The farmhouse becomes a concentration camp

On 31st October 1936, the Francoist troops who occupied La Sauceda valley defeated the labourers and militia who resisted them at El Marrufo. They set up their headquarters there, locked the survivors of the bombardment of La Sauceda in the storerooms and demanded that everyone who lived in the area present themselves to the new authorities.

El Marrufo then became a detention centre, a place of torture and shootings where the rebels put into practice their plan to exterminate those who were ‘disloyal’ to the new regime. Franco’s troops assassinated between 300 and 600 people at La Sauceda and El Marrufo between November 1936 and March 1937.

On 31st October 1936, the workers at El Marrufo faced up to the rebel army which had come from Ubrique to La Sauceda and participated in the combined action of the planes and the three other columns who had arrived from Jerez, Alcalá and Jimena.



The committee in defence of El Marrufo put up armed resistance to the advance of the rebels, as can be seen from the report by the then military commander of Ubrique, José Robles Ales, which Fernando Sigler has included in his book about La Sauceda. “Following orders, a column left to carry out operations for the taking and cleansing of La Sauceda and El Marrufo” (…) and (…) “before reaching the objectives and in the places known as Los Corcitos, Sierresilla and Quijal, the enemy put up resistance and were repelled, inflicting heavy punishment on them, capturing some horses, and leaving more than 20 armed men dead.”
Those defending El Marrufo lost their lives but were unable to stop the advance of the column led by Second Lieutenant of the Guardia Civil José Robles, who took over the estate. On 1st November Robles set up the military command of the area at El Marrufo and all survivors of the bombardment and seizure of La Sauceda who had not managed to escape were taken there. Robles also ordered that all the inhabitants of the different communities in the valley and nearby areas should present themselves to the new authorities at El Marrufo. In reality, it became a detention centre, a place of torture and shootings which began that very same day.
José Robles, who was then promoted to the rank of Lieutenant of the Guardia Civil, became a key player in the terrible history of Marrufo because, according to survivors of the repression, it was he who drew up a list every evening of the people who were to be shot at dawn on the following morning in one of the fields of the estate. The storerooms, stables and other outbuildings were used as bedrooms for the men who had been detained, and the women and children slept in the chapel. The whole estate was guarded by soldiers and civil guards. Falangists were often present too, and took part in the shootings. The detainees who were going to be executed with no trial or legal proceedings whatsoever dug their own grave beforehand. Other prisoners came afterwards, dragged the bodies to the hole in the ground and covered them with earth. The ground was so hard that the graves could not be very deep, so when it rained heavily some of the bodies were uncovered. Researcher Carlos Perales has collected testimonies from some survivors who say they saw wild boar with pieces of corpses in their mouths. Perales also has testimonies from people who say the women were tortured and raped before being shot. Historians calculate that between November 1936 and March 1937 between 300 and 600 people were assassinated at El Marrufo.
Those who were killed were not only from La Sauceda, because people from many other villages in the Sierra and elsewhere in the province had fled there from the Francoist repression, mainly from Ubrique, Algar, San José del Valle, Jimena de la Frontera, Alcalá de los Gazules, Cortes de la Frontera and outlying districts of Jerez such as Mimbral and Tempul. Historian Fernando Sigler has been able to name one group of victims from Mimbral and San José del Valle, because he found a document in the Diocesan Historical Archive of Cádiz with a list of 18 people who had been shot and buried at El Marrufo. The list had been drawn up by the priest of the church in Mimbral when at the end of the war it was discovered that some people were missing, and he wrote their names in the list of deaths with a note in the margin saying Disappeared at El Marrufo.
In the same document the priest had noted the identities of a further two people who had ‘disappeared’ at El Marrufo but had been buried somewhere else. In addition to these 20 victims, he added the names of another 32 associated with El Mimbral who were shot in the area of the mansion house which had been turned into a concentration camp. With these, the number assassinated at El Marrufo or on land nearby totalled 52.
Sigler has carried out a detailed analysis of the dates upon which the 18 people from El Mimbral were assassinated, where they had come from, their gender and age, and the place in which they were executed. The first execution of someone from El Mimbral was on 2nd November 1936, just one day after the area was occupied by the rebel troops. The final victims of this group were shot on 14th November. The execution of these innocent people was carried out on five different days in the first half of the month: on the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 10th and 14th November. Only on one occasion was there just one execution. On the other days, several people were killed. The highest number of victims on one day was on 10th November, when seven people were executed. After carrying out his analysis, Sigler concluded: “In this restricted segment of victims, the repressors carried out a sequential elimination in groups of, on average, 3.6 assassinations a day, on five days in the first two weeks of military occupation of the area alone. This means that by proportional extrapolation, if we add refugees from elsewhere and local residents who were also victims, the number of killings could total several hundred.”

You can find out more about the assassinations at El Marrufo via these links: