At Encarna’s house, the story of her husband, Ginés, was never discussed. He was a day laborer from Dolores (Alicante), a member of the Communist Party (PCE), married and with three children. One day in 1940, the Francoist authorities took him prisoner, first to a prison in Elche, then to another in Alicante.
His wife tried to visit him, but in jail they told her not to come back. Ginés was shot and buried in a common grave. Encarna died in 1987, not knowing where her husband was buried.
This Monday, his granddaughter María José Pérez Galant attended the first excavations of pit X of the Alicante cemetery, where she already knows with certainty that the remains of her grandfather are, along with those of ten more reprisals.
750,000 reprisals with names and surnames
This exhumation is the first to be carried out in the municipal cemetery of Alicante. The excavation is carried out by the specialized company ArqueoAntro, which has also worked in the Paterna pit (Valencia).
With a budget of 13,037.75 euros, awarded by the Department of Participation, Transparency, Cooperation and Democratic Quality of the Generalitat Valenciana, the archaeologists have three months for “the investigation and investigation, location, delimitation, exhumation and anthropological study of victims of Franco’s repression ”in the provincial capital, according to sources from the regional cabinet.
“As soon as the first shovelful of dirt was removed,” explains Pérez Galant, “we have all felt enormous emotion.” Ginés’ family is one of the three that initially raised the request to exhume the bodies of retaliated Republicans. According to Pérez Galant, there are now seven groups of descendants who hope to rediscover the trace of their ancestors to close “all the wounds that were left open.”
“My grandmother always had a sad face,” says Ginés’ granddaughter. In his opinion, “the real heroines were the widows of the reprisals.” Pérez Galant confirms with his words the harsh reality that it was they who “had to support their families.”
With the added burden, in addition, that “they were marked, by red”, condemned, he says “not to speak, not to cry”. “We must not transmit that burden to our children,” continues Pérez Galant, “we want to leave them the inheritance that they can know where their great-grandparents are.” To be able to visit their graves, “to be able to pray to them, if they want.”
The reprisals, Pérez Galant continues, “were taken out of the way simply for defending what they had voted for”. Among those shot after the war, there were “many teachers, or people pointed out by the fact that some local chief owed them money and accused them of being red,” he says. “And then, they suffered the double sentence of oblivion”, since fear made their stories go silent. And that his trace disappears.
The exhumation that began this Monday joins those already developed in other municipalities such as Monóvar, Orihuela, Benissa (Alicante) and Castellón, points out the Ministry of Democratic Quality. A survey has also been carried out that tries to delimit the Albatera concentration camp, currently located in the municipality of San Isidro.
And the batch of awards signed by the counselor Rosa Pérez Garijo, for a total of close to 75,000 euros, joins the excavation in the Alicante cemetery to others that will take place in Castellón, Segorbe (Castellón) and Orihuela (Alicante).
The announcement of this budget item prompted the descendants of Ginés to create, “along with six other families”, the Association of Relatives of Reprisals by the Franco regime of the Alicante pit. “When we found out that they were going to open the grave,” he continues, “we began to meet people in the same situation.”
There are already 90 families who hope to recover their ancestors and, later, “identify them with a DNA sample,” says Pérez Galant.
The Minister of Democratic Quality, present at the beginning of the exhumation of Alicante, underlines the importance of this initiative. “This was a historical debt to the families and we are trying to fulfill our obligation, open the graves of shame and regain the dignity of this country,” he declared in a statement.
According to the research carried out in the Valencian Community, there are still 400 mass graves, which shows, in Pérez Garijo’s opinion, that “there is still a lot of work to be done.” “We continue to advance in the exhumations in different parts of our geography to achieve the objective that we set for ourselves at the beginning of the legislature, a territory free of graves,” the minister says.