Publicado por ARMH

The Victims’ Fight and the Exhumation of a Dictator

On the morning of the 7th October the search of the Los Grilles farm (also known as the Royal Pastures of the Casas de Don Antonio) began in Aldea del Cano (Caceres). This was the place which oral testimonies and bibliographies suggested as the clandestine burial ground of three of the victims of the Francoist repression. To begin with, as we said in the last newsletter, a survey was carried out with metal detection equipment with the sole intention of finding ballistic evidence that would specify that this was the correct area. The survey was carried out at the request of the families of the three victims: Bernardo Berrocal Bote, Modesto Rodríguez González and Diego Valle Barranco.

The victims were detained in Aljucén and executed on the spot in Los Griles in the municipality of Aldea del Cano on the 14th August 1936. Testimonies from neighbours in the area were able to identify a rock from the terrain in which bullet holes can be seen which would provide evidence that it was the execution area and also the place of burial. The ballistic evidence found with the detector seemed to verify the testimonies.

 

After five days of mechanic research, the result turned out to be negative, it was decided to extend the search area of the metal detectors with the aim of finding new evidence. After finding shrapnel and mortar remnants as well as hand grenades we arrived at the conclusion that this area had been a passing point for the Francoist troops travelling towards the town of Aldea del Cano and that there had been a skirmish here with anti-fascist troops owing to the amount of ballistic material found.

Both the family members and the Association want to continue investigating the case and resume the search in the future for the burial site of Bernardo Berrocal Bote, Modesto Rodríguez González and Diego Valle Barranco.


 

At the request of the families of Félix González Moreno, resident of Liria (Valencia), who died in combat and after further requests from the families of Cirilo Hernández Gonzalo y Aquilino Martínez Gonzalo, residents of Adobe (Guadalajara) , the Association began research into the circumstances surrounding the appearance of a grave at the bottom of a construction site in Masia in 2013. The Association had been made aware of this appearance after reports in the local media.

On the 14th February 2013 human remains were discovered during construction work with heavy machinery, during earth removal works next to an agricultural zone. The workers that had been present at the time reported it to the police immediately who quickly arrived at the scene of the discovery. Seeing that the remains could have potentially been from the civil war, the courts were notified without hesitation and then the decision was taken to notify the heads of Heritage of the Diputación General de Aragón (DGA).

 

The Association gained both the judicial report and the testimonial information of the finding from the owners of the land. Both sources suggested to us that not all of the bodies had been recovered from the construction site and that the work itself had been carried out without consulting an archaeological professional. For this reason, the ARMH decided to apply for the reopening of the grave to carry out the necessary excavation works and to find the human remains that could be left there. We were also informed that a number of boxes of human remains that had been taken out by mechanical excavation were in the custody of the estate. After complaining to local authorities the five boxes, containing personal objects and mixed remains, were delivered to us. They were, however, unordered and had not been kept in sufficient conservation conditions.

Despite a number of testimonies that told us that no human remains were left at the site after the action of the DGA in 2013, we were able to prove that this was not the case. Even during the first attempts a number of human remains and personal objects appeared – completely out of context. Everything was mixed and scattered across a number of different levels. Our intervention was carried out following the guidelines of current archaeological methodology yet we were only able to recover 3 bodies at the site which were only partially connected.

Once the exhumation work was completed, following comments from the farm’s workers, who were present during the work carried out by the DGA in 2013, our team went to a nearby illegal dump, where in 2013 three trailers of earth from the same area where the grave was located were dumped. Straight away, it was possible to verify that human remains were scattered in this dump. All the soil related to the mass grave was then sieved, and a large quantity of human remains, personal objects and ammunition (photo album with photographs of the intervention) was found, comparable in number to that delivered by the DGA in its boxes. This demonstrates yet again the poor work carried out in 2013.

With the recovered remains from the archaeological excavation alongside the remains in the custody of the Estate as well as those that appeared during the sieving of the illegal dump, it will be possible to carry out a detailed anthropological analysis. Although the poor conditions of the discovered bodies and artefacts will make it difficult to arrive at a clear conclusion. From here we will do everything possible so that those found in this place can have a dignified burial according to the human rights that should be guaranteed to all victims of francoist repression. The Association wants to emphasize that in spite of the intervention of both the Court and those in charge of the estate, the remains of these victims were removed, mixed and later thrown in a dump without any form of analysis or archaeological intervention. For this reason, the Association is forming a report on the actions of the Directorate of Heritage of Aragon.


 

On the 16th September of last year, we lost Ascension Mendieta. Asención rests now with her loving father Timoteo. Thanks to her struggle more than 30 families have now identified and recovered the remains of their loved ones in Guadalajara. She is remembered with words from Emilio Silva for her obituary.

In the above image she is seen watching over the body of her father, Timoteo Mendieta, after a long struggle to find and identify his body. Not a single government agency helped to give him a dignified funeral. As a child she had the misfortune of opening the door of her house to her father’s killers and to tell them that he was taking a siesta.

She had to stand by and watch as presidents and ministers told everyone that society had healed and all victims had been compensated. Rafael Hernando, a PP (Partido Popular) spokesman, even went so far as to say that people only remembered their parents when money was available.

But her love for her father, the strength of her dignity and her tireless struggle kept his memory alive. She celebrated her 88th birthday on board a plane taking her to Argentina where she asked for the justice that she had been denied in Spain. Here she managed to get the remains of her father identified so that she could give him a dignified burial at a civil cemetery in Madrid.

Her example shows the evidence of the impunity of Francoism and the neglect through which many victims have lived and many more still live through. As a woman she was much greater than her governments. Rest in peace.


 

With another year celebrating the International Day of the Disappeared, The Association for the Recuperation of Historical Memory (ARMH) organised a simple homage dedicated to the thousands of victims of Francoism. Sol Gómez, Javier Morán, Pedro Álvarez (Peta), Isamil, Esther Folgueral, Abel Aparicio, Nicanor G. Ordiz, Noemí Sabugal, Tote García, Alfonso Mantecón, Miguel Varela, Manuel Cuenya y Carlos Attadía all attended. J.A Robés took photos of the event and a mural from the graffiti artist Alto was unveiled. All photos can be seen through this link.

Alongside the planned events for the International Day of the Disappeared, The Association for the Recuperation of Historical Memory (ARMH) organised the presentation and launch of a new book by José Cabañas (of La Bañeza) – Convulsions: Diary of Jaume Cusidó – a Republican Soldier – Catalan Prisoners in the ‘Gulag’ of Leon.


In another of the cases, we received two invoices from the General Directorate of Roads, more specifically from the Roads Unit of Leon (la Demarcación de Carreteras del Estado en Castilla y León Occidental). Within these invoices the concept of the work is “prospecting works with manual and mechanical means in order to locate and exhume human remains”. Such a decision is disconcerting as it is a decision that seems arbitrary, we have asked for the same authorisation at other times and not been charged a fee. Specifying the charge is also difficult as at sometimes we have been charged more and at other times less. It is important to note that in the latter cases the fee must be paid prior to the search work, otherwise permission to carry out the searches is not granted.

As a result of the denunciations on our part, The Council of Ávila withdrew the charge on the grounds that it had been automatically covered and that there had been an error. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Fomento is trying to find a way of withdrawing their fees which date back to a decree from 1960 signed by Francisco Franco himself and the under-secretary of the presidency, Luis Carrero Blanco.


Important note for members and those that donate to us.

As of the September 12th 2019 we are now a Declared Public Utilities Association (Asociación declarada de Utilidad Pública). This means that we are recognised by the Interior Ministry and as such they accredit our work as pursuing general public interest and being socially representative.

What does this mean for our members and those that donate to us? Your membership fee could decrease by 75%

Does this have any practical impact? From the first 150€ of membership fee or donation you will receive 112.50€ back on your tax return. Therefore the ARMH receives 150€, of which 37.5€ come from you and 112.50€ are classed as an “indirect subsidy” from the Treasury.


The last three months have seen various outreach activities across a number of cities. All this is due to the hard work and collaboration of the volunteers of the Association.

At the Ateneo de la Calzada in Xixón, the story of Jaime Machicado Llorente, a member of the Galicia Battalion killed in O Acevo with his companions, was told. His relatives accompanied us to reconstruct and honor his history and struggle. We also talked about the development of exhumation work.

The Association also participated in the launch of Pilar Ruis’ autobiography ‘Cantos Rodados’ at the Casa de Mexico in Madrid. The book tells the story of a woman born in Tarancon, Cuenca, who at the age of 7 had to travel to Mexico with her family to escape Francoist repression.

In Chicago, Emilio Silva took part in a conference about the recuperation of historical memory in Spain. Under the title ‘Historical Memory in Spain: the Past That Never Happened’ the conference was supported by the University of Chicago and its Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Studies department.

The Association’s volunteers and collaborators alongside the Association of Veciños de Oza-Gaiteira-Os Castros also organised the presentation of Eloy Alonso’s photography project – As Foxas de Esquecemento (The Forgotten Graves) in A Coruña. The project was exhibited during October at the Forum Metropolitano in A Coruña. Around this exhibition there were talks and debates about historical memory.

The town of Redondela (Pontevedra) hosted the Francesc Boix exhibition. Francesc was a photographer from Mauthausen and there was a great deal of success and participation in the conferences that were organised around the opening of the exhibition.


 

The exhumation of the dictator Francisco Franco which has been demanded for years by his victims, was intended to normalise our democracy, banishing his body from State responsibility and privatising it – returning it to his wealthy family. Finally the taxes of the victims of the dictatorship would stop going towards financing the tomb of the dictator. Surely it is unacceptable that those that were punished by Franco have to pay for a tomb in his honour? In spite of this, the place where Franco has been buried (re-buried) is a luxurious pantheon that is on a property paid for by taxpayers; this is to say that we paid for his tomb when he lay in the Valley of the Fallen and we will continue to pay for it in his new burial place.

The fact that the Supreme Court has spent more time attending to the dictator’s family, to see what happens to their bones, than to the families of the more than one hundred thousand people that disappeared under Franco’s repression explains in a particularly graphic way the agreement that was signed during the transition to democracy from Franco’s regime. Within this we can see what has been referred to as ‘Sociological Francoism’, a Francoism that forms an intimate part of our cultural politics and emphasises our democratic fragility and the politicisation of State powers. This power bias goes much further than the judiciary but also reaches educational, media and diplomatic powers.

For 15 months we have seen the family of a dictator fighting, on a level playing field, with a democratic government, explains the lack of strength with which politics has confronted the dictatorship. The dictator’s family has kept its privileges intact for four decades; no government has investigated the origin of its fortune, the misappropriations, the plundering of national wealth or the political favors they have received during the democracy to multiply their wealth within the real estate bubble.

No government, to date, has paid tribute to the men and women who fought against the dictator, who put their lives at stake, who set aside their personal lives and who committed themselves to defending the return of a democracy in which the ballot box would be reopened to embrace ideas with which they might agree or be opposed to. All the governments of the recovered democracy have maintained an educational policy that manufactures ignorance about the recent past. And they are all complicit in the silent death of victims and witnesses so that in the future the dictatorship would be free from public knowledge of its terrible use of violence and its autocratic apartheid in which the victors enjoyed rights and resources of the state and the losers, defenders of democracy, survived in the depths of the social pyramid from which they could only emerge in most cases as part of the almost two million Spaniards who left the country in the two decades following the end of the Second World War. No government has worked to open the door of the courts to the victims of the dictatorship, the families of the disappeared, the tortured homosexuals, and women without rights, who were looted by Franco’s authorities or used as slaves by the large construction companies that often acted as a front for the dictator.

Whilst all this is going on, tens of thousands of men and women that built our first democracy lie in ditches, without anyone knowing the truth about them and without justice and reparation.

The full article by Emilio Silva can be read in the following link to the Open Tribunal of eldiario.es