Exhumation works have so far uncovered the remains of ten victims who were executed by the Franco regime. Over 80 years later, the aim is to bring some finality to their descendants’ bereavement and to commemorate and dignify the memory of the deceased.
The exhumation is a matter of justice; to bring an end to the mourning and to dignify their memory. Over 8 decades later, there are still tens of thousands of people in Spain who do not know where the remains of their loved ones, who suffered the cruel repression of the dictatorship, are. Historians speak of some 150,000 dead.
The search has begun in Jimena de la Frontera to identify and exhume the remains of those executed by the coup leaders who revolted against the Second Republic and triggered Spanish Civil War.
The Provincial Council of Cádiz and the City Council of Jimena have facilitated these works, which have included historical research and rely on oral testimony neighbours and relatives who maintain that some 40 neighbours were murdered in the vicinity of the castle and buried in mass graves in the cemetery. However, it is estimated that there may have been 100 victims in Jimena, not all of whom were buried in the cemetery. Many of them were executed in pursuance of a declaration of war, even though in this municipality executions continued until 1949 under a law relating to escaped prisoners; the “Ley de Fugas”.
The Provincial Council is financing phases of the works under the protection of the “Ley de Memoria Democrática de Andalucía” (“Democratic Memory of Andalusia Act”) which was approved by the Andalusian Parliament in 2017. These phases include an initial scan via ground-penetrating radar provided by the University of Cádiz, surveys carried out in 2019 and the currently underway exhumations. This is being carried out in coordination with the City Council of Jimena and the “Foro por la Memoria del Campo de Gibraltar” (“Campo de Gibraltar Historical Memory Forum”). The Association of Municipalities of the Campo de Gibraltar has promised its financial support in future phases.
Exhumation work began on July 1. Descendants of some of the victims were involved in the first symbolic breaking of the soil in courtyard number four of the old cemetery. A tremendously emotional and historic moment to allow their descendants to close deep wounds.
Leading these works is the archaeologist Jesús Román. ReachExtra spoke to him: “We have covered an area of 40 square meters. We have located two mass graves. In one of them, there are six bodies and in the other, initial indication are, there are a minimum of four, although this will probably increase by one or two more,” he shovel more or less a meter,” he adds. “I wish a map of graves had been made in the eighties, with the first democratic governments, but it was not done until the mid-2000s. If this had been the case, the location would have been much easier,” he laments.
The testimonies of the descendants, who have, for generations, maintained an eagerness to find their loved ones and give them a decent burial, have been fundamental.
He also explained that another potential burial site has been found which, because of the position of the remains, suggests a violent death. This was found below a block of niche which was built in the 1970s, which the expert believes to contain the remains of victims.
We are now working on the location and then we will try to identify the remains through a preliminary study to determine sex, age, possible illnesses and indications of fractures that would corroborate a violent death, that is, injuries sustained around the time of death and bullet holes.
“To determine who is who, once we have the age, sex and can compare with the data of descendants, we will proceed to exhumation and check the DNA. We already have saliva samples collected through the Campo de Gibraltar Historical Memory Forum. This sample is then compared with another bone that we normally take from the femur which we sent for lab testing to the University of Granada,” he explained.
Román anticipated that the exhumations would begin in the first week of August, which will mark the beginning of the end of a nightmare for many homeless citizens of Jimena.
Pascual Collado: In Search of his Paternal Grandfather and his Brother
Pascual Collado is one of the descendants of these victims. His paternal grandfather, Pascual Collado Jiménez, and his brother, Luis Collado Jiménez, were shot on October 6, 1936 and February 13, 1937, respectively.
In the case of his grandfather, he assured that his only ‘crime’ was being an uncomfortable neighbour for the regime: “He had no political affiliation. He was a merchant and businessman. He did not go to mass and read the newspapers. According to the record, he was accused of a confrontation with the forces of public order when in fact he was actually tied up with others who were facing death by firing squat, including a 15-year-old boy. How could there have been a confrontation with the authorities when he was tied up and taken to the town hall, where he spent three days, to be shot? Of course, without judgment or anything. They took him out of prison at dawn and shot him.”
Pascual Collado was the Mayor of Jimena de la Frontera for 16 years, and one of his efforts in office was to locate, exhume, and subsequently rebury these victims of Francoism. “In my family we have always wanted to recover his remains and dignify his memory. Although we have had to wait 84 years, it is never too late. Too many people have gone through life without being able to do so,” he says.
“Y Jimena se vistió de negro”
José Manuel Algarbani, professor of contemporary history and official chronicler of Los Barrios, knows a great deal about what happened in Jimena. In fact, his book “Y Jimena se vistió de negro” (“And Jimena dressed in black”) (II Republic, Civil War and post-war in Jimena de la Frontera)”, has been seminal.
Algarbani explained to ReachExtra that Jimena was the last town in Cádiz to fall into the hands of the July 1936 uprising, it did so in September. It was, therefore, the last republican stronghold of the province. “Since July there was a revolutionary committee and, in that chaos that existed in that period, Jimena organized itself and served as a refuge for many Campo-Gibraltarians who fled to this town, in addition to those who fled to Gibraltar and along the coast. Being in that situation longer, the repression was more serious there and around a hundred people were shot.”