Thursday, September 2, 2010


Let me take you to Aguilar de la Frontera, a small village in the province of Córdoba. On Saturday a very special ceremony took place when Antonio Palma Moreno was finally laid to rest in the local cemetery. It is of importance because he was the first victim of reprisals in the Spanish Civil War in Andalucía to be identified by his DNA to be interred.

The ceremony was organised by the Asociación para la Recuperación de la Memoria Histórica and attended by his two grand daughters. His remains were laid beside those of his widow Carmen Reina.

Members of the association were at the cemetery to witness the funeral as were some 50 people from the village. His bones were carried by Manuela Molina in a wooden box covered with the Republican flag. Manuela is now in her 80s and witnessed the shooting of Antonio and others by the cemetery walls.

One of his grand daughters, Antonia, spoke of her deep emotion on this “very special day” adding that her grandmother would have been very proud to know that so many years on people were speaking so warmly of her husband.

Manuel Palma was born in Aguilar de la Frontera on August 23, 1908 and was from a family of farm workers. He was shot on July 24 1936 and his remains indicated a wound in his back. Worked started on his exhumation on May 3 and four other bodies were found – two women, a young boy and another man. As there was no means of identifying them the family agreed to have DNA tests carried out.

Rafael Espino, president of Aremehisa – the local association dedicated to recovering the history of those times – stated that Antonio Palma was the first of those shot in reprisal Andalucía during the Civil War to be identified by his DNA. He may be the first but he is unlikely to be the last as Rafael Espino estimates there are 12,000 people in common Civil War graves who have not been identified in Córdoba province alone.

Seventy years on and still 12,000 people in common Civil War graves in Córdoba province are unidentified – I find that dreadful statistic shocking. If true, and I have no reason to doubt it, how many in wider Andalucía and Spain nationally?

This is why the small, emotional interment in Aguilar de la Frontera is important because the use of DNA means that many of those unidentified remains can now matched to their present day families.

It is a development that reaches far beyond the borders of Spain, for instance it could impact on the families of Britons killed in the war. Also because of the traditional closeness of Spanish families the location of their dead is often known even if they remain unidentified. Now they could be called upon to take part in the process of finally laying the unidentified victims of the Spanish Civil War slaughter to dignified rest in named graves.

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