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Tuesday, November 23, 2004 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES | NEXT: Family of Spanish Journalist Killed by U.S. Forces in...
2004-11-23

Recovering Historic Memory in Spain: Grandson of Man Killed by Franco Finds Remains in Mass Grave

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We look at the legacy of Francisco Franco–the dictator who in 1936 launched a bloody civil war and then ruled Spain for 40 years–and one man’s quest to find his grandfather who was killed by Franco’s troops decades ago. [includes rush transcript]

When I ask people here about the legacy of Francisco Franco, the dictator who in 1936 launched a bloody civil war and then ruled Spain for 40 years, many of them say this: he was the man who divided Spain forever into two sides.

Over one million Spaniards were killed in the war and in the brutal repression that followed. Many victims were summarily shot and buried in mass graves. Entire villages were wiped out. Many people were imprisoned and tortured. But unlike other countries that have tried to bring justice to victims through truth commissions, Spain never closed this traumatic chapter. No-one was ever tried or jailed for these crimes after Franco died and Spain transitioned into a democracy. In fact, Franco’s longtime Minister of the Interior, Manuel Fraga, still holds a powerful political post as the head of the Autonomous Region of Galicia.

But recently, there has been a growing movement to uncover the memory of those lost in the war. Family members of the disappeared have formed organizations that conduct archeological digs to uncover mass graves. Many of those participating are also young students of archeology. We are now joined by a man who went on a very special search for his grandfather, and found him.

  • Emilio Silva Parrera, President of the Association for the Recovery of Historic Memory. His grandfather was killed by the Franco troops during the civil war.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring a new guest into this conversation, Emilio Silva Parrera, who is an independent journalist and can chronicle what happened in those days between — well, what is it called here? — 11 m to 14 m —the eleventh of March to the fourteenth of March. Can you talk about what was happening on the ground that started to inform people all over the country and then the world about a very different picture of who might be responsible and what their response was?

EMILIO SILVA PARRERA: The people of Spain were thinking, I think, the authority of Al Qaeda in the first hours during the 11 March, and we were waiting the information from our government, but the 14 March, the people go out to the streets to look for the truth, and they made meetings around the office of the Popular Party to say we want the truth be — be — before vote, and we have the truth because the interior minister, the policy minister, give the information during the afternoon of the 14 March, and then they say Al Qaeda have a relation with this question.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what everyone is talking about here, what Gabriela referred to in the first segment, the text messaging protest. How the protest built.

EMILIO SILVA PARRERA: I know the people who prepared this protest, and they are normal citizens, very, very angry with the government because the information was very very bad about the question of ETA. Then they say, we have to do something about, and they start to send some messages with the cellular phones, and —

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean they started to send messages with cellular phones?

EMILIO SILVA PARRERA: Ah —

AMY GOODMAN: The text message? When you can just send a text message?

EMILIO SILVA PARRERA: Yes. Yes. Text message.

AMY GOODMAN: And what was that message?

EMILIO SILVA PARRERA: The message said —- it’s difficult to explain in English, because it’s -—[switches to Spanish]

GABRIELA GUTIERREZ [translating]: Aznar is looking to shake his responsibility. They call it a day of reflection and Urdaci is at work, and Urdaci was the chief information person in the state television, who was putting out the propaganda. Silence for truth. At eighteen hundred hours, be at the general headquarters of the P.P. in Calle Genoa. Pasaló.

AMY GOODMAN: And this was —

EMILIO SILVA PARRERA: Pasaló.

GABRIELA GUTIERREZ: Pasaló was very important.

EMILIO SILVA PARRERA: Yes very important.

AMY GOODMAN: What was it?

GABRIELA GUTIERREZ: Pasaló. Pass it on.

AMY GOODMAN: Pass it on.

GABRIELA GUTIERREZ: That mushroomed.

AMY GOODMAN: And that text message was sent first to one, then another, then to hundreds, then to thousands of people?

EMILIO SILVA PARRERA: The first people sent twenty messages, and then, this way, the telefonica — the phone companies in Spain had twenty percent more text messages.

AMY GOODMAN: The phone companies had twenty percent more text messages on that day, and a mass protest happened, on this day of reflection, on the day that the candidates can not campaign anymore, the day before the election. Everyone was predicting that Aznar would win, Zapatero won.

EMILIO SILVA PARRERA: Yes, yes. I think it was very important, this questioning the result of the elections.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, I want to go to your own history, Emilio Silva Parrera. You were the President of the Association for the Recovery of Historic Memory. Your grandfather the first to be identified, the remains, killed by the Franco troops during the Civil War. Just a little background on Francisco Franco. When I ask people here about the legacy of Franco, the dictator who in 1936 launched a bloody civil war, then ruled Spain for 40 years, many of them say he was the man who divided Spain forever into two sides. Over a million Spaniards were killed during the war and the repression that followed. Many victims were summarily shot and buried in mass graves. Entire villages are wiped out. Many people were imprisoned and tortured. But, unlike other countries that have tried to bring justice to victims through truth commissions, Spain’s never closed the traumatic chapter. No one’s ever been tried or jailed for the crimes after Franco died and Spain transitioned into democracy. In fact, Franco’s long-time Minister of the Interior, Manuel Fraga, still holds a powerful political post as the head of the autonomous region of Galicia. But recently there’s been a growing movement to uncover the memory of those lost in the war. Family members of the disappeared have formed organizations that conduct archaeological digs to uncover mass graves. Many of those participating are also young students of archeology. You are the head of one of the leading organizations that is doing this. It’s quite something that we’ve moved from the Aznar government. Many of the members of Aznar’s cabinet, many of the leaders then were the sons of Franco supporters and officials. And now we have moved into the Zapatero government. His grandfather, is that right, killed by Franco? Your grandfather, the first to be — his remains to be identified. How were they identified?

EMILIO SILVA PARRERA: Well, four years ago, I — by a casuality, I found the place of the mass graves where the bones of my grandfather and twelve more people; and I had a lot of help from archeologists, forensic doctors, and many people. And then other relatives of missing people during the Civil War came to the place of the grave to say we need help for my father and my brother, and then we made the Association to look for the 13,000 missing people that we have in Spain. All Republicans, but there are people from other — another countries like United States. There are 350 international brigadiers from the Lincoln Brigade missing in Spain.

AMY GOODMAN: The Abraham Lincoln Brigade, U.S. citizens who went to Spain to help in the fight against Franco. Maria, maybe you can explain the term 'Republican', since in the United States a lot of Republicans may be listening, but the term Republican is well known.

GABRIELA GUTIERREZ: It’s radically different from the term —-American term of Republic -— Republican. It comes from the name Republic of Spain, which is what Spain was before Franco led this military rebellion and Civil War. The Republican of Spain was democratically elected, and was really the hope, the anti-fascist hope and the leftist hope of Europe. It would have been a model to follow. And Franco crushed that. That’s why that you have the Republicans fighting on the side of — against fascism. And actually there are day — people nowadays who went to exile and said they will never come back to live in Spain until it becomes the Third Republic, the Second Republic being what existed before Franco came to power.

AMY GOODMAN: What does it mean to you that Zapatero has come to power now, was elected, Emilio, in terms of what the Aznar government represented and the Zapatero government represents in relation to Franco?

EMILIO SILVA PARRERA: During the transition to the democracy of Spain, all the political parties forgotten the history of the Second Republic. All of them—in the left parties and the right parties, and now, I think there is a new generation with the Zapatero government. They don’t have a — silence deals, because during the transition nobody talked about this question. They break with the Second Republic, but not with the dictatorship of Franco, and many of the politicians from the dictatorship could be his political career during the democracy, and now I think that the Zapatero government is this new generation. We in our association are the grandsons of these Republican people and now in the government there is also the grandsons of these Republican people. And I think they have to prepared to look for these missing people to give money for a lot of people who had problems during the Civil War, the political prisoners. For example, the political prisoners made a lot of public and private buildings during the Franco’s times, and I think Zapatero has to resolve this question, because we need to have a good relation with this past in Spain.

AMY GOODMAN:Well, I thank you very much both for being with us, Emilio Silva Parrera, President of the Association for the Recovery of Historic Memory, as well as Uxue Barkos, who is a member of the March 11 Commission here in Spain investigating the March 11 attacks.

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