A mass civil war grave in the national park is expected to contain the remains of over a dozen women killed by fascist troops

MORE than 70 years after they were tortured and shot dead by Franco troops, the remains of at least 17 young women are to be dug up from their unmarked communal grave in Grazalema in the Sierra de Cádiz.

The dead women – thought to be between 20 and 30 years old – are known as Las Rosas de Grazalema. They were taken one night in 1936, tortured, shot and buried in a pit by the side of the road. Their exact number is not known, but some of them were pregnant and among the dead is also believed to be a child.

“These women were not political in any way,” explains the mayor of Benamahoma, Joaquín Ramón Gómez Calvillo, who is leading the project. “Their only crime was to be the wives or girlfriends of Republican sympathizers. It was a brutal act of public vengeance, one that no-one here has ever forgotten.”

It’s not the first grave to be uncovered in the Sierra de Cádiz, but it does mark the start of an official project which aims to restore the memory of those who suffered and died in the area under Franco. “A total of 240 people died in Grazalema and Benamahoma alone, out of a population of just 3,000” says Gómez.

“This case of the rosas de Grazalema is a particularly emotive one,” he explains. “We are having to tread very carefully – there is still a lot of fear among the older people in particular, and we have had threats. So we’re talking to people to try to piece together exactly what happened, before we excavate the grave itself. It will all be done under the strictest conditions, with archeological and anthropological experts on hand.”

There are plans to create a Memorial Park in the old cemetery at Benamahoma where 150 people were shot dead by Franco troops. “We want to make sure that the new generation knows what happened and that history doesn’t repeat itself,” says Gómez. “And it’s also important for the descendants of these victims to know what happened and to be able to give their relatives a decent burial.”

Only this month, the provincial government of Cádiz voted to annul the title of honorary president given to Franco in 1945. The Partido Popular (PP) abstained in the vote.

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