This morning the President of the Generalitat de Catalunya, Pere Aragonès, and the Minister for Justice, Rights and Memory, Gemma Ubasart, visited the exhumation work currently under way in mass grave 11-67 North in Reus cemetery to recover the remains of anti-Franco activist Cipriano Martos. This search, said the President, “provides a further example of the Catalan Government’s firm commitment to the victims of the Spanish Civil War and the Franco regime. This is another step towards restoring the dignity of Cipriano Martos and his family, and towards the historical reparation of the memory of an anti-Franco activist who was treated utterly inhumanely by the Spanish Civil Guard”.
Speaking to the press after visiting the grave, Aragonès announced that one of the exhumed bodies “is compatible with the data we have on Cipriano Martos. It will now be necessary to carry out all the physical, anthropological and DNA checks to verify its identity and hence complete the restoration of the dignity of this anti-dictatorship militant”. In all, some 41 bodies have been exhumed to date from the mass grave in Reus cemetery.
The President emphasised that through these kinds of initiatives the Catalan Government is continuing its work “to restore the memory and struggles of those who were murdered by the Franco regime in order to obliterate their commitment to democracy, freedom and justice”. He also noted that the Generalitat has been a“pioneer” in many aspects of historical memory, at all times adhering to the principles of “truth, justice, reparation, and guarantees of non-repetition”.
Among the main milestones achieved in this area, Aragonès highlighted the annulment of the summary judgements of the Franco regime, the promotion of projects associated with the Human Cost of the Civil War, the creation of the DNA bank, and the Mass Grave Map, “which have enabled us to identify more than 350 people in 2022 alone”. In this respect, he noted that the Mass Grave Map is being deployed so that “Catalonia can continue to spearhead the recovery of historical memory”.
“It is our duty as a country to learn more about our collective history; as a society to honour those who fought for democracy and justice and paid for it with their lives; and as a people because every family deserves to know where their loved ones lie, and at the same time because everyone deserves to rest in peace”, he said.
During their visit to the Reus mass grave, the President and the Minister had the chance to speak with the forensic anthropologists and archaeologists involved in the exhumation work, who they thanked for their “professionalism, rigor and sensitivity”. Aragonès also thanked civil society and the families of the victims for “the tremendous efforts they have made and for pushing our institutions to work towards memory and justice”.
Meanwhile, Minister Ubasart remarked in her speech that with this exhumation, “we are seeking commemoration and justice” for those who fought for the rights and freedoms we enjoy today, since “democracy was not gifted to us by anyone: we achieved it on the streets, by resisting and by fighting against the dictatorship. Indeed, Cipriano Martos himself was an anti-Franco militant”, she noted, and his story “is very similar to that of thousands and thousands of new Catalans who became the backbone of anti-Franco resistance in Catalonia”. For this reason, the Minister reasserted that the Catalan Government “is committed to rescuing from oblivion and dignifying the memory of all the Ciprianos who, through their struggles, contributed to making this a freer and more dignified country”.
She also made a point of thanking civil society, the family of Cipriano Martos and the memorial associations because “they are the ones who bring these injustices to light, and the ones who drive us to keep working”.
The archaeological interventions to recover the remains of Cipriano Martos started on 12 December and are expected to last for about two-and-a-half months. They are part of the Mass Grave Plan 2020-2022 of the Generalitat de Catalunya.
Given that this is a charitable mass grave containing other bodies, the task is a complex one and must be carried out with great delicacy. If the results of the localization work conclude successfully, Cipriano Martos will become the nineteenth exhumed person identified in Catalonia since the creation of the Genetic Identification Programme in 2016. In Catalonia there are 887 documented mass graves from the Civil War, with an estimated 20,000 people buried in them.
Earlier on, the President also made an institutional visit to Reus City Hall, accompanied by the Catalan Government representative in Tarragona, Àngel Xifré, where he greeted the Council, headed by Mayor Carles Pellicer, and signed the Book of Honour.