“La banda terrorista”

24 January 2010

Opening my morning paper today in the café-bar, past Haiti & an article on immigration, I find a small article summarizing a new book, Vidas rotas (Broken Lives) — which (I cannot help but think — the article is filed out of Madrid) in the very Spanish El País is summarized by the headline as “Una niña, primera víctima de ETA” — a little girl, ETA’s first victim, ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna) being, of course, the Basque separatist group that has carried out bombings & assassinations since the 60s — or, I should say, since the article gives the name of the girl & the date, since June 27th, 1960, when a child named Begoña Urroz Ibarrola died in the bombing of the train station in San Sebastián.

Vidas rotas, then, is a book that records every single person killed by ETA over the last 50 years, in chronological order, as well as, if known, the people who killed them, & in what manner.

Its 1,310 pages, say the article, “contribuyen a recordar, en carne viva, que la histora y la política del País Vasco no pueden entenderse sin aceptar el vasto coste humano del terrorismo.” The history & politics of Basque Country cannot be understood without accepting the vast human cost of terrorism. This is, of course, true — & yet writing it makes me nervous, ties my tongue. Of course, it’s true that the murder of a little girl for political ends is unspeakably ugly.

The article lists:  361 civilians, 209 Guardia Civil, 149 national police, 97 soldiers, 16 special police & 25 city cops. A murder every year except for 1999, 2004, & 2005. The book closes with the two Guardia Civil killed in Calviá (Islas Baleares) last July.

I’m not sure how this story would be told if I were reading it in something aside from El País, if I were hearing someone from here tell it, & part of that is what makes me hesitant, nervous — I’m reading this in a café-bar, after all, in public, & in public you just don’t talk about these things, particularly if you’re a foreigner. The rest of Spain, as far as I can tell from the reaction of friends of mine in Jaén when I told them where I was going — “You’re going where?” — views Basque Country with a kind of irrational, ignorant fear tinged with exoticism, as though I weren’t living 4 & a half hours by car from Madrid but in some kind of magical land on the far end of the earth, or rather, not magical but wartorn. It feels like talking to college freshmen in Boston about living in Jamaica Plain.

You can’t argue with the weight of the dead. But of course here the relationship between the kind of political sentiment that ETA represents & a rejection of the violence they carry out is much more contingent & embroidered. Yes, I can hear someone saying, yes, this was wrong, this was horrible. But — and I don’t know what would follow. Something, assuredly. All I have after four months here are bare fragments, & maybe I’d be better off keeping quiet until I know what I’m talking about, but part of me wants you, dear reader, to share my confusion.

I wasn’t planning on writing about this this morning.

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One Response to ““La banda terrorista””

  1. H Says:

    The snag is that baby girl Begoña Urroz was killed by the DRIL (Revolutionary Directorate of Iberian Liberation) and the authors of “Vidas rotas” are lying on purpose. Daily “Diario Vasco”, Saint Sebastian, 10 February 1961: “Galvao reconoce haber tenido una participación directa en los actos terroristas de 1960, en Madrid, Barcelona y San Sebastián”. It’s Henrique Galvao, DRIL leader. On 27 June 1960 there had been incendiary devices in Madrid (North Rail Station), Barcelona (North Rail Station) and Saint Sebastian (North and Amara Rail Stations). Next day the DRIL claimed the bombings from Caracas (Venezuela). On 7 July 1960 the weekly “El Socialista” (that is, the Spanish Labour Socialist Party in exile ) mentioned the DRIL dispatch claiming the bombings.


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