July 22, 2011

Otxandio, 'the first Gernika'

While the bombing of Gernika on April 1937 became known worldwide, it was not the only civilian massacre perpetrated by the fascist winged criminals in those years. A less known episode is achieving recognition as of late thanks to the effort of historian Zigor Olabarria, concerned by the loss of memory as the survivors from that terrible era die from old age: the massacre of Otxandio.

On July 22 1936, just four days after the fascist coup, in the mountain village of Otxandio, Biscay, nobody was still really concerned or truly aware of what was going on. The fact that it was the local holidays, Santa Marina, had the people quite distracted in any case: it was still time to dance and party... or so they thought. 

There were anyhow some militiamen in the center of the village cooking breakfast. 

Early in the morning two small airplanes flew over the town, they greeted and were answered in kind. When they dropped something everybody thought they would be leaflets. But they were bombs.

61 people were killed, mostly women and children. One of the bombers was born in the nearby city of Orduña, his name was Ángel Salas Larrazabal, the other pilot was José Muñoz Jiménez. Salas was congratulated by the rebel General Mola for his feat, he was later appointed Senator by King Juan Carlos I and even made Captain General (the highest ranking in the Spanish Army) in 1991. He died in bed in 1994. 

Sources and further information (in Spanish): Otxandio Town Hall, Deia newspaper, Sare Antifaxista. Watch also for the publication (in Basque) of the booklet Gerra Zibila Otxandion (The Civil War in Otxandio), which is being presented today in that village.

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