Women's mass grave sheds light on female victims of the Spanish Civil War

Women’s mass grave sheds light on female victims of the Spanish Civil War

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Women’s mass grave sheds light on female victims of the Spanish Civil War

According to a Reuters report, a mass grave holding the remains of ten women from the village of Uncastillo has been uncovered in northeastern Spain. The women were taken from their homes and executed by a fascist firing squad on August 31, 1936, during the first year of the Spanish Civil War.

The mass grave of ten women executed by a fascist firing squad in the early days of the Spanish Civil War has been unearthed by archaeologists in northeastern Spain, bringing attention to the often ignored plight of women in the conflict.

Well, some of their spines are traced by preserved white buttons, the only traces of the clothes they wear the day they were executed on Aug. 31, 1936, after being abducted from their homes the night before in the village of Uncastillo.

The remains of a body with a bullet hole on it is seen during the exhumation of a mass grave with ten women from the town of Uncastillo that were shot in 1936 by the forces of former dictator Francisco Franco, in the cemetery of Farasdues, Spain, December 9, 2020.

Their bodies were dumped in a narrow pit in the local cemetery in neighbouring Farasdues, in the region of Aragon.

Mari Carmen Rios’ grandmother Inocencia Aznares was among them.

A tent covers the exhumation of two mass graves, including one with ten women from the town of Uncastillo that were shot in 1936 by the forces of former dictator Francisco Franco, in the cemetery of Farasdues, Spain, December 9, 2020.

“Why did they kill her?” Because they couldn’t find my uncle? Because she could read and write? Because she voted for the republic? … I don’t know … Nothing they did makes sense,” Rios said.

More than 500,000 people were killed during the 1936-1939 war. Historical foundations estimate over 100,000 bodies remain missing, many in unmarked mass graves.

The leftist coalition government approved a bill in September to finance exhumations from mass graves as part of efforts to “restore democratic memory”.

Academic research on the conflict, though extensive, has been overwhelmingly focused on the experience of men, said Cristina Sanchez, who investigates civil-war violence against women at Zaragoza University.

“Where are all the women? … Now we are finding that they were present as victims of violence and as perpetrators.”

Some were persecuted for their political leanings or activism but many more were killed as substitute victims for their male relatives, she said. Methods of execution were equally savage for both sexes.

“We have deaths by drowning, deaths by hanging, and the majority were killed by firing squad.”

Excavations in Farasdues began in November but the massacre had remained lodged in the area’s collective memory for decades, said archaeologist Javier Ruiz.

The remains of bodies are seen during the exhumation of a mass grave with ten women from the town of Uncastillo that were shot in 1936 by the forces of former dictator Francisco Franco, in the cemetery of Farasdues, Spain, December 9, 2020.

“Carrying off 10 women in one go didn’t happen in many places, at least not in Aragon … In Uncastillo these 10 women have never been forgotten.”

Next to their grave, archaeologists uncovered another site with the bodies of at least seven men, who are yet to be identified.

For Rios, the excavation triggered powerful feelings of outrage, which later gave way to a sense of closure: “When you say ‘We’ve found her, she’s there, we’re going to bury her with grandpa,’ honestly it makes me very happy.”


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