A mystery hidden between the walls

General Francisco Franco during Spain’s civil war.

The young Loyalist had been able to escape the country ahead of his executioners.

Don’t mess with General Francisco Franco. This mantra was well-practiced in the Spain of the late 1930s. Franco had a large following of Nationalist rebels active in a civil war in the country and wise people did not let on about any differing political views they might have.

There was a young mayor in the Spanish village of Mijas. He had learned that he had been marked for execution by one of Franco’s firing squads after Franco’s victory. Friends feared the worst when the popular mayor could not be found anywhere.

Maybe the mayor, thirty-four-year-old Manuel Cortes, had been able to escape the country ahead of executioners. Cortes had organized free education for his citizens and divided up large estates, gifting them to needy laborers. Worst of all, as a Loyalist, he had sided against Franco’s own Nationalist rebels during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).

Where could Cortes be? It was a mind-boggling mystery. Those who followed him waited for a message from a safe place, maybe a foreign country. There was nothing. The years dragged on. Three decades passed. He must have been killed. In March of 1969, there was a radio broadcast.

The broadcast was heard by Juliana, Manuel’s wife. She had continued her grim life without Manuel, trying to support herself and her daughters by selling eggs, grass, and driving taxi cabs.

Juliana was excited when she heard the radio broadcast. It stated that Franco was pardoning all of his political opponents from the civil war after all this time. Could this be true? She and several other interested parties made sure this was definite. When they were certain, Juliana went to retrieve her husband from behind a wall in Manuel’s foster father’s home.

He was able to come into the daylight for the first time in thirty years.

When they heard that executioners might be coming to get him, they had made a tiny area for him to live in a hollow space between two walls. Only a child’s sized chair would fit in the space. Juliana brought him covered baskets of food. He had sometimes come out occasionally at night, to stretch his legs, in the total darkness, and only when he was sure it would be safe.

His hiding place had a peep-hole for him to look down upon the street and the small perk of being able to watch his daughter get married through a keyhole. When he could, he helped Juliana do some bookkeeping for her jobs and helped her with her grass crafts.

How had he originally made it safely to his foster father’s house, to his hiding place in the wall? Juliana had dressed him up as an old woman and secreted him through the midnight streets.

Sara Marie Hogg is the author of It Rises from the Pee Dee. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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