According to the UN Human Rights report, Spain is one of the countries that has suffered the highest number of “disappeared” people due to state actions in the world. Between 1939-1975 the military dictatorship of Francisco Franco disappeared more than 114,000 citizens, who were later buried in at least 2,500 mass graves scattered throughout the country. The regime murdered not only democratically elected politicians, but also members of agricultural associations, LGBTQ+ people, gypsies and anyone who could be pointed out as an enemy.
40 years after Franco’s death, thanks to the pressure exerted by the families of the victims, the government has started to exhume the bodies of thousands of people killed during the dictatorship. In addition, international human rights organizations and the UN have asked the Spanish state several times to create a Truth Commission to clarify the crimes of Francoism and recover the bodies from the mass graves.
The exhumations have allowed relatives and Spanish society more broadly, to reconnect with their past and to bring awareness to the open wounds these traumatic events have left behind. This decision has also allowed them to finally mourn their loved ones after 80 years or more hiding their sorrow. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of being able to say a final farewell to those we have lost, and the right to mourn those who die as a way of beginning to heal and process the suffering inflicted by such traumatic events.
In July 2021, the New Democratic Memory Law was passed, with which the State finally intends to open hundreds of graves in a campaign that will last between two to three years, with the goal of recovering as many victims buried in mass graves as possible. This law has reopened a debate on the reappraisal of the past that confronts the historical denialism of far-right ideologies, which are experiencing a resurgence around the world.