Four generations at the foot of Franco's grave: "This is going to end and they are going to go together, it's time"

Great conversations always arise around the opening of a grave. Bones, objects, evidence of the crimes are extracted, but also stories and words that had been silenced and postponed for decades. It has happened these days in La Garba (Grau, Asturias), where the team of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARMH) has located and exhumed the remains of at least six people murdered and disappeared in 1938 and 1939 due to Franco's repression.

Around the open ditch, pending dialogues, exchange of information and affection have arisen, such as those that the ARMH volunteers have shown towards the sisters Amparo and María Ángeles Arias, 86 and 91 years old respectively, daughters of José Arias, murdered and disappeared in this pit in 1938.

“I wish our older brothers were alive so we could witness this. My mother had a very hard life,” Amparo mused this Thursday as she watched two archaeologists from the ARMH brush the bones that appeared in the pit of the Canto La Piedra meadow.

"This is going to end, your father and mother are going to be together, it's about time," a neighbor from Grau replied. “If they identify my father, we want to bury him with my mother,” explained Amparo.

Up to four generations have congregated in La Garba these days. Sandra, a young great-granddaughter of José Arias, remembers how in her childhood she listened to her grandmother and her great-uncles “tell the story”: “My grandmother and her brothers always felt sorry for what happened. They were transmitting the brushstrokes of history to me since I was little. And that way you can remember it, as if I had known it myself, ”she explains with expressive eyes.

"When my grandmother found out that they were finally opening the grave, she felt relief, like she had rested," she adds.

The brothers Josefa and Gustavo Díez Rodríguez have also passed through here, grandchildren of the marriage formed by María Concepción García and Enrique Rodríguez Siñeriz, arrested and murdered together in 1938 and thrown into the pit. They had three children, the eldest eleven years old. The children stayed home alone for several days, awaiting his return.

"People came to rob the house several times and hid in the barn, scared to death," says Josefa. "They stayed there until a relative from the town came to take care of them and then they left with a sister of my grandmother who already had four or five children."

"My mother was marked. In her last years of life she had Alzheimer's and the poor thing called me mom. She called her daughter mom, she was looking for her mother, who died when she was 11 years old. What things," adds Josefa. " By having three small children they could have left my grandmother alive, but no."

His brother Gustavo continues: "Those things seem to be covered up in memory but when it begins to unravel...". “They had some friends who had gone to France in exile, and they told her to go with them. My grandmother said no, why would they go, that they hadn't done anything wrong”.

Among the people who have visited this grave there have been several young people without family ties to the victims but wanting to know the history of their region and to help in the search tasks. This is the case of Candela Martínez, a fifteen-year-old teenager who arrived on Tuesday offering to collaborate:

"I am very interested in memory and I want to participate so that our future is better," he explains. "She has come two days in a row, she offered to lend a hand and she has been here like one more sifting through the earth," say members of the ARMH.

"Young people have to know where they come from to know where they are going," reflects Marina Solís, Candela's mother.

In the ARMH volunteer team there are several young people who have already participated in other exhumations. One of them is José María Doutón, 22, a graduate in History and in charge these days of sifting through the earth, caring for the families of the victims and offering information to journalists and onlookers. "I am very interested in this learning, being in a social movement to create a better world and help," he says.

Julia Silva, 24, a social worker, has also participated in several exhumations: “The system that surrounds any person is the family. Even when it seems not, the family is always present. One of these bullets that we found here took out a person. But not only her. Somehow, he took out an entire family. And, on a large scale, to an entire town, because this affects an entire community,” she explains.

"I can't help but think that this boot was used, it was alive, you can see the footprints on the heel," muses Malena García, an ARMH volunteer as she removes the earth that surrounds a boot that appears in the pit.

A couple of meters further on, in the same winding ditch, archaeologist Serxio Castro patiently brushes a skull still embedded in the ground and volunteer David Ramírez, an object expert, scrutinizes a pair of glasses found the day before. At his side, the archaeologist Nuria Maqueda and the vice president of the ARMH, Marco González, dig and supervise. They have been participating in exhumations for more than a decade.

Several volunteers from Asturias are also collaborating, such as David Fernández or the historian Marina García, a bookseller in Gijón. Some of them have relatives killed or disappeared by the Franco regime. This is the case of Marina:

“My great-grandmother appears in a book in Asturian about the repression in the western part of Asturias. She said little about it, but we learned that they took her out of the house, shaved her head and raped her. She had given birth two days earlier. They had to put her on a cart because she couldn't stand up,” she says as she digs up the dirt.

Malena García has been in charge these days of taking data and DNA samples from the families of the disappeared in this grave. Nearby is the Rellán grave, where a few months ago the ARMH exhumed the remains of several victims. Next spring, when the ground softens, they will resume their tasks. Meanwhile, the identification of the DNA continues, pending the tests of the laboratory. The process is slow.

“If the State were in charge of having its own teams that promoted the identifications, everything could go faster,” murmurs a volunteer when he arrives at this exhumation of La Garba Sabino Fernández, 90 years old, son of a murdered in the Rellán grave . He is accompanied by his son: “Good afternoon, friends. Won't you know how long it is until we have the results of the tests?” he asks. The time depends on the private laboratory to which the DNA samples have been sent.

The ARMH team mobilizes and runs to Sabino to reassure him. Signs of affection, words of encouragement, attentive glances emerge. “Eighty-four are already. Eighty-four years waiting,” the man murmurs. "Thanks for all friends. You do a great job”, says his son. As they drive away in his car, silence falls and one volunteer's eyes moisten. In the solidarity of the search, not only the knees and lower back suffer.

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