On the third day of the excavations in the Villadangos del Páramo cemetery in search of the remains of dozens of those shot in 1936, collective memory became more present than ever in the form of tributes in the town itself and in the city of León. And they did so accompanied by neighbors, the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory and artists who showed their support.
On Saturday morning, in addition to continuing with the excavations in which at least five bodies of victims of reprisals have already been discovered, an emotional tribute was held at the Villadangos del Páramo House of Culture. This act was also held in the same place where in August 2021 a controversial neighborhood vote tried to avoid the search for those shot in the cemetery, “an act of unnecessary additional pain.”
In Villadangos, the word was given by the relatives of the victims, who explained who their ancestors were as a way of making amends where a few months ago they had been denied their fundamental rights. But there was also gratitude to the residents of Villadangos who have helped with their testimonies in the search, and remembered those who rescued the bodies from the mountain more than 80 years ago to give them a minimum of dignity by burying them in graves in the cemetery.
The word, written in this case, made it possible for one more family to join the search for their loved ones this Saturday. The brothers Javier and María Luisa went when they saw the name of their grandfather, Narciso Robles, published as one of the possible victims, and they were aware that the family had commented that he was murdered in Villadangos, although history, as in so many other families, it has been taboo for a long time. The opening of the graves opens the possibility of finally finding their grandfather, whom they consider “just” after so many years of silence and pain. Along with them, two other families of the disappeared have joined in recent days the twenty that have been doing so for years.
In the afternoon, in a theater in León, the second tribute of the day took place. With the relatives carrying images with the history of those shot on stage, actors, writers and musicians passed by to show all their support for the search and tribute to those shot in Villadangos del Páramo in 1936.
The actor Juan Diego Botto claimed with the legend of Theseus’ ship that “we are because others remember us, what gives us identity is the memory that others have of us”, also denouncing that in Spain “for many years we have been intended to steal the memory of what we were, of those who fought to build a more modern, more decent, more egalitarian country”. And this act of homage was about celebrating a victory, being able to open the graves and look for those who have been buried without identity for 86 years, “today we celebrate a victory, a victory against oblivion. thanks to the tenacity and commitment of many family members,” said the actor.
Journalist Carlos Hernández recalled the history of the San Marcos de León concentration camp, today a luxury hotel, through which most of the Villadangos victims passed. “Spain is not going to be a full democracy until it recovers its real history,” said Hernández, recalling that there was “an absolutely programmed physical elimination,” even in areas where the war barely lasted, as was the case in León. The journalist lamented that the history of Spain is not really taught in schools, such as the existence of the 300 concentration camps that existed during the war and after the war. “Those assassinated are still not considered heroes, because that is how the victims of fascism are considered in the rest of the world. And here we still have to keep claiming, ”he pointed out.
One of the relatives in search of her grandfather, Susana Toral, celebrated that “The truth always finds its way and has come out in Villadangos on February 24, 2022”, recalling the previous hard work of years of questions and inquiries until opening the pit. Rufino Juárez was remembered with special affection, who was looking for his father in Villadangos, and died last year after the neighborhood refusal and the bureaucratic obstacles that delayed the search until 2022, “Rufino had to have lived through this”, they recalled . His granddaughter Mercedes recalled Rufino’s struggle to find his father, murdered when he was just 2 years old, with a lifetime of searching to find his remains and that they might be buried next to his wife. “That what has been silent for so long should not be kept quiet”, she valued, thanking the affection received.
Emilio Silva, president of the ARMH, was very critical of the pain suffered by families due to the lack of public support for the search for victims, “Thousands of people have died waiting for democracy to turn its face and look at them. The State has to be bothered by the pain of all its citizens, they have to look at the damage and they have to repair it. That is why Silva considered that “Those who dig the grave without rest have a sense of state” lamenting that “This country has thrown away the time of thousands of people and will never repair the damage caused.” The association finances the Villadangos excavations with its own resources, without any type of public aid, which they reject, considering that the search should be a state policy.
The journalist Olga Rodríguez, also a relative in search of her great-grandfather, denounced the lack of progress in Spain in terms of human rights and reparation for the crimes of Francoism, How is it possible that in places that are not in the first world there are justice processes and that here it is so difficult to recover the memory. Rodríguez explained the process of pain caused by having a disappeared person in the family –“it is a natural law to be able to bury our dead”- and celebrating that with the opening of the graves the words also open, “the earth breaks and silence is broken and even the fear that still exists today in some places”.
The act of remembrance included messages of support sent on video from Penélope Cruz, Aitana Sánchez Gijón, Manuel Rivas, Sergio Peris Mencheta and Javier Bardem, wishing encouragement to the relatives so that they can close the wounds in the fairest way possible. In addition, the interventions of Rozalén, Isamil9, Cuco and Luis Pérez, Juan Carlos Mestre and Sol Gómez Arteaga moved a full theater to repair what has not been possible for 86 years. The pits have opened and the wounds begin to close.