Ossa de Montiel has become this Monday the third town on the Peninsula to place ‘Rememberence stones’, the first cousins of the Stolpersteine, which remember the victims of Francoism, not the Holocaust. From now on in the small town of Albacete, the names of seven residents of the town will be remembered, thanks to the impetus of the Fosa de Alcaraz association. Manuel Ramírez is the president of the association and also the nephew of Manuel Avilés, mayor of Ossa de Montiel and baker, executed from behind in Alcaraz on November 16, 1939, at the age of 43. “A complete paradox, those who defended democracy were accused of rebellion,” Ramírez highlights.
Now we can also remember the name of Cándido Campos, a shoemaker who was also the mayor of the town, sentenced to death for joining the rebellion, at 64 years of age; Mariano Vico, worker and also deputy mayor, who was executed in Albacete on August 12, 1942. He was also sentenced to death for aiding the rebellion; Juan Márquez Villora, farmer and town councillor, also executed in Albacete on the same day as Vico; César Uceda, municipal official and executed in Albacete on February 14, 1942.
The last names were Francisco Martínez, a charcoal burner, executed in Albacete on November 19, and Pedro Mora, a worker, who received “several beatings” by a member of the public order for going hunting in order to feed his family. The brutal beatings drove him out of town.
Epicenter of historical memory
The ‘Rememberence stone’ are born from the same foundation that promotes the ‘Stolpersteine’, by the artist Gunter Demnig. It is a project born to attract the attention of those who walk and stumble (Stolpen, in German) with the memory cobblestone. Manuel Ramírez, president of the Fosa de Alcaraz Association, explains that it is an initiative that wants to put the town on the map of memory and that the public space forms part of the dignity of the victims of Francoism. “It’s the best way for it to remain in the collective memory and for it to penetrate.”
It was thanks to the disposition of Alejandro Chillarón, the independent mayor of the town, that the initiative has been able to go ahead, says Ramírez. “It is something to highlight, which has always been in favor of historical memory,” he says. And not to forget, above all. “Normally, when a person in the family dies, everyone knows what happens. In mine there was no mention of my uncle Manuel, which was because they gave me his name, ”he highlights. “A nebula of silence was generated,” he recalls.
But, he explains, the more he hides, the more curiosity there is. When they started the association, her mother rescued her uncle’s memories, with which she was able to investigate the archives and found the summary. “There are 13 people who narrate in great detail what happened to him,” she explains. The ‘rememberence stone’, she emphasizes, is for all families and all neighbors. “It is defending freedom in such a simple way, as is done in other countries without raising any kind of blisters, a healthy democracy that defends those who defended freedom,” he emphasizes. “We don’t want it to happen again,” he stresses.
“Dignity is also restored to the victims of Francoism, and to the families, who have been very generous in keeping silent, but that is not why we must forget that the dead are still in the ditches. We are being treated as second class victims and we ask to be treated like any other victim. A respect that this country has never had. In Germany no one thinks of saying that the victims of fascism are only remembered when there are subsidies”, she laments.
The letter that remembers the mayor
The association has recovered a letter from Manuel Avilés, dated November 16, 1949, the same day of his execution. “Having been informed that in a few hours I am going to be executed with a calm pulse and a clear conscience, I move the pen to express in these lines only how many words are necessary to give the last hug to my dear wife, my dear parents and brothers ”.
Juan Carlos Márquez Villora is the grandson of Juan Márquez Villora, another of those executed. His father, 82 years old, is still alive, although he has not been able to attend the tribute, but has closely followed the process, both in Ossa and in Castilla-La Mancha. “We want to thank the city council and the associations that have participated in the whole process. That goes ahead ”, he emphasizes. Specifically, to the Alcaraz grave and the Friends of Antonio Machado, in Albacete. “Above all, it is about dignifying these people who during the war and after the war were subjected to trials without legal guarantees that ended in death sentences,” he explains.
“We feel recognized and relieved and that justice has been done. In my house for decades this issue was not discussed, and in addition these works do not have electoral revenue and it is something that requires a lot of care, ”reflects Márquez. “My father thought that he was going to die without locating the grave of his parents and he is grateful, moved. This is how people’s dignity is recovered”, he concludes.