Carmelo Romero Ortega, the anarchist and anti-Franco guerrilla, second son of farm labourer Manuel Romero Cantero and María Josefa Ortega de Haro was born on 10 June 1909 at No 11, Calle Elorza in the hamlet of Fábrica del Hierro (Cazalla de la Sierra, Seville). Like most boys of his generation and social status he received scarcely any schooling beyond learning to read and write before he was put out to work to augment the family income.
In late 1932, shortly after he returned following completion of his military service in Africa, he joined the CNT’s Amalgamated Trades Union in Cazalla. He stayed there, working at whatever he could until the July 1936 army coup, at which point he placed himself at the disposal of the local Defence Committee. Within days of participating in the fighting on 5 August, when militians from Cazalla managed to see off the coup-makers’ column under the command of Ramón de Carranza when it tried to overrun the area, he left the town in obedience to the Defence Committee’s order to evacuate.
Within days he had signed on with the CNT militia battalion in Castuera (Badajoz); it was part of the Andalusia-Extremadura Column and it was led by the Carmona anarchist Manuel Mora; Carmelo fought with that unit as it made is way to Madrid. Following the overhaul of the republican army in 1937, he would join the 47th Mixed Brigade attached to the 6th Division and as part of that he took part in the defence of Madrid, being promoted to sergeant in early August 1938.
At the end of the war he was captured in Urda (Toledo) and was placed in the Los Lavaderos military prison where he was held until 15 June 1939, at which point he was moved to Cazalla where he ran into fellow local Antonio Sevilla Morales and José Martín Campo (aka el Tripas). On 29 May he was brought before the local army commander who took a statement from him before remanding him to the El Partido prison to await a decision from the local Court Martial No 62. In early August that year he would be moved to Seville Provincial Prison where he was held until early February 1941 when he was freed on licence while the case against him was being prepared.
After his release from prison, he settled in the El Pedroso area where his mother and sister had been living since August 1936 when they had been forced out of their home in Fábrica de Hierro which had been taken over and which had been used ever since as a weapons store and barracks for the Francoist army. In an effort to survive he started work at a coalmine on the Las Jarillas estate, from where he would make contact with el Tripas’s guerrilla band and was soon working with it as an intelligence-gathering and supplies contact. His activities were exposed after he took part in mid-August in a raid on the La Zahurda estate in Almadén de la Plata and he would not be returning to his home nor to his job and fully committed himself to the guerrilla struggle.
He was involved in lots of activities over the three years he spent up in the sierra as part of the el Tripas group and the group led by el Chato de Malcocinado as they operated in and around the outskirts of Seville and Badajoz; during that time he was living, clandestinely and using the alias Pepe, at No 13 Calle Muñoz Torrero de Azuaga, in a home occupied by his lover, the local Inés Blázquez Durán aka la Montesina who operated as a quartermaster contact for the guerrillas.
The last operation in which he was involved occurred on 14 October 1944, on which date a group made up of Carmelo Romero, his fellow locals José González Espino (aka Ganazo) and José Jiménez Muñoz, and José Martín Campo (el Tripas) kidnapped Cazalla farm owner Domingo Gómez Álvarez near his Las Corchas farm.
Barely a week after that on 20 October, he lost his life in the La Tornera ravine in El Pedroso, alongside the three above-named guerrillas. What happened during the night of 19 October and the morning of 20 October is not known for sure. According to the Civil Guard and the Francoist court martial the guerrillas were killed by a counter-gang led by Sergeant José Ruano Pascual, who had a scout with him in the shape of an ex-guerrilla nick-named Chocolate (Francisco Moruno Macías) who had turned himself in some months earlier and who guided the Civil Guards to the La Tornera camp. However, the relatives of José González Espino and José Jiménez Muñoz, as well as various testimonies gathered by this author from among the inhabitants of Cazalla de la Sierra and El Pedroso maintain that in actual fact, prior to being executed, the guerrillas had been poisoned by milk supplied to them on a daily basis by a local goatherd; milk which, in accordance with orders from Civil Guard sergeant Ramón Jiménez Martínez had first been tainted at a pharmacy in Cazalla.
According to reports from pathologists Jacinto Vera Campos, Manuel Nosea Portero and Luis Odriozola y Ortiz del Torre, Carmelo Romero had five gunshot wounds from a 9 millimetre; an entry wound in the right carotid artery exiting via the left eye; another in the upper chest travelling towards the left armpit; a third in the spine level with the second dorsal vertebra; a fourth wound on the right hand side of the sacral area exiting via the buttock on the same side; and a fifth and final wound in the left armpit area.
Co-sponsored by the CGT-Andalusia todososnombres.org is a site dedicated to salvaging the memories of the victims of Francoist reprisals in Andalusia, Extremadura and N. Africa. Its database currently hold some 110,413 names, 942 mini-biographies (such as the one above) and some 1675 documents. Those documents include a wide-ranging bibliography, reports on archaeological digs to recover bodies from common graves, maps and sundry other guides, plus full texts such as Manuel Temblador Lopez’s memoirs, Recuerdos de un libertario andaluz. A priceless source for researchers.
Translated by: Paul Sharkey.