Lorca mystery may soon be solved but much of Spain’s past remains buried

Archeologists believe they may be close to finding body of playwright and poet killed by firing squad in 1936 but campaigners say searches of more than 2,000 mass graves around country are becoming increasingly difficult to carry out.

Photograph: Sipa Press/Rex Features

Photograph: Sipa Press/Rex Features

In the hills overlooking Granada, forensic archeologists buzz excitedly around a cordoned-off site. A blue tarp sits in the middle, marking the spot where they believe lies the answer to one of Spain’s great mysteries of recent times. Since mid-November, the team has been working from sunrise to sunset to locate the remains of playwright and poet Federico García Lorca.

It is on this barren patch of land, just up the road from the tiny village of Viznar, that the author of Blood Wedding and The House of Bernarda Alba is thought to have been shot by a rightwing firing squad in 1936.

The findings have so far been encouraging, says lead archaeologist Javier Navarro. The final resting place of one of Spain’s most famous civil war victims was flagged in a 2011 book detailing his final hours. “Everything we’ve done to date confirms that this is the spot we’ve been looking for,” said Navarro.

The search for Lorca’s remains made headlines around the world, but the attention masked an increasingly common complaint across the country. Seven years after the country passed legislation designed to make it easier for Spain to confront its past, campaigners say searches of the more than 2,000 known mass graves are becoming increasing difficult to carry out.

When Spain’s then-socialist government introduced a historical memory law in 2007, many heralded it as a crucial first step towards recognising the country’s murky past. The law removed Francoist monuments and symbols from public places and made it easier to locate and dig up the estimated 114,000 people who disappeared during the 1936-39 civil war and the ensuing dictatorship that ended only after Franco’s death in 1975.

But little has progressed in recent years, said Emilio Silva of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory. In 2000, he sparked a movement when he carried out the first scientific dig for the remains of his own grandfather and a dozen other victims from a mass grave in northern Spain. His group has since gone on to find some 6,000 bodies.

The historical memory law provided four years of subsidies, helping Silva’s group locate 5,400 bodies. But when the right wing People’s party came to power in 2011, funding stopped. […]

(From The Guardian, Ashhifa Kassam, 01.12.2014)


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