Open letter to the minister of democratic memory

Dear Mr. Félix Bolaños García, Minister of the Presidency, Relations with the Courts and Democratic Memory of Spain:

Allow me to introduce myself. I belong to that broad and diffuse category that an illustrious Spanish exile, Professor Juan David García Bacca, called “unitantism”. I am one of so many relatives of Franco’s reprisals that the numbers of the laws of democratic memory have left and continue to leave out of their records. My grandparents are one of many who have been excluded from the memory of democracy in this country. The Government, and its alternative, speak these weeks of more than 21,000 million euros executed by the general administration of the State as reparations to the victims of Francoism. That is undoubtedly a lot of money. I hope you are aware of where it has gone, because my grandparents are one of many victims of fascism who have not yet received economic, moral or political reparation.

I am the grandson of two of Franco’s reprisals. Neither of them were combatants in the war, which is why they do not fall into the majority of groups that your department considers to have already received reparations. They were two workers, fathers of a family, of progressive ideas and defenders of the democratic republican regime.

My maternal grandfather, Eugenio Villa Santiago, a native of Gijón, was a waiter and a member of the CNT. When the rebel troops entered the city in October 1937, he had to go into hiding to avoid the indiscriminate shootings of the fascist repression. After a few months, he finally gave himself up. He was court-martialed on September 10, 1938 for being a trade union representative where he worked and for having collaborated with the Republican authorities. He was sentenced to 12 years and one day in prison. Later his sentence was commuted to 2 years and 2 months, after pleas and favourable testimonies. He died in 1968. My grandmother Luz, in accordance with Law 46/1977 on Amnesty and Law 4/1990 on General Budgets, requested compensation from the State for his imprisonment. In December 1992, the competent authorities were still asking her to provide more supporting documentation in order to grant the reparation. Apparently, the documents from the register of the penitentiary centre of El Coto in Gijón, and of the sentence and its commutation from the military archive in Guadalajara, were not sufficient. As if that were not enough, his case did not meet the conditions for reparation, since my grandfather’s imprisonment was 10 months less than the 3 years required. Was it not that bad? You should have asked my grandmother, Mr. Bolaños. I often remember her complaining bitterly that, after In prison, her husband had never been the same: he became sullen, distrustful. Luz died in August 1993 without receiving a single euro in reparations; and what is worse, with her morals sullied and without having received justice from the democracy of ’78.

My father was nine months old when my grandfather Santos Valentín Francisco Díaz was arrested in September 1936 and taken to the San Marcos prison in León. He was a farrier from the Leonese town of Mansilla de las Mulas, a member of the UGT and a member of the Círculo Obrero. San Marcos was an improvised prison, controlled by fascist paramilitaries, where thousands of reprisals were imprisoned for years without any record of reparations. Santos, accused of rebellion, was never brought to trial. His name suddenly disappeared as if by magic in the tangle of the investigation carried out against him and other local residents for the alleged acts of rebellion. He was never convicted, but he was murdered in October 1936 somewhere in the surroundings of Villadangos del Páramo (León). As one of so many victims in that municipality, he is still missing today; but not in combat, so he is not part of that collective for State reparations. The relatives are still looking for all of them. My grandmother Eulogia, his wife, who had to raise seven children on her own, died in 1987 without seeing any recognition or reparations from the State. And, make no mistake, her widow’s pension, obtained many years later after no little bureaucratic effort, was not a reparation as a victim of a crime against humanity, but a passive labor right of every citizen in a social state under the rule of law.

Supporting relatives, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the repressed, the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARMH) has recently presented a project of intervention in the cemetery of Villadangos to search for their remains, which has been approved and authorized by the Junta de Castilla y León. But the City Council, the local authority on which the Law of Memory places the responsibility of attending to and allowing this type of action, far from collaborating, has done nothing more than to make new demands for technical reports to the Provincial Council, in addition to a favourable vote by the Neighbourhood Council. Mr. Bolaños, can compliance with a state law to repair the violation of human rights depend on the vote of a community of neighbors?

The philosopher Paul Ricoeur said that the imputability and responsibility of human acts are a source of responsibility.The attribution of actions, and the response for them and their consequences before the community are the foundation of ethics. Justice navigates in the sea of morality; and a democracy, in order to be just, must have moral depth. The investigation and reparation of the crimes of Francoism are moral mandates of justice. They must not be political chapters that are closed in a false way. That would be an ethical error that would definitely capsize the ship of justice in this democracy. And remember that the cases of my grandparents are only one of many that have yet to receive truth, justice and reparation in this country. Be a minister of democratic memory and do not forget them.

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