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Bilbao’s defensive belt, better known as the Iron Belt, was a line of fortifications over 80 km long that the Basque Government decided to build in 1936 to protect Bilbao and its surroundings and to defend democracy and freedom, against the advance of the rebel troops.
That great work, which until the spring of 1937 was carried out by more than 14,000 people, including some women and adolescents, was not enough to defend Bilbao and the Belt was broken on June 12, 1937, in the area of Gaztelumendi and Urrusti, between Gamiz-Fika and Larrabetzu.
… and today
This line, which covers 33 municipalities in Álava and Bizkaia, has been protected as a Cultural Asset since October 2017. It is the will of the Gogora Institute, the Basque Government, the Provincial Councils of Álava and Bizkaia and the 33 town councils, including Sopela, to recover and value this space as a Memory Route.
Sopela in the Civil War
Like other municipalities in our geography, the tranquility of Sopela disappeared with the news of the start of the Civil War on July 18, 1936.
With the launch of the Basque Army, many young people had to go to the front and some would never return, losing their lives in defense of freedom and democracy. Others, seeing that the front was approaching Sopela, would decide to abandon their homes, loading what they could in carts and moving to places far from the front, such as Las Encartaciones. Unfortunately, some people had to go through the famous prisons of Santuña, Iruña…, as concentration camps like Gurs or through disciplinary battalions. Some want had to suffer the execution of their loved ones. Let us remember so that the memory of all of them is not lost.
We invite you to visit the Itinerary of Memory between Sopela and Berango. A comfortable 3 km route starting from the Urko Sports Center allows us to visit the structures of the defensive line that are preserved in Urkomendi and Areneburu, to later descend to the Iron Belt Memorial Museum in Berango.
It is a simple and signposted itinerary that shows us the diverse heritage that this mountain range preserves. We will be able to see machine gun nests, fortified complexes, trenches, a shooter’s pit and some shelters, among others.
Once you have visited the museum, you can comfortably return by metro or go to the bidegorri (bike path) that connects Berango with the Urko sports center in Sopela (1.7 km).
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