IT is one of the most remarkable stories to emerge from the Franco era.
Now best known as ‘The Mole of Mijas’, Manuel Cortes Quero was the last Republican mayor of the pueblo, from March to November of 1936.
However, when the town fell to dictator Franco’s nationalist troops during the Spanish Civil War he was forced to abandon his wife and newborn daughter and flee the town under the cover of darkness.
However he returned in 1939, willing to sacrifice his freedom in exchange for living under the same roof as his family, making himself a prisoner in his own home.
For 30 years – YES you read that correctly, THIRTY years – the Mole stayed hidden, tucked in a cramped space under the stairs behind a false wall.
“I pulled out my own teeth, as soon as I got an ache,” Cortes said later. “I would work at the tooth until it was loose and then I would yank it out with my fingers, without any pliers or tongs. I pulled out nine or ten teeth this way.”
In 1960, after 21 years of hiding, Cortes’ daughter Maria got married.
“I had to make do with watching her come out of church through a little hole above,” he said.
“The wedding procession left the house and after the ceremony Maria scurried away to come to my room and kiss me, just as we had planned.”
Listening to the radio on March 28, 1969, with his ear pressed to the wall, Cortes heard the news that he had been waiting 30 years to hear.
The government had granted amnesty to those people who had committed crimes from July 18 1936 to April 1 1939.
“I got a lump in my throat because of the emotion of the moment,” said Cortes. “I couldn’t think straight.”
The then mayor of Mijas, Miguel Gonzalez, accompanied Cortes to the headquarters of the Guardia Civil in Malaga, where the world’s press waited to hear the confirmation that he was finally free.
“Was it worth it?” asked Cortes. “I never lost faith in democracy. The tyranny of the dictatorship could not last forever.”
Today, his amazing story has been given an added tribute, with the addition of an excellent new attraction in Mijas.
The Escape Room, available in English or Spanish, takes between an hour and 90 minutes and costs just €60 for six people.
Unlike other Escape Rooms around Spain it has a fantastic twist.
“Instead of escaping you must remain in the game and each find a hiding place before the Guardia Civil come knocking on your door,” explained a spokesman.
“Oh and don’t leave anything around that could raise suspicion.”