The Moors in the Battle for Madrid

The Spanish Civil war is always thought of as a war of ideology, and indeed it was for the majority of the passionate soldiers that fought in it, however after our guided tour with Antonio Morcillo Lopez, the president of the Group for the Studies of the Madrid Front, there is a factor that I had never considered before, but one which made perfect sense, this is the theme of profit. Soldiers that fight for ideology are a common idea in the United States, this mostly due to the fact that an E2 Private First Class in the Marine Corps can expect to make just a little more than 20,000 dollars a year, hence he better be fighting for his beliefs. The fact that Señor López pointed out very effectively was that for some of the soldiers, especially those foreigners that had no particular attachment to a cause, money was a huge factor in choosing one´s side in the war. The most prevalent group that Antonio discussed was the group of Moors who came from Africa in order to join Franco´s army. He added two very interesting points regarding these men who arrived, one was the fact that only a few years before, many of these Moorish soldiers had been fighting against the Spanish Army in northern Africa, the other fact was that these men were not simply warm bodies to throw towards the Republican guns, they were hardened soldiers who knew how to fight. The effectiveness of this last point was extreme due to the fact that those former soldiers who had remained with the Republic had fought these Moors before and hence knew of whatever prowess and toughness they possessed in battle, these rumors could have been as detrimental to the Republican moral and war effort as the skill which the Moors brought with them. Knowing these facts, and knowing the motivations of Moors, which our multiple guides seemed to agree was money, possessions, and profit, Franco was very proactive in enlisting their assistance through the promise of salaries which he knew could not be offered by the Republican forces. The extent of the greed of these men who arrived to fight was described by Antonio as such that a story exists that a Moor was lying in the field hospital certainly dieing, and his only concern was that why he was fading in and out of consciousness, someone would take his things that were under his cot.

From Madrid

Stories like these seem to paint a bit of a different picture than maybe has been shown before, it has always been the story that foreign soldiers arrived to fight for either side out of ideology. The Nazi´s sent some of their pilots in the form of the Condor Squadron who have their own grave garden in the municipal cemetery and out of which would be formed their best units later in the Second World War. The Italians likewise contributed men and equipment. Both of these contributors, as well as the foreign troops which made up the International Brigades, arrived due to a connection between common ideologies. These moors who joined Franco in Madrid came, apparently, for profit and not much more, and the evidence does seem to suggest that this is not an exaggeration. It is hard to imagine that a Moorish soldier who had just been fighting the Spanish Army, would join it. This analysis does however begin to beg the question regarding the masses of other troops who arrived from foreign shores. Is it possible that this glorious and somewhat romanticized battle of men with raised hands (either closed in a fist or open in a salute) has much more sinister motivations for the individuals who traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to join it?

One response to “The Moors in the Battle for Madrid”

  1. calesser says:

    I saw this guided tour through the university city as a great opportunity to take photographs. An so, I took 165. In going over the photos of these many sites of memory, as I string them together, along with the personal connections to the war which accompanied us, our guide Antonio, and a member of GEFREMA, Mauricio, I see the grounds for an extremely interesting exhibition.

    In preparation for our trip we discussed the sites in Madrid that were important to the war and their role in the present. The tour which proved to be a succession of sites, most marked by bullet holes and plasters and bricks used to reconstruct damaged edifices, was a perfect example of how physical reminders from the war still exist in Madrid and life simply goes on as they remain.

    My favorite part of the tour was seeing the three bunkers from the war which remain in the Parque del este. These bunkers were huge cylinders of rocks and cement with two small rectangular holes for soldiers to see out of. The bunkers were covered in craters from bullets and such. What was very interesting, as our professor pointed out, was that the bunkers were untouched by an graffiti which covers all blank concrete spaces in Madrid. There seemed to be some recognition of the importance of these structures and a respect for what they represent.