Association of Friends and Relatives for the Mass Grave

The Association of Relatives and Friends for the Mass Grave meets regularly in the so-called "People's House" (in the photograph), a building owned by the Socialist Party (PSOE) in 19 Jovellanos St, Oviedo. However, this should not be considered as a regular address to write or contact, as meetings only take place from time to time. This group was born at the end of 1996 in order to restore the dignity of the more than 1,600 murdered people who fill up one of the biggest and deepest common graves in Spain.

The Association has some 120 members, of whom fewer than 80 are up-to-date with the membership fees. They are mostly direct descendants of the victims, and the total figure reaches 200 if we add sympathizers who, despite not being members, give us their moral and economic support. These figures are rather unsatisfactory if we take into account the huge amount of bodies buried in the mass grave. The reason for this may be that people don't wish to get involved in something which, even today, is regarded in Spain as "dark" or "dubious", even "anachronistic" from a political point of view. The fact is that the real support is by all means small and limited, even though we have a lot of "potential" supporters, including former Republican soldiers. But this is not a political Association, nor are we longing to go back in time or trying to revive the fire of hatred.

Our war is not politics, but homage. We are husbands, wives, sons, daughters, grandchildren, comrades and friends of those who were killed for defending Republican ideals of democracy, progress and freedom, being repressed with an irrational violence. And we want those who lost their lives for this to be dignified.

Looking for that dignity, the Association has been working since its creation on the different tasks leading to the acknowledgement of the long-forgotten Common Grave. We hold regular meetings in the People's House and also at the Grave on the Day of the Spanish Republic -April 14- and on All Souls' Day, dates when lots of non-members show up to make really multitudinous gatherings. But there was something else which needed to be undertaken without delay, a necessary task that has occupied and concerned the members of the Association in an almost exclusive way in the last years.

That inescapable task was the expression of the identity of the victims by means of setting MARBLE SLABS on which names, ages, jobs and origins of all of them could be read. It wasn't easy at all, if we consider the enormous amount of money required (more than 117,000 euros for 42 slabs, including the necessary permits and licenses) and the anxiety of some important people to forget about History and close the files on the incidents without allowing us to remember. However, the current members of the board of the Association got down to it and called at many doors looking for economic support, obtaining all sorts of different political answers and reactions.

The first serious setback came from the City Hall of the "noble, loyal, distinguished, undefeated, heroic and good" city of Oviedo (all those adjectives can be read on the arms of this traditionally conservative city). Many snags and obstacles were put before we were given the essential permit to set the slabs, keeping the whole project on standby for years, and forcing the Association to claim to the Spanish Ombudsman for a legitimate solution. It was deplorable to see that not all grudges from the past had been forgotten, in the city which witnessed the horrible crimes we are talking about. Eventually, and after many problems and headaches, there was green light.

On a second stage the Asturian Government, Sergio Marqués being its conservative president, received an initial request for a subvention that ended in nice words and empty pockets. Things would change with the subsequent Socialist government, as a modification  was made to the regional budget which allowed us to receive a bit more than 60.000 euros (10,000,000 pesetas at that time), thus enabling us to start with the marble slabs.

The different Town Councils  which are represented with their victims in the Common Grave received the visit of the board of the Association as well, giving them a wide variety of answers. How much did each Asturian Council give for the setting of the marble slabs on the walls of the Grave, after receiving the request of the Association? If you want to know, click HERE.

We can say we went everywhere and visited everyone who could lend us a hand. And we can't forget that, after all, conservative-ruled Councils like Oviedo, Caso, Noreña or Proaza gave us considerable amounts of money, while other Councils, ruled by left-wing parties, refused to help. We had some surprises, and more than one letdown.

The money we needed came little by little, and in the end the marble slabs containing the names of the victims was more than a project or a wish: now it was for real. After many journeys and ups and downs, April 14th, 2001 was the day: A day to remember and to see a dream come true. Finally the slabs were there, the biggest ambition of our Association on such a special day for the Spanish Republicans. This achievement had a second part when ID CARDS showing the three-coloured Republican flag were given to our members. That ID card was just a symbol, but a very important one for those who lived clandestinely until recent times.

Well, there's an Asturian saying something like "task finished looks nice", and it's fairly clear that the task has been successfully accomplished. It may not be the end of the journey, but it certainly is the end of a long and dark tunnel.


The Association Board


Celestino A. Martínez González
Chairman    Eusebio Ruiz Martinez
  Treasurer Faustino Zapico Argüelles