political scenes were boiling at that time. Were years of struggle and hopes in a better future, and more important, in a revolutionary future.
In the ’80 already with a “democracy” the social situation was still boiling. Still hard left-wing organizations and with very active class trade-unionist the strikes many times finish in violent clashes, in battles with the police. The young people were very active as well. They support the workers struggles and most of them were in the fights with the police and in verbal and physical confrontation in a daily basis. They at the time weren’t called openly occupation forces but they were see like that. The TV was starting slowly to expand. But more important, the streets were flooded with drugs. The social situation, the oppression and exploitation make that thousand of young people turn their heads into the easy escape of the drugs. And hundreds paid this with their lives. The plague of Heroin decimated many generations in the Cantabrian People.
The social situation of the ’80 exploited at the end in many battles against the police in villages and cities as Malianu. It finished tragically in 1987 with the Battle of Reinosa where the cantabrian worker Gonzalo Ruiz (near cantabrian and socialist positions) was killed by the police in the clashes that took place to defend the jobs and the future of the valley. All the people of Reinosa were in the protests. The Police occupied the city for many days with tanks, helicopters and hundreds of armed guards. It was a small war operation. The news travel around the Spanish State and Europe. Solidarity came to Reinosa and Cantabria. But for that time the biggest trade-unions already had betrayed the workers and of course the class struggle. And many activists and revolutionaries were in the way of giving up the fight, some of them falling in drugs, and many simply emigrating out of Cantabria. And in the young generations specially in working class neighbourhoods the plague of drugs was very effective spreading dead and addiction.
The’90 decade is a strange one. In Cantabria we saw a relative calm, but still with a flood of drugs and bad general conditions for the working class. The consequences were that many, hundreds and hundreds, young people died and many went into jail because the addiction made them turn into robberies for example. And many of them as they hate openly the police they finish fighting with them and many times with weapons.
Is the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union and media made a very good job. The revolutionaries organizations, especially communists, were cornered by all this. Many people give up in politics and social activism after so many defeats. The society of information and the expansion of the influence of TV was deep and very negative.
But even with this black panorama and reactionaries winds the red flame was still burning in Cantabria. At second half of the ’90 the students movements were quite strong, but in the middle levels more than in the university. Some soft clashes with the police happened. The mobilizations were quite big but the was not a serious strategy, the organizations involved were from very different backgrounds, even many of them were genuinely Spanish and follow Madrid orders… and in the middle the young generation didn’t go clearly for any one. In the elders generations the activity was decreasing fast.
The most important political events were some carried out by green groups in defence of the Cantabrian environment, the Student protests and the many activities of Internationalist and Solidarity groups, like with Sahara people, Kurdish and Basques. Also small groups appeared to defence our Culture, the language and were active, as in the music many folk musicians and groups were created.
Since 1998 to the present. Moving forwards:
The ideals of Luciano Malumbres, Juanin, Ayala and others were in the air. The reborn in the ’80 and specially ’90 of cultural activity, came with the sense of Identity that was never lost. The sense of national pride of been Cantabrian was growing again, slowly but forwards.
We have to remember that in all this decades the clashes with fascists activists and organizations were a reality, but unfortunately for them most the times they took the worst part. In the ’90 were a little bit organized but the Antifascist mentality and resistance was (and is still) in the vast majority of the people, of course more strong particularly in the working class. The fascist always found resistance, and even with the indirectly support (and directly sometimes) of the State they weren’t able to grow very significantly.
In the other hand in the 1 of May of 1998 a Young pro-independence and socialist organization appear. Was initially formed by Marxist-leninists, marxists and libertarians… with a national conscience that united to develop a pro-independence and socialist struggle.
This and others were the first steps forward with the hope of creating a bigger movement. In the present days we can say this we have one: the Muvición Popular Cántabra de Liberación Cántabru (the MPCL- Cantabrian Popular Movement of Liberation in english).
The MPCL as a movement, is formed by different organizations (Regüelta, Abora, Conceju Nacionaliegu Cantabru, Conceju Cantabru Popular, L’Argayu…) and individuals that first we have in common the struggle for defend our culture, country and a national rights, and as a first main objective the construction of a national, real democratic and social Republic for Cantabria.
But the main ideologies in the principal organizations as well in the individuals members of the Movement is the Socialism and Communism (m-l). Some individuals and members of the organizations have libertarian ideals as well.
If we look back after the war and the invasion the red flame was carried principally by organizations with very little sense of national identity. They were Cantabrian branches of Spanish Organizations under Madrid orders where most or many of the members had Spanish mentality. Even this they played in a sense their role as left-wing and trade-union activists in Cantabria, keeping the red flame alive in the Country mainly fighting against fascist and for better conditions in work. Little political progress was made because they didn’t have their own political strategy and ideas for their Country. They didn’t have a real and proper sense of national identity and clear positions of National recognition. They weren’t able to give the answers that Cantabria and its People really need.
A consequence of all this was traduced in a less and less implication of the People in the political activity. Even most of the People keep left-wing and antifascist mentality popular, social and political activism declined strongly till the latest ’90 and the early years of the new millennium. Now we are recovering but far away for the ’80 and ’70.
From 1998 the influence of Spanish political organizations had declined in the Cantabrian political map. The only organizations that they are still powerful and referents are in the areas that no national organizations are settled, as for example the Unions. In this area there is one union (Unitarian Union) that is the most pro-cantabrist one and have a very progressive view of the National struggle. Actually many members of the MPLC are members of this Union. The U.U. tried, and still tried to make a Federation of Cantabrian Unions, focused in Cantabria and in the Cantabrian working class problems. But we find many obstacles in the way from some member and mainly other Unions that they have Spanish mentality or are happy enough with the actual situation.
But in the general map the Spanish influence declined. This is a consequence of the growing and expansion of the national identity and National struggle with Socialist and Communist ideals since the latest ‘90. From the early years the socialist young organization of the MPLC is a reference and lead the activity with the young people, making their one propaganda and activities, supporting apart of that many other fights like the ones of green organizations, workers…
The social recognition of the activists and ideals of the MPLC keep increasing. We can see that the most successful mobilizations and activities of individual organizations are the ones carried out by MPLC organizations. Also we participated in united events, like the 1 of May, with other left-wing organizations even they are Cantabrian branches of Spanish organizations…and even we help them in some struggles.
The important and main thing is that MPLC ideals of restoring our national Identity; the Memory of the Cantabrian Guerrilla and Freedom Fighters against the dictatorship; the Pride of being Cantabrian and the conscience of our rights are going up. And our struggle for Independence and Socialism is expanding and are getting more and more recognition in the working class and in the People.
The Red flame burns brightly again. More and more people are getting involved with us or with social, cultural and ecological activities. National events such as our National day (28 of July) are a success and a reference to many, many people, young and old. We have a National headquarters in Santander quite big. We make quite a lot of activities even they are not enough. The Cantabrian Identity is majority. Now the Cantabrian National left is the reference for the people no the branches of the Spanish organizations, even if they try sometimes to win for them the united activities.
But apart of all this we can’t fell in an unrealistic optimism.
Our Country face many dangers and threats. We have a very hard way in front of us. And we have real problems. The drugs are still one of the worst. Working class hoods are flood since the latest ‘90 with Cocaine and the damage that had make to the mentality of the people and to the daily life and solidarity inside the community is worst than the others. The coke takes away the freedom and justice senses of the spirit and fill the gap with egoism. And this is happening in all the Country specially in the young generations. The police is obviously looking to other place, if they aren’t involved directly.
Our Land is being destroyed by constructors and landlords. The professional politicians are a corrupt cast that governs Cantabria without listen to the People and making profit and at the service of business men and landlord. Our Identity is attacked from the Media, the right-wing positions and from the Spanish State and the “Cantabrian” administration. The fascist are trying to reorganize. The industry and the traditional national sectors of the economy are being totally destroyed. The exploitation of the working class is one of the worst, and salaries are one of the lowest of all the Spanish State. The emigration between the young people is huge.
Our Culture is being under many pressures and even our language is not even recognized, with the real danger of disappearing in the next years.
We will try our bests to defend Cantabria from all this and of course trying to keep moving forward to organized more and better the MPLC with the will of one day achieve the goals of Independence and Socialism.
To finish we send a respectful salute to Ireland and specially to the RSM. Your fight is an example.
Thank very much to the Starry Plough for this space.