Manuel Lapeña will no longer be able to see how the remains of his father and uncle leave the Valley of the Fallen, where they were buried with their executioner more than half a century ago. He died this Sunday at the age of 97 in Zaragoza, waiting for an endeavor to which he dedicated his entire life and that will never come to him. Both Manuel, with whom he shared a name, and Ramiro, were shot at the beginning of the Civil War and transferred without family authorization to the largest monument erected to exalt the memory of Franco. A pioneering sentence in Spain recognized the right to exhumation. It happened in 2016, five years ago. The ruling spoke of “immediate delivery”, but Manuel has died without the State complying with it.
“We have had enough of saying that time was running out, and in her case it has been,” sums up Silvia Navarro, from the Association of Relatives Pro Exhumation of the Republicans of the Valley of the Fallen shortly after leaving the intimate ceremony in the who has been buried this Tuesday. Almost 70 other sons and daughters of reprisals are still waiting, almost all over 80 years old, some close to 100, like Manuel, who was 14 when his father died. “We know they are working but we need them to put their foot on the accelerator,” explains Navarro, who is looking with his mother for the remains of his great-uncle.
In recent months, several steps have been taken to open the Cuelgamuros crypts, an operation that Carmen Calvo said last June would be carried out “soon.” Then the City Council of San Lorenzo del Escorial approved the process and at the beginning of last August the Ministry of the Presidency appointed the commission of forensic experts that will address the exhumations. However, the relatives are “tired” of hearing what will be done. “In the group that we have the news of the death of Manuel has caused sadness and anger. They have been battling for many years,” says Navarro.
The department headed by Félix Bolaños has not responded to questions from this media about the time horizon that it manages to start the works, but it was almost two years ago when National Heritage authorized the first exhumations. This is at a time when the organization, responsible for the management of the Valley, is going through a period of instability and accumulates four presidents and five managers in five years.
The battle between Manuel Lapeña and his sons, who will now continue with the same objective as their father, was not the first, but it did mark a before and after. The sentence they achieved, something that other relatives of victims tried without success, set a precedent and was a breath of air and hope for them because it was a court that was recognizing the right of a family to receive the remains of the buried . The ruling also served to make their fight visible, but then began a labyrinth full of obstacles that has not yet ended for any of them.
In the last few months Manuel had lost some mental faculties. He kept waiting and remembering his father, but he also said that he was very tired, says Navarro. “He was so excited in 2016 … He thought they were going to deliver the remains to him, he never imagined that six years would go by without executing the sentence.” Due to his advanced age, and in recent years he did not attend, but he was one of the regulars every April 14, the day on which the Second Republic is commemorated, to the acts that are held in the Barranco de la Bartolina de Calatayud, place of mass shootings and where his father is believed to have been, recalls his partner.
Manuel was the veterinarian in the Zaragoza town of Villarroya de la Sierra and had participated in the founding of the CNT in the town. In 1936 the Civil Guard and the Falange went to look for him, said his daughter Purificación in this interview with elDiario.es. “He was imprisoned for two days, they took him away in a truck and murdered him in 1936. The priest later denounced him on a list to give legal form to the murder: declared the doctor, the mayor, the teacher and the priest. They called three witnesses of the people forced … It is said in the complaint that he was guilty of the ills of youth and that he was a cretin, “he said. Ramiro, for his part, was a blacksmith, and although seeing what happened to his brother he fled, he ended up giving himself up because they falsely assured him that nothing would happen to him.
Both are two of the 33,815 corpses, 21,423 of them identified, that rest in the Valley of the Fallen, where it is believed that they were transferred at the end of the 1950s. All are victims of the Civil War (both on the national and republican sides). ) and the dictatorship, but many of the Republicans were transferred there without the consent of their relatives and they remained more than 40 years buried together Franco, whose mummy was taken to the Mingorrubio cemetery in October 2019. The dictator left while the victims are still waiting. For Manuel it is too late.