October 1, 2020

The return home of ‘La Pasionaria de Omaña’, the teacher that the Franco regime executed for 300 anti-fascist pasquines


Aunt Genara was never spoken of. That “they killed her in the war” was the maximum that was said in the family of farmers in which her nephew, Evelio Fernández, grew up, in an atmosphere marked by the silence inherited from generation to generation. The name of Genara Fernández García, a teacher in Cirujales (León), her native town, survived the years, but her story did not. No one recounted how the Franco regime ended her life in the Puente Castro shooting range, where the executions numbered in the hundreds, and threw her body into a grave that nothing had been heard of until now. Eight decades later, Evelio and his family have reconstructed the steps he took until his execution at dawn on April 4, 1941, after being condemned by anti-fascist lampoons, and finally Genara, nicknamed ‘La Pasionaria de Omaña’, has returned to Your place of origin.

Last July 11 The Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARMH) gave relatives the remains of the woman in a public tribute and a year after she was exhumed from an individual grave in the León cemetery. The event was held in Cirujales, where, just as theirs wanted, it has been buried. At the ceremony, a photo of Genara, who was murdered at age 36, rested on the small wooden box that houses what remains of her. Attendees stepped on the ground where the old school was, the place where the teacher taught, one of the most severely repressed groups of the dictatorship. “We knew practically nothing about Genara. There was a lot of fear then, so there was no talk … In the family it was considered something forgotten, what happened, period,” says Beatriz Fernández, Evelio’s daughter.

But in 2018 the journalist Ana Gaitero published in El Diario de León an article referring to his great-aunt and another woman shot by the regime, and then the family began to inquire. The investigations of Emilio, Beatriz’s husband, took him to the ARMH and the León cemetery, where the burial act indicated that Genara’s body was supposed to be in an individual grave in the civil part of the same: barracks A, block B , burial 6. They also managed to compile the summary of their cause, 2134/1939, which began to take effect on December 19, 1939, a few months after the end of the Civil War.

In it they call her “revolutionary”, of relating to “women of doubtful morality” and “many people of proven disaffection with the regime”, in short, being contrary to the Franco dictatorship. As Ana Cristina Rodríguez, a historian at the University of León and technical director of her exhumation, explains, “it is not entirely clear if she was affiliated with the Republican Union or the Communist Party, but she was actively linked to the political life of her people. ” After the triumph of the coup d’état on July 18, 1936, Genara, known as ‘la Pasionaria de Omaña’, a region of León to which Cirujales belongs, was a victim of the Francoist purification of the teaching profession. And suspended from employment and salary “for her activities contrary to the Glorious National Movement”, as happened to thousands of male and female teachers, she fled to Asturias and Barcelona. Later she tried to go into exile, but the ship she was traveling on was intercepted, and she returned to León.

The 312 papers that took her to the wall

Given the veto in his profession, he had no choice but to change his trade, and went to work as a box office at the well-known Mari Cinemas in the capital, now disappeared. On the night of December 16, 1939, she finished work and instead of going home, she went to the central church of San Marcelo. There, she deposited two packages of subversive and anti-Franco propaganda pamphlets, one at the door of the temple and the other on a bench in the plaza “in a highly visible position,” as can be read in the sentence that condemned her. They were 312 typewritten pages and headed by a string of appeals as “working comrades, honest and hard-working people” or “worker comrades, all anti-fascists” and in which they cry out for “the universal proletariat”, “the free and united people “and there are ‘alive’ to” Popular Spain “.

Genara was arrested a day later, in the early morning of December 17. “Her statements are confusing. She gives several versions. At first she denies that it has anything to do with the lampoons, but later she ends up telling that they are delivered to her and that she leaves them where they tell her. She acknowledges the charges and shows some regret so that the sentence is not very harsh, which he does not achieve … “, Rodríguez points out. A few days later, she was sent to prison and, after several months, the plenary session of the council of war was held, which imposed the death penalty as a sentence for a crime of military rebellion. In the judgment it is said that with the “Marxist lampoons” ‘the Passionaria de Omaña’ had the “decided purpose” of “discrediting the National Movement, disturbing public order and sowing discontent among the working classes.” However, the ruling was not immediately applied and the teacher began a journey that took her to the prison of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Valladolid before being sent back to León.

On April 4, 1941, a year and a half after her arrest, Genara Fernández was released from prison at 6.30 in the morning and taken to the Puente Castro shooting range, where she was executed. The teacher was well-liked in Cirujales, even several neighbors signed in her favor during her prosecution as a last resort to demonstrate her “good behavior”, but the regime was relentless. The three decades of iron dictatorship that still awaited did the rest and “fear” imposed “oblivion,” says Beatriz Fernández, her great-niece. But “when we knew everything that had happened and suffered, we decided that we should recognize him.” Then, the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARMH) told them that they could exhume it.

Help from a Norwegian union

The operation lasted just two days, it was a “simple” exhumation, recalls Marco González, project coordinator and ARMH vice president. However, verifying that they were Genara’s remains through DNA analysis “was complicated” and in the end it was found that they were his remains through anthropological identification: “We knew that we were looking for a 36-year-old woman and that a man must be next to her. We checked it and then we were able to accept the documentation from the cemetery that proved that the woman was there. ”

As usual, curious and family members attended the work, but also a group of members of the Norwegian union Elogit, who traveled more than 2,000 kilometers by plane to visit the exhumation of this republican teacher. Amazed by the case of enforced disappearances in Spain, several Norwegian union centers financially support the association, which finances the excavations with its own funds and donations in the absence of public aid. The State’s investment to rescue the disappeared from the Civil War and Francoism is currently null, something that aims to turn around the future law of Democratic Memory that the Government prepares and that is expected to go to the Council of Ministers before the end of July. The search for these people “does not have to be done by an association thanks to the will and contributions of unions in Norway, which are very striking in the Spanish case,” says González, but “it is the Public Administrations that should take over. ”

But in addition to the Norwegian visit and the paradigm of his case –that of the teaching staff was one of the main groups retaliated by Franco– Genara’s was not just any exhumation because it has opened the door to many others. Until now, no graves have been discovered in the León cemetery, but thanks to the threads originally pulled by Emilio, Beatriz’s husband, several dozen more have been located. At the ARMH “we thought that with the destruction of the cemetery in the 70s or 80s they had disappeared, but there was another area, the civil part, where they are still preserved. In León there are hardly any mass graves, there may be two or three people at most, but the usual thing was that each one was deposited in a hole, as happened with Genara, “says the vice president of the association.

For Rodríguez, that of this teacher “has been a perfect exercise in historical memory” because “we had a person who had been retaliated and almost forgotten and who had dignified himself” in his execution. The woman’s remains have returned to Cirujales and she finally rests in the family’s pantheon in town. A key process also for theirs, who today, eight decades later, already speak of Genara: “She has returned to the family in every way. During all this time it seemed that she was not in it because, as she had been shot, it seemed that It was even a shame, but quite the opposite. We have to remember and recognize it. We are happy that she is finally home, “concludes Beatriz.

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