Victims, Silence and the Exhumation of Mass Graves

In: Giving Voice to Silence

Since the military uprising in 1936 the Franco dictatorship sought to eradicate and silence various elements within Spanish society. Through the creation of retroactive laws, various political figures and civilians were murdered or experienced extreme repression and surveillance by authorities. This contributed to the silencing of victims preventing dissent. Franco sought to generate a revisionist myth of the failure of the second republic, with all blame for the civil war on the reformist non-traditional elements of society. During this period, hundreds of thousands of people were convicted of political crimes, sentenced to death or placed in various concentration camps in Spain and abroad. I argue that this label continues to inhibit the exhumation of mass graves. This chapter argues that despite the transition to democracy these victims continue to be overlooked and ignored in the nations’ collective memory. While in the last 15 years social activists groups such as ARMH (Association for the Recuperation of Historic Memory) seek to rectify this situation through exhumation of mass graves, they remain unsupported and underfinanced by the state. This chapter considers how exhumation serves as a mechanism to redress the legacy of silence established by the Franco regime and maintained by subsequent Spanish governments. The act of exhuming remains from clandestine graves creates a counter narrative to the dominant discourses of the power elite. However, the discursive historical memory during this period remains a challenge to the continued survival of activist groups exhuming graves. While the recovered remains provide irrefutable proof of the fragility of the victims and violence committed against them, there appears to be a lack of political or social will to assist in recuperating the missing. I ask in this chapter: How can society continue to refute the scientific facts evidenced through the exhumation process and support government policy silencing the voice and rights of these victims?