“Women murdered as ‘human beasts’. Mothers who lose their lives ‘in replacement’ of their children. The feminism of the Moon. Stolen babies and coup terrorism against the select mob of Cadiz. The cause of the 4,000 of Córdoba and of the hundred of Almonte. The maquis, the light for Pico Reja and the crimes of Casa Buena. Or the Cojillo that falls in the Vega de los Valientes “.
With these lines begins the journalist and collaborator of elDiario.es, Juan Miguel Baquero, your book Land of poets and bones. Archaeological interventions in mass graves of the Franco regime in Andalusia in 2018 and 2019, edited by the Secretary of State for Democratic Memory. The text collects information on the exhumation works that are being carried out in various mass graves in 19 Andalusian towns and includes – possibly one of the most interesting elements of the publication – testimonies of descendants of the people buried in the mass graves about those that are discussed in this monograph. “These stories not only reflect personal dramas, but together they serve to show an accurate picture of how Franco’s repression developed during the war and the dictatorship,” the editors emphasize.
ElDiario.es offers an editorial preview of the book, which has been prefaced by Pilar del Río, journalist, and José Saramago, writer. The text will soon be on sale in BOE bookstores, but it can be downloaded for free from now on the website of Publications of the Ministry of the Presidency Relations with the Courts and Democratic Memory or in the Publication Catalog of the General State Administration. This study is the last of a trilogy on mass graves of the Franco regime in Andalusia and whose previous titles are That it was my land (2015) and Footprints in the ground (2016-2017).
Sorry is the first word I should write and I write. Sorry because I didn’t know how to see and lived ignoring the evidence. I tell you.
It was the 1950s when, for some reason I don’t remember, I accompanied older people to the cemetery. Despite what that visit marked me, I am not able to say whether it took place in a town in Granada or Seville, nor do I remember if it was cold or hot or which person was holding my hand, perhaps a maternal aunt, perhaps The lady who helped with the housework, the fact is that we went to the cemetery, which was small, clean, organized, had crosses, name plates, plants, niches, all humble, as befitted the geography of the place. There was, however, something out of tune, inappropriate for the solemnity of the enclosure, a kind of corral attached to the left side, a piece of forest transplanted next to the wall, full of irregular mounds and weeds, ignored, ugly. Obviously I asked what that was and I had a resounding answer: the place where the dead who do not go to heaven are left. In other words, a place for the bad guys, those who called red, I assumed and accepted without further ado. For years the image of that corral was present in my imagination along with a fear as strong as it is unspeakable: there are places in the world where God’s eternal punishment is made explicit and there are people with power who know God’s will like this on earth like in the sky. And they punish with expulsion from the cemetery.
Time passed, not the impression of that visit. I knew at the time that suicide bombers had no space in cemeteries either, so I added to the excluded list people who take their own lives, a horrible sin that did not seem to arouse compassion in rural Spain where hanging was so many times. , the only way out. Reds, suicides, sinners, “moritos”, that is to say, unbaptized children, perhaps also some poor without land to fall down dead, that was the disorder of the cemetery of the dispossessed, the ultimate landscape of whom God did not want to be near. I remember asking if there were similar spaces everywhere and I knew it was habit. I needed to accumulate fifteen years of life to understand the perversities of certain systems and the capacity for injustice that we can harbor in our hearts, that is why, for having accepted those norms and those explanations for so long, I apologize. The age of indulgent innocence lasted too long.
This book comes to restore dignity. The pain that remained hidden was the basis that prevented the definitive shipwreck of society, condemned by National Catholicism to confuse politics with inhuman beliefs and behaviors with justice. Leaving people who did not respond to the current political canon out of the cemetery was perverse, to ensure that it was done in compliance with God’s will was to make God a bandería leader who did not deserve respect, or the same as the Spanish church when it served to Franco under canopy. He urges us to review to what extent we were necessary accomplices of the ignominy.
I could not imagine then, how could I, that the dead in the front area of the cemetery were privileged because there were bodies of people shot that were simply left in ravines and gutters or were vilely buried in mass graves that previously the victims had to excavate. This horror story was not circulating yet, perhaps, and with half words, something was commented, never the true dimension of the tragedy: «You know? There are dead outside the cemetery, “the older brother of a friend from Granada told us, adding, very seriously and perhaps with data, because he was a well-informed young man,” and Federico is among them. It was the 60s, Lorca was still condemned to silence, we were afraid to read the few poems that circulated, we already knew that he was great, that he belonged to a mysteriously disappeared generation, who had died in Granada in 1936 and nothing else. No one spoke of the shots, no one killed Federico García Lorca in Granada, no one had him killed, no one felt the chill of the absurd and unjust death. When did we learn then of the existence of thousands of victims without locating, scattered throughout the geography of pain, silenced as if they were a bad memory and not the men and women who represented the republican legality? Well, Franco had to die and advance democracy in society and institutions so that we understand that burying those who lost their lives defending the rule of law is a moral and legal obligation. The opposite is complicity with the dictatorship. Moral and legal.
I was an accomplice and for that reason I apologize. The relatives of the victims of the dictatorship were in our cities, streets and houses, they carried weights that should have been obvious, however an important part of Spanish society did not want or knew how to see them. The mourning of some women was not only in the black clothes they wore, that’s why I keep wondering what we saw when we looked at them in those years. Did we ever notice that photos were missing from the walls of certain houses we visited and in the albums they showed us in others? Don’t we miss the parents and grandparents of people around us? What strange perversion took hold of those of us born in the postwar period so as not to be able to distinguish the signs, the day from the night, the innocence of the coup?
The life of these pages coordinated by Juan Miguel Baquero is also a repair for the lost honor. That the relatives of the victims speak and each one tell their story, that they look for their own, that is, ours, has the magical virtue of putting on the map the dignity that Spain lacked due to the omission of those who we consider uninformed or because of the complicity of those who found use in blindness. Neither time nor the country will be the same when in the cemeteries, together with those who die of their death, there are also people cut off by Franco’s violence and ignominy, with their names written in stone, so that it is never erased, and a fresh flower: the one that I would like to place before each identified body, before the memories that are kept together with dreams and also, allow me, before the remains of that confused corral of childhood where the exiles of eternal glory lay, perhaps for to have tried to live in freedom here on earth.
Pilar del Río. Journalist
One day, about seven or eight years ago, a man from Leon named Emilio Silva looked for us, Pilar and me, asking us for support in the company he was going to embark on, that of finding what was still left of his grandfather, murdered by the Francoists. at the beginning of the civil war. He asked us for moral support, nothing more. His grandmother had expressed the wish that his grandfather’s remains be recovered and given a proper burial. More than a wish from an old woman who did not resign herself, Emilio Silva took those words as an order that he had a duty to carry out, whatever happened. This was the first step in a collective movement that quickly spread throughout Spain: recovering the tens of thousands of victims of fascist hatred from the graves and ravines where they were dumped, identifying their remains and delivering them to their families.
An immense task that did not find only support, it is enough to recall the continuous efforts of the Spanish political and sociological right to stop what was already an exalting and moving reality, to see the remains of those who had paid with the earth rise from the excavated and removed fidelity to his ideas and to republican legality. Allow me to leave here, as symbolic recognition to those who are dedicating themselves to this work, the name of Ángel del Río, a brother-in-law of mine who offers the best of his time to this task, including two research books on the disappeared and the reprisals.
It was inevitable that the recovery of the remains of Federico García Lorca, buried like thousands of others in the Víznar ravine, in the province of Granada, would quickly become a true national imperative. One of the greatest poets in Spain, the most universally known, is there, in that moor, in a place where it seems that there is the grave in which the author of the gypsy ballads lies along with three other executed, a teacher named Dióscoro Galindo and two anarchist banderilleros, Joaquín Arcollas Cabezas and Francisco Galadí Melgar.
Surprisingly, García Lorca’s family has always opposed the exhumation taking place. The alleged arguments were related, all of them, to a greater or lesser degree, to issues that we can classify as social decorum, such as the unhealthy curiosity of the media, the spectacle that the lifting of the bones would become, reasons without a doubt respectable , who, if I may say so, have lost weight today due to the simplicity with which Dióscoro Galindo’s granddaughter responded when, in an interview on a radio station, they asked her where she would take her grandfather’s remains, if they were finally found : “To the cemetery of Pulianas”. It must be clarified that Pulianas, in the province of Granada, is the village where Dióscoro Galindo worked and the family continues to live. Only the pages of books are turned, those of life, no.
José Saramago. Writer and Nobel Prize in Literature (September 20, 2008).