Anything But Paella

El Fondo and the end of the Civil War

The tiny village of El Fondó (El Hondón – not to be confused with other nearby towns with similar names) is located around 50km inland from the city of Alicante. Don’t be fooled by its size, a huge part of Civil War history is waiting to be discovered there. From this remote and little-known corner of Spain, the Second Republic came to an end as the Republican leaders flew to exile from this very spot. The time has come for this long-forgotten story to reach a wider audience and a tourist route has been created with lots of information to guide you along.

A good place to start in the village is the roundabout by the church. From there you can see the information board telling you all about the parish of El Fondó. Just the other side of the church is an old school house where you can see a couple of cut-out aeroplanes which are instrumental in the telling of the village’s story. The school has been turned into an education centre on the theme of exile, although Covid has obviously put paid to any chances of going inside for the time being. A nearby shelter is full of schoolchildren’s impressive drawings and a very good timeline depicting the events leading to the end of the Second Republic and therefore the end of the Civil War. In very simplistic terms, a coup ousted the government of Communist leader Juan Negrin on 5 March 1939. The next day he fled to France and on 7 March the rest of his cabinet also made their way into exile. The final surrender may not have been official for another three weeks, but the war was essentially over.

Also close to the roundabout is one of the entrances to the air raid shelter. A visit is, in theory, possible if you contact the tourist information in Monovar but again Covid restrictions mean it really isn’t possible at the moment. 70m in length it was designed to protect 200 people and at its deepest point is 13.8 metres underground. The area was never bombed though, and so it was never put to use. Part of it was converted to a water cistern for irrigating the local fields, and there was even a section which became a place for drying mushrooms!

On the edge of the village were the barracks where 40 soldiers lived. Whilst not a particularly interesting site, it was a very historic location as this is where the final meeting of the political branch of the Communist Party in Spain during the war took place on the night of the 6th of March 1939. The meeting was conducted by Italian Palmiro Togliatti who was the highest remaining representative of the Comintern responsible for the International Brigades.

On 7th March the rest of the cabinet departed from a temporary airfield just outside El Fondó. Two aircraft left, one for Oran in Algeria and the other for Toulouse to join Negrin. The Republican resistance to Franco’s troops was then pushed gradually towards the city of Alicante where it was finally crushed with thousands leaving as refugees on boats from the harbour. The airfield is unrecognisable today as it has been reclaimed as farmland. The information boards give you an idea of where to look but there really is no evidence it was ever there.

This really was such an important part of Spain’s recent history that it deserves a wider audience. Why not have a day out in the countryside and discover it for yourself? Let us know in the comments if you do.

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