Our history is starting to come to light

"Your father was killed at La Sauceda. Your grandmother was shot at El Marrufo".
For decades, that was all that the children and grandchildren of the former inhabitants of La Sauceda valley heard, in their homes all over Spain. But nobody knew exactly where or how they had died, let alone where they were buried.
Seventy-five years after the bombardment of La Sauceda and the crimes at El Marrufo, a group of children and grandchildren of people who were killed there started to shed a little light on the history of their relatives. In August 2011 a team of archaeologists, anthropologists, historians and students, coordinated by the Foropor la Memoria del Campo de Gibraltar (Forum for the Memory of the Campo de Gibraltar) carried out surveys and soundings on a treeless area of the estate. They found the bones of four people and more than 70 pieces of ballistic evidence, from different types of firearm which had been used in the executions. Years of research in archives and interviews with survivors had finally produced a result: there were communal graves there.
The families began to find out more about the fate of their parents or grandparents.

 

People were scared to speak in public about the crimes of Francoism during the dictatorship. It was considered dangerous to say that your father was shot at El Marrufo or La Sauceda. The victims’ stories and their families’ pain were kept behind closed doors at home. Sometimes, they were not expressed even then. Many men and women didn’t tell their children what had happened to their relatives, because they were afraid they would be seen as ‘reds’ and the same thing would happen to them. This silence lasted even longer than the dictatorship. In Ubrique, few people ever spoke of the cerrillo de los muertos (hill of the dead), referring to the place where it was believed that some of those shot at El Marrufo were buried. In a clearing, on a slight slope behind the mansion, a small iron cross appeared in the ground beside a heap of loose stones, which country people call ‘majanos’. And when the storms or animals knocked it down, someone would stand it up again.
At the beginning of the 21st century, historians Carlos Perales Pizarro in Alcalá de los Gazues, Fernando Sígler Silvera and Antonio Morales Benítez of the Asociación Papeles, in Ubrique, and researchers such as Manuel Ramírez López and José Ignacio Gómez Palomeque of the Asociación Memoria Histórica in Jerez, carried out research into different aspects of the civil war in Cádiz province and began to shed a little light upon what had happened at El Marrufo.
In 2009 the Historic Memory section of the Citizenship department of the Cádiz provincial government financed preliminary historical research into the communal graves at El Marrufo estate. The investigation was carried out by the Papeles de Historia association between March and September that year. Historians from the association searched different archives, collected oral testimonies from relatives and witnesses of the period and visited, with the witnesses, the main location where it was thought that the communal graves could be on El Marrufo estate.
At a conference about historic memory which was held in Jimena de la Frontera in 2009, a group of people volunteered to work to find out what had really happened at La Sauceda and El Marrufo. Then, in 2011, the Foro por la Memoria del Campo de Gibraltar was given a grant by the Ministry of the Presidency to survey, carry out soundings and try to locate the communal graves at El Marrufo. In August of that year, after years of researching archives and interviewing survivors, a group of archaeologists coordinated by the Foro por la Memoria del Campo de Gibraltar carried out some preliminary surveys and soundings based on memories from witnesses, who had indicated the places which were most likely to have been used for clandestine burials. The land which was examined was approximately 3.5 hectares in size, and was divided into sections so the experts could work with greater precision. As a result of the investigations the remains of four people were found, plus about 100 pieces of bullets and shells which had been used in the shootings. All this evidence added greater weight to the oral testimonies of the survivors and their families, who said that El Marrufo had been a place of execution and burial during the civil war and that the possible sites of the graves had been marked by heaps of stones. Once the bones were found in the communal graves, the archaeologists left the skeletons in place but ensured that they were properly covered so they could be preserved until excavation works could be carried out with all scientific and legal requirements duly met.