24 July 2011

The day they shot the Mayor

Seventy-five years ago this month, the Mayor of Alcalá de los Gazules was executed by a firing squad.  His crime was failing to support the military coup against the elected Republican government.

Antonio Gallego Visglerio was born in Alcalá in 1893.  He ran a bar, the Cafe los Serios, and also owned a lorry used to transport goods.  He was elected as a Councillor in July 1931, following the establishment of the 2nd Spanish Republic, and became Mayor in October 1933, remaining in office until the socialist administration was dismissed by the right-wing provincial governor Luis de Armiñán a year later.  Gallego was reinstated as Mayor, along with the rest of the elected council, following the Popular Front victory in the 1936 elections.

Gallego wrote a document outlining his hopes and plans on being elected to serve the newly formed Republic after many years of dictatorship and the collapse of the monarchy.  He describes the difficult and disagreeable task that lay ahead for all the elected representatives - having to instigate investigations into corruption and wrongdoings of their predecessors, many of whom might be old friends or even family members.  Not to do so, however, would be a betrayal of the people who had elected them of their own free will.   The full text of the document (in Spanish) can be found here.
"There is no man so free of commitments to friends and family that he would not feel the bitterness of having to start work on investigations and purges, without first sustaining an exhausting struggle between his civic conscience and the desire to conserve those friendships and those friendly family ties ... The people we represent have a desire for justice, and we will incur their disloyalty if, after having offered them that to which they have an indisputable right, we falter because we are afraid of what moral and material damages might result therefrom.

... The Spanish Republic cannot wipe the slate clean; we must sift through and reveal all that corrupted the displaced regime. Otherwise if we don't expose and punish the illegal and immoral actions committed by servants of the overthrown monarchy, it would be no surprise if after a short time they returned to take possession of power, in this town and many others, having been in charge for many years ..."

One of the projects undertaken by Gallego's administration was the supply of water for the town. In spite of the many springs in the area, Alcalá suffered from the lack of a reliable water supply, especially in the summer months. He organised a loan to start work on bringing piped water into the town, but unfortunately the work was abandoned when the Civil War began.

Gallego was known as an honest and peaceful man,. Although the political left at that time were fiercely anti-clerical,  we know that he supported the nuns who ran the charity school in Alcalá with his own money, because a letter exists from the Mother Superior thanking him for his donations. There is also a rumour that when men came from Cádiz to burn down the convent, he and some other local  Republicans stood guard to prevent this. He reassured the nuns: “Be calm, the people of Alcalá are good and nobody is going to burn down anything here. But if any of you are fearful, I offer you my house, which is big enough to accommodate you all.”

On 21 July 1936, a few days after the military coup led by Franco, the Guardia Civil and Falangist troops came to Alcalá from Jerez.   Gallego, his deputy and the treasurer were arrested and taken to the jail in Medina Sidonia, where they were executed three days later for “not supporting the Movement”. Gallego was just one of many thousands who lost their lives as a result of the coup and the subsequent repression. A hundred or so other Republican sympathisers in Alcalá were marched to town cemetery and executed by firing squad.

At 11 a.m. on 15 August a mass was celebrated at St George's Church honouring the the new regime.  The Falangists and their armed escorts then marched triumphantly through the streets, accompanied by a band, to the Town Hall where they ceremoniously replaced the tricolour Republican flag with the Nationalist one.

The flag of the Second Spanish Republic, 1931-39
Gallego's widow and five children could not endure having to live alongside those who had assassinated the head of their family, and they left Alcalá the following year. His body has never been recovered.

Apuntes Históricos y de Nuestro Patrimonio 2003. Don Antonio Gallego Visglerio, Alcalde Republicano de Alcalá de los Gazules. Fusilado en Julio de 1936. J. Carlos Perales Pizarro.
El golpe cívico militar en Alcalá de los Gazules del 18 de Julio de 1936, Agustín Coca Pérez et al.

1 comment:

Tumbit.com said...

Shocking and sad. It makes you think ... if all this happened in just ONE village, what the scale of the damage caused by the civil war must have been.