Justice has prevailed for the descendants of Salvador Ruiz Jiménez, who are now living in their ancestral home – this is one of many homes which were seized by rebels during the first summer of the Civil War.
In 1936, after a military uprising against the Spanish Republic, much of Castellar de la Frontera’s population had fled towards Malaga on their way to Valencia – an odyssey which was made by many thousands of other Andalusians.
Among those fleeing was Salvador Ruiz Jiménez, father of Ana and Juan Ruiz Moya, who owned a house at number 9 Corralete street (in the vicinity of the Castle of Castellar), which was “occupied and stolen” by Francisco Ruiz Piña, the first rebel-appointed Francoist mayor of Castellar.
Salvador Ruiz Jiménez was never to return to Castellar, but his great grandchildren Ana and Juan Ruiz Moya were recently able recover their ancestral home which they say was “stolen” from their family by the Francoist mayor. They have been living there since August 2020. According to the lands register and the deeds to the house, the family has had legal title to the house since 1820, even though others have been “in occupation” for part of that time.
Last summer, after a fluke discovery of their home, the three youngsters decided to reclaim what had once been the home of their grandmother, Ana Ruiz (Salvador’s daughter), and which was at that time unoccupied and in a state of disrepair.
However, this was no easy task. According to one of their fathers, Juna Miguel León Moriche (a journalist from Algeciras and member of El Foro por la Memoria Campo de Gibraltar), five men from Madrid and Catalonia were hired by someone who was also claiming ownership of the house and attempted to drive these youngsters out in mid-September.
Threats and coercion
“On a Wednesday morning, 16th of September, five muscular individuals in uniform arrived at the front door who claimed to be from the Desokupamos.com company saying that no matter what papers we showed them, they were going to get us out”, he told ReachExtra.
“After being informed by my son, I called the local police and the Guardia Civil of Castellar to protect our children from these menacing men. The Guardia Civil sergeant arrived at the scene with a local police corporal and their conclusion was clear: these men had no business being here because no crime was being committed, nor was there anything to investigate because we had proof of ownership”.
“Later, the thugs were told to get out of town, and should they return, they would be committing an offence – obstructing a police officer”, he said.
That same day, the family went to the Guardia Civil offices in Castellar and filed a complaint against the five men who attempted to intimidate them and the Madrid-based real estate agency who had hired them to claim ownership of the house. León Moriche claims that “they are all guilty of committing offenses of threatening and coercion.
Six months after the incident, on March 2nd, 2021, León Moriche’s son and his niece were summoned to a hearing in the neighbouring city of San Roque. They were being accused, by the real estate agency that claimed to be the current owner, of minor trespass.
“However, having considered the deeds and other documents filed by the family’s lawyer, Marcos Quesada, the judge and the prosecutor of court number 3 in San Roque told the lawyer for the claimant that they had no case, because we had produced conclusive proof of ownership”.
A Surprising Family Discovery
According to León Moriche, the house was commandeered in 1936 and then sold, but the sale was never recorded in the Property Registry. Faced with this evidence, the claimant’s lawyer withdrew the complaint, and a trial did not go ahead.
“The occupant who stole the home, Francisco Ruiz Piña, who was a part of the rebellion during the invasion of Castellar in August 1936, had filed a note at the San Roque property registry in 1945, and a further note later on, to give the impression that the house was obtained legally, despite it having been stolen from the legal owners”.
“He did this with the full knowledge of the Duke of Medinaceli, Luis Jesús Fernández de Córdoba y Salabert, who owns 18,000 hectares of land in Castellar, which is over 90% of the municipal area. Before his death, the thief illegally transferred ownership of the home to his two nieces, both of whom were not married and had no children. Since then, the house was sold and bought, but based on an illegal note in the registry which was made in 1945”, León Moriche alleges.
Ana Ruiz Moya died in 1997 without ever telling her son or five daughters that she was in fact the co-owner of the house on 9 Corralete Street within the castle of Castellar. In 2001, while managing the sale of another property in Castellar Nuevo which belonged to Ana Ruiz, her children discovered that they were also the co-owners of the house in Corralete.
They contacted a lawyer who, after years of back-and-forth correspondence, said that the prospect of successfully recovering the house was low.
“On the 24th of August 2020, my son Miguel León González and my niece Paloma León Fernández, together with myself and our family, found justice. We have recovered our family house which was violently stolen from us”.
“The terror we felt, the fear for our children, and the radical injustice of the old legal system helped perpetuate this crime which we have been able to redress years later. The house at 9 Corralete is once again inhabited by their legitimate heirs Juan Ruiz Pro, Salvador Ruiz Jiménez and Ana Ruiz Moya”, explains Juan León Moriche.
The home had not been lived in for decades, and the youngsters found it in a dilapidated state, without electricity of water and with decrepit walls and leaking roofs.
“Those who had bought and sold the home after the thief and his descendants stole it were doing so based on a legal trick, which was frequently used. As from the 80’s, the house was for rental only. We have been clear about it: Our purpose is to remain in our family home for as long as it takes so that all the descendants of Ana and Juan Ruiz Moya will enjoy it”, concluded the family’s spokesperson.
“We have reinstated the electricity, water and internet, the walls have been painted, and the whole family are now waiting for the public health restrictions to end so that we can celebrate the successful recovery of our home together. We’ll have a party in the courtyard, next to the battlement tower which overlooks the entire Campo de Gibraltar”, Juna Miguel León Moriche said.
This is one Case out of Around 60,000
According to León Moriche, researchers from universities in Andalucía, after reviewing some 302,000 documents, have calculated that “over 60,000 people in Andalucía have suffered similar or worse crimes than our family during the war of 1936 and after”.
A book entitled ‘El botín de guerra en Andalucía’ (“The spoils of war in Andalucía”), which contains the research of 44 professors from around Andalucía, published in 2015, attests to this.
However, the Forum for the Memory of the Campo de Gibraltar reckons that this number could be higher than 60,000.
“We asked Diego Caro Cancela, the coordinator for the investigation in Cádiz, why the census of Castellar, which is on a disk which comes with the book, does not include the names Juan Salvador or Ana Ruiz. His answer was simple: in the same way that they did not record their killings, they did not record what they stole either. And he added that there are many families like yours who are in the same situation throughout Andalucía. In other words, the 28 recorded killings recorded in Castellar falls short, and this was a town which did not reach more than 1,500 inhabitants at the time. According to the book, belongings of all kinds were taken”.