If there are two issues in which the former president of the Government José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (PSOE) assures that he never found an understanding with the Spanish right, these are nationalism in Spain and the Law of Historical Memory. This norm was approved in 2007, taking up the claim of the associations that had been established years before throughout the country by the children and grandchildren of the reprisals of the Franco regime. “This was one of the laws that I explained the most to the emeritus king,” Zapatero recalls as an “anecdote” that he feels obliged to tell since it is a testimony to history. The former president defines in the RTVC program Trópico Dystopico , that law as “moderate”, which is why it believes that the PP, which criticized it so much, did not read the explanatory memorandum in which reference was made to the transition, to reconciliation, to the victims, but also to the Spanish exiles. “A country that expelled many of the best is a country that has to make a self-criticism,” he remarks. “Why would a democratic right think it wrong to remove a street from a coup general?” question.
Zapatero believes that the exhumation of Franco from the Valley of the Fallen on October 24, 2019 came “when democracy wanted” and adds that in the transition there were fear and coup attempts. He maintains that the 2007 law owes everything to historical memory associations and that it represents two issues. On the one hand, politically it is the first time that a law recognizes the “right to personal and family memory in the face of the history of suffering in our country” and historically establishes the illegitimacy of all the acts of the Franco regime. However, he adds that it is true that he did not contemplate sanctions and that he has had a sometimes diverse judicial journey. Likewise, it is ugly that the government of Mariano Rajoy left this rule without funding, which always had a budget until 2012.
That fateful father’s day
Pino Sosa lost his father when he was barely 40 days old. His name was José and he was from the Las Chorreras neighborhood, in Arucas. She is the founder of the Association for the Recovery of the Historical Memory of that municipality and after a life dedicated to finding her father and showing that he did not leave on a French ship, as the Franco government wanted him to believe, she located his mortal remains in the well of Tenoya where he was thrown along with other men for his ideals.
In 2019, he was finally able to bury his father along with other families who also located the remains of their loved ones in the wells of Tenoya. “Do not forget that in Arucas there were 66 Democrats who were thrown into the pits for thinking differently,” he highlights in this program. The founder of the association emphasizes that it was very hard to be a “daughter of reds” in those years, those who were singled out, watched or denied work and that the church “played the worst role.” In addition, he remarks that there are many sectors of society such as the church itself or the Falangists who have never asked for forgiveness. He assures that he will watch until his last days so that what happened is known and that it does not happen again. For this reason, its historical memory association has a traveling exhibition with which it tries to bring society closer to this reality.
María Antonia Salamanqués, a psychologist, points out that it is not a question of reopening wounds because “the wounds are already open” and that the burial or celebrating something symbolic is necessary to close it. For the historian Pilar Domínguez, what has been negative in these years is “the oblivion imposed in the Franco regime”, which insisted on erasing all the traces of the defeated, “an oblivion that has led to the distortion of history.” An example of this, which the historian Ángel Viñas also recounts, is the myth about the equality of violence between both sides and that the Canary Islands exemplify since there was no war as such, but there was a lot of repression. These are myths that have also been perpetuated from schools and the media.
The historian points out that Franco’s heritage in women is perceived precisely in this lack of schooling and in child labor. At the age of 17, Candelaria Moreno, former head of the Moya Women’s Section workshop, began working. “Women were educated to serve men, to be submissive and it was different”, it states. She remembers the postwar period as a time of poverty, but with the Feminine Section of the Falange she recognizes that she had work and food, after taking several courses in the Peninsula to be able to work in the workshop.
The PP wants a law of harmony
Former PP senator Sergio Ramos assures that his party is promoting a “law of concord.” He is convinced that the Franco regime died when Francisco Franco died and that nowadays a Franco flag cannot be raised (omitting that it is precisely thanks to the law of historical memory that did not support its formation). “More than 100,000 people have died in the pandemic. What message do we give to people talking about this issue when Franco died more than 40 years ago?” He questions, while assuring that “the important thing” is to take care of the future of the grandchildren of the victims. “No grandchild of our grandparents is entitled to undo the hug that our grandparents gave each other in the transition,” he remarks.
The truth is that only in the Canary Islands it is estimated that there are more than 1,800 missing people, recalls the secretary of the association for the Historical Memory of Arucas, Gregorio Arencibia. However, experts insist that the great mass grave of the Islands is the sea, so there could be more victims. Officially, it is known that there were 123 executions and that only on Father’s Day in 1937, 63 people disappeared, who were kidnapped from their homes, tortured and murdered.
Towards the new democratic memory law
Fernando Martínez, Secretary of State for Democratic Memory, points out that with the new norm the recognition of the victims of the Franco regime is extended. “The victims of the victors were repaired from an economic and symbolic point of view and they were taken into account in the transition, and yet the victims of the defeated were stigmatized and made invisible,” he says. In addition, the norm condemns the coup of July 18 and the Franco dictatorship, includes a national DNA bank and includes an important novelty that is the recognition of women.
Who has to carry the burden of exhumations? now it is established that the State and not the families. Likewise, a courtroom prosecutor is established for the knowledge and investigation of what happened in this period and its interpretation will be based on international law. “It is of pure humanity what is proposed”, so he believes that there is no opposition in a democratic country.
Exhumation plans in the Canary Islands
The archaeologist and historian Verónica Alberto was in charge of the exhumation workers of the first grave in which the mortal remains of reprisals were found in the Canary Islands, in Fuencaliente. Explain that the location is very important to recreate what happened. Remember that the Second Republic changed everything and there were social classes that began to claim a space, so it was decided to eliminate them to cause fear and that there is never again an intention for something similar to happen.
He explains that in the exhumations that have been carried out in the Canary Islands, bodies with shots to the head have been found and that it is very important to “individualize” the remains of human beings since when the bodies fall into the common graves they are grouped together. Likewise, he detailed the difficulties of some interventions such as those carried out in the wells, which must be descended more than 40 meters, emptied, deal with the danger of gases … Currently, there are intervention projects in the Sima de Jinámar. the volcanic tube into which dozens of victims of the Franco regime were thrown. But also the Association for the Recovery of the Historical Memory of Arucas foresees that other wells in the municipality will be exhumed and that in Tenerife, its association for Historical Memory, also promotes investigations to locate victims of the repression. In fact, the Government of the Canary Islands has already published in the Official Gazette of the Canary Islands (BOC) the protocol for the location, exhumation, identification, conservation and moral reparation of the remains of people who disappeared during the Civil War and Franco’s repression. A document that was announced months ago by the Deputy Minister of Justice, Carla Vallejo, is an instrument that will allow coordinating the actions of the different professionals involved to achieve their agility, rigor, good practice and respect and psychological support for the affected families.
“I had no lawyer, no fair trial and I ended up in a common grave”, it is the story repeated by thousands of democrats in Spain who were kidnapped, tortured and murdered. Spain is the second country with the most disappeared in a civil war.