It never fails to shock tourists to hear that Spain’s most famous poet, Federico García Lorca and other Republicans murdered by General Franco’s death squads in the earliest days of the Civil War remain buried in unmarked graves just outside the tiny village of Víznar in Andalusia.
But soon the sites of the mass executions and burials will be identified, clearly marked and tidied up, in a ¤40,000 (£34,000) project paid for by Víznar town hall. Thus the recognition of what happened there 80 years ago will be transformed into the closest version yet of a cemetery. Currently, all that exists is a single small monument, plaques placed by families and a rough, flower-bedecked stone cross lying in a single deep hollow – surrounded by a network of mountain bike trails.
Although an excavation in 2009 failed to find victims, this time a team of 11 archaeologists will carry out investigations to try to determine the exact sites of the executions. There is little doubt victims run into the thousands. The night-time mass assassinations of Republicans in the densely wooded ravines began shortly after Franco’s uprising started on July 18 1936 and continued through to early 1937. Lorca himself was killed on the night of August 18 1936.
“We did what we could in 2003,” Viznar’s mayor, Luis Pérez, said when the monument was placed there. But he believes identification of the sites is important not only for “those who were shot, but the many, many relatives of those victims”. Entangled in a mix of conflicting family wishes and Spanish legislation, however, exhumation and identification remains unlikely.