Lorca’s civil war grave found empty
By Fiona Govan in Madrid. 16 Dec 2009
The project on a remote hillside outside the southern city of Granada was intended to trace of the nation’s most celebrated modern poet and playwright.
But the two-month excavation of an area of parkland about the size of half a football pitch will come to an end this week and as yet no human remains have been unearthed.
Digging started in Alfacar at the end of October after years of campaigning by relatives of those believed to be buried alongside Lorca.
The family of the poet, who has become the most emblematic victim of Franco’s repression, originally opposed the exhumation claiming little could be achieved through digging up the past.
But they relented after a local judge ruled it would serve public interest and they agreed to provide DNA samples to identify the poet’s remains if and when he was found.
The lack of results has fuelled speculation over the fate of Lorca, who was killed by supporters of General Francisco Franco at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936.
For more than 70 years the exact circumstances of the death of the author of Blood Wedding, The House Of Bernarda Alba and Yerma, have been shrouded in secrecy.
Lorca is widely believed to have been murdered, aged 38, by members of the Black Squadron who targeted him for his Left-wing views, Republican sympathies and homosexuality.
He and three others, including a one-legged school teacher and two local bullfighters, were said to be shot at dawn and buried in the same unmarked grave on the edge of an olive grove.
The failure to locate his remains comes as a disappointment to Irish historian, Ian Gibson, who wrote a biography of Lorca, and pinpointed the location of the grave after interviews with the man who claimed to have buried him.
“They may not have found him yet but I’m still convinced that his remains are there,” Mr Gibson told The Daily Telegraph. “It may be that search has to be widened a little bit but I have no doubt Lorca will be found in that area.”
One new theory proposes that Franco ordered the relocation of Lorca’s body after his execution provoked international condemnation.
A new book claims that Franco ordered the emptying of the mass grave in the weeks following the murder and that Lorca’s remains to be buried quietly elsewhere.
Historians believe some 130,000 people were killed by fascist death squads during the three year conflict and ensuing dictatorship that ended with the death of Franco in 1975.
Their bones lie undiscovered in unmarked graves across Spain but the movement to unearth the past has grown stronger in the last decade.
The Law of Historical Memory passed by the socialist government of Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero in 2007 overturned the “pact of forgetting” that allowed Spain to draw a veil over the past to ensure a smooth transition to democracy, and aims to assist relatives unearth the remains of their loved ones.