Sunday, August 7

A decade of exhumations in Valencian territory: 70 graves of Franco’s repression and 1,128 victims recovered

Some 70 graves were exhumed and the bodies of 1,128 victims of Franco’s repression recovered in the Valencian territory. It is the balance of a decade of exhumation works published by the archaeologist Miguel Mezquida and the anthropologists Andrea Moreno and Marisol Schwab in the magazine of the University of Barcelona Ebre 38.

The figure represents 18% of the total number of victims computed in the Valencian Country, which has an epicenter of post-war Francoist repression located in the Paterna cemetery. Of the at least 2,237 victims murdered in the cemetery, according to the calculations of the historian Vicent Gabarda, 934 bodies have been exhumed so far (42% of the total).

Historian and anthropologist Andrea Moreno regrets the long period of “intentional politics of forgetfulness.” “We usually say that the exhumation seems the final objective of the public policy of memory when it is really one more part, very important and necessary for reparation, but the final goal is to go further,” Moreno tells “Memory as a right goes beyond mere reparation, the right to memory is not exclusively for the direct victims, it is a public policy that must understand that the whole of civil society has the right to know the truth,” he adds.

Research published in the framework of a monograph on the history and archeology of Ebre 38 provides keys to understand the roots of historical memory in contemporary Spain. The three investigators have established a “phase 0” of the exhumations that begins by the families of the victims immediately after the war.

Between 1939 and the 1950s, the authors have tallied 70 “dig-dig-re-smoke” actions. “We cannot count it as a scientific exhumation because there was no protocol or DNA samples and it is complex to count as it depends on family memory,” warns the anthropologist. But the data show that the need for families to recover their loved ones and give them a dignified burial begins from the beginning of Franco’s repression, with the obvious danger that it posed.

In a second stage of the Franco dictatorship, between 1959 and 1975, the authors have established that at least five exhumations of Republican victims were carried out at the expense of the families themselves in towns such as Paterna, Castelló, Dénia or Godella. It is the “germ of what would come decades later,” note the researchers, who are part of the Arqueoantro specialized team.

“The search has not been a fashion that flourished in the shelter of contemporary subsidies in the matter of memory, but these actions and demands to recover the victims of the Franco regime were promoted and executed privately and in particular by the families themselves”, they write the authors. A fact that completely dismantles the argument of the Spanish right against public policies of historical memory (the leader of the PP, Pablo Casado, expressed it shamelessly: “Those on the left are carcas, all day with the grave of I don’t know who”).

During the Transition there were 19 processes of exhumation of victims of the Franco regime in Valencian territory. It is not until the 21st century when archaeological work multiplies after the pioneering intervention in Priaranza del Bierzo (León) in 2000 promoted by the president of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory, Emilio Silva. In the Valencian Country, although there were previous “hinge interventions”, the first scientific action dates back to 2010.

The multiplication of jobs in recent years has been possible thanks to public funding from the Generalitat Valenciana, the councils of Valencia and Castelló and some town councils. The anthropologist Andrea Moreno highlights the “essential weight of the associative movement” in the investigation of these “crimes against humanity”. “Sometimes,” Moreno laments, “what happens is that they end up carrying the previous processes of historical documentation, visits to archives, registers or civil registries and contact with descendants to obtain DNA; in the end they depend on the volunteering of technicians and of relatives “.

The published work also criticizes the bureaucratic complications suffered by family associations with tenders, a phenomenon detected by the anthropologist and sociologist who followed the ethnography of the exhumation of grave 100 in Paterna. “In addition to archaeologists and forensic anthropologists who exhume the bodies and confirm the violent death, recovering the memory requires sociologists, social anthropologists, there is also an important part of museology and it is complex because budgets are limited”, explains Andrea Moreno.

“We are not exhuming Moorish or Visigothic necropolises, in this case there is a link with the present at the social level and, in addition to exhuming and emptying graves, much disclosure is needed,” concludes the anthropologist.