Enguera: a mass grave discovered under the Francoist mausoleum in Spain | Spain
Josefina Barrón, also known as Pepita, is the daughter of José, one of nine prisoners killed in the town of Enguera, in the Spanish region of Valencia, two months after the end of the Spanish Civil War. She was just over a month old when her father was taken away. “I have no recollection of him,” she said.
On the morning of June 6, 1939, a squad of the Spanish fascist Phalange party removed the nine men from the local prison. Hands tied, the three councilors, two mayors, two politicians, a lieutenant and a supervisor were taken in pairs to the cemetery wall. A neighbor who was finishing milking saw them pass by and greeted them discreetly: “See you soon in the afterlife,” replied one of the nine, according to testimonies later compiled by their descendants.
These men were the only ones executed in Enguera, the hometown of Doctor José María Albiñana, founder of the Spanish Nationalist Party – one of the first fascist parties in Spain – which was executed at the start of the civil war in Madrid, but was not buried until 1941. As he was considered a martyr, a mausoleum partly paid for by dictator Francisco Franco himself, was erected in his honor. According to ground-penetrating radar, the monument containing his remains stands atop the tomb in which the nine prisoners have been buried over the past 80 years. This month, the work of exhuming the remains of these men began, after six of the nine families of the victims obtained permission from relatives of Albiñana and the town hall of Albiñana, led by the Conservative Popular Party. (PP).
Now 82, Pepita is the only child of the executed men who is still alive. “One day he was released from prison and we never heard from him again,” she says. “I know he loved music and played the clarinet.” Her father worked in the textile industry alongside her mother, who took Pepita to settle in Aldaia, a town near the city of Valencia, when she was 10 years old. “My grandparents never told me anything, they never talked about it,” she says.
Rafael Barberá, a relative of Salvador, another of the nine, also acknowledges that what happened in Enguera was obscured by silence. “Even this morning my wife asked me again, ‘Do you really want to go talk about this?’ He said. Barberá believes the silence will be difficult to break: “Even when this is all over, fear will continue to weigh on us. “He adds that, for many, the city has become a hostile place:” A lot of children and widows have left Enguera for Tarrasa or Barcelona, ”he says.
Leandro’s son was 15 the morning his father was killed. Remigio Payá, his grand-nephew, says: “The Civil Guard made his son’s life impossible. They called him to the barracks, beat him, and insisted that he hand over the weapons his father had left him. He eventually left and never returned.
Leandro was a municipal councilor for the Socialist Party (PSOE). During the Second Republic, he orchestrated the release of a resident of Enguera imprisoned in Alicante, despite the fact that this man was a sympathizer of the extreme right and against the Republic. “Despite their political differences, Leandro went to declare that he was known to him and that he should be released. And, thanks to him and to another comrade, he was, ”says Payá. He adds that in 1939, the same man filed the complaint that ended the lives of Leandro and the other eight men.
The wall of the cemetery against which they were executed is in poor condition. “You could see the bullet marks before, but the wall is collapsing now,” says Barberá, who shows the side of the cemetery where the father of one of those shots looked in 1936 to see if his son had been killed. . Matías Alonso, president of the Group for the Recovery of Historical Memory in the Region of Valencia, said the Enguera shootings were “carried out only to intimidate the population, because the war was already over”.
Perhaps this is why Miguel Sarrión, an elderly resident who had been secretary of the Young Socialist Group in 1936, took more than 60 years to talk about what happened. “There is a grave with nine people shot dead in the cemetery. I know because I knew them all, ”he told Alfredo Barberán, current coordinator of the Progressive Socialist Association of Enguera 10 years ago. “Once I started to investigate, to talk to people,” adds Barberán, “a lot of people knew the story. He’s always been there.
Even when this is all over, fear will continue to weigh us down
Rafael Barberá, a relative of one of the nine victims
Since Sarrión spoke, Barberán has been working to piece together what happened that morning of June 6, 1939. In the town hall archives he found documents attesting to the deaths of the nine. All died “in the countryside” of natural causes, according to the official report: brain death, collapse, cardiac arrest… “They falsified the cause of death,” says Barberán. The youngest of the nine was not yet 30 and the oldest was 55.
What Sarrión did not know is that the tomb in which Pedro, Leandro, Antonio, Salvador, Miguel, Ricardo, José, Emilio and Pedro were buried was paved by the tomb and monument to Albiñana in 1941. It seemed add insult to injury as Albiñana was a far-right sympathizer of Hitler and Mussolini, as he himself stated in the article Comrade Hitler that he published in the newspaper La Nacion May 4, 1932. In the posthumous homage that the Franco regime paid to Albiñana, to which EL PAÍS had access, it is said: “The first blue shirts [armed militias akin to Mussolini’s black shirts] and the Roman salute [a gesture appropriated by fascism] were introduced to Spain by this dynamic Levantine. Enguera still has a street that bears the name of Albiñana and that connects its town square to the town hall.
The authorization of those close to Albiñana was fundamental for the exhumation of the mass grave. None of his 21 great-nephews and nieces objected to the removal of the mausoleum to allow the removal and identification of the remains of the nine men. “It all took us by surprise,” explains a family source. “We are not closely related and, if there is a grave, it seems natural to allow the exhumation of the bodies.”
Raquel Canovés, daughter of Pepita and granddaughter of José, express their appreciation. “There is no other interpretation; it’s humanity, ”says Pepita. “I don’t understand how these things can be politicized.”
Assuming the ground-penetrating radar is accurate, the exhumation will be completed in February, after which the mausoleum will be replaced. And in the middle of the cemetery, a marble sculpture will be erected as a tribute to those who were executed in the city and the bodies will be buried there.