Friday, September 22

“Forgiveness” and “Peace”: the letter of a granddaughter of a Francoist repressor to the victims of her grandfather in a town in León

A cascade of pain and forgiveness. Many many decades later. That is what a very simple handwritten letter that has appeared in the town of Santa Eulalia de Cabrera (municipality of Encinedo in the province of León) has managed to extract as a result of publicly and directly acknowledging for the first time some savage repressive murders that occurred in the Leonese region of Cabrera, which was the sanctuary of the first anti-Franco guerrilla in Spain, with the mythical Manuel Girón as one of its leaders.

The final pardon letter, assuming those crimes always known but never aired, is signed by Gema Rodríguez Ballester. She has wanted to make the effort that several generations ignored and write the acknowledgment of some deaths from the harsh post-war repression in this region, full of silenced violence for decades.

At the door of the Town Council, the point where official or popular writings and notices are usually placed, a few weeks ago she pasted a letter in her own handwriting that was surely difficult to write. Decorated with flowers, the text reads as follows:

Saint Eulalia. July 7, 2022

These white flowers are for the man and woman, whose names I do not know, residents of Santa Eulalia de Cabrera, who in the 1950s were tortured and murdered at the hands of my grandfather, Benjamín Rodríguez Cañueto, and his little brother, José Rodríguez Cañueto . They both emigrated to Seville, as a form of escape, I imagine.

To the families of this man and this woman, on behalf of my family I want to say:


I’m so sorry for everything that happened.

I am very sorry for your pain.

Such a loss cannot be repaired, but with this gesture I intend to at least acknowledge the responsibility that my paternal lineage had in these criminal acts.


The war finished. May peace be for everyone, for those who have already died and for those of us who are still alive.

May God have in his Kingdom those victims who suffered so much without understanding and their perpetrators, making them reflect on their actions and making them restore balance in the continuum of life.

The war finished.

Peace for all.

If anyone finds this letter and knows any member of these families to whom I am addressing, I would appreciate it if you could send them these words“

He did not seem to know much about the details, but he did know the pain that the actions of his own relatives undoubtedly caused. Thus, the story of the Rodríguez Cañueto came to light. Now it is finally recognized that they were the architects of the death of neighbors Antonio León Carrera and Carmen Ballesteros Rodríguez on a fateful April 23, 1951.

The betrayal that ended the mythical Girón

As he recounts and demonstrated in his book ‘The mountain or death‘ Santiago Macías, “while José was one of the material authors, his brother Benjamín was one intellectually, both to contact some members of the last guerrilla group -who were aware of the operation- and to point out the targets among the population ”.

In addition to this episode, a kind of definitive demonstration also indirectly comes to light that José Rodríguez Cañueto was the architect of the historic betrayal for which El Girón fell, who was since 1936 the nightmare of anti-Francoist resistance in the mountains for the regime fascist of Francisco Franco.

Infiltrating the last maqui gang of Girón, he won the leader’s friendship and taking advantage of a unique opportunity, he killed him by shooting him at close range while he was having breakfast near Molinaseca on May 2, 1951, disfiguring his head to cause confusion and burying him, preventing his grave from being become a benchmark in the fight against the dictator and his 40-year regime. They say that he received 80,000 pesetas, a fortune at the time.

reactions to the story

Now, the simple lines of Gema Rodríguez Ballester have unleashed the forgiveness they demanded, in a cascade. In the Facebook group ‘Enthusiastic cabreireses‘, where his writing was shared, there are already two direct relatives of the murdered neighbors who have reacted to the details of the story.

Tere Franco affirms: “I am the granddaughter of Antonio León and although nothing is going to change the pain of my grandmother and her children, it seems to me a good gesture that I want to thank from here.” Similar message that Carmina Cortes has written from France: “Hello. The woman who was killed in Santa Eulalia was my grandmother Carmen Ballesteros. Thank you for publicly acknowledging the horror that your family committed”, she replies to Rodríguez Ballester.

For Santiago Macías, who shed so much light on events like these, those in the emotional letter “are words that are not going to change the past, but they honor whoever wrote them because things like that can rarely be seen.” Because “to forgive, someone has to previously ask for forgiveness”, ditch. This is how the truth, history and feelings can help close wounds.