The excavations got underway on Monday in grave X of the Nuestra Señora del Remedio Municipal Cemetery where it is believed that the remains of 11 people executed by the Franco regime between May and June 1940 are buried.

All of those executed were imprisoned in the old Reformatorio de Adultos de Alicante, or Benalúa prison, where the poet Miguel Hernández was also confined.

Carrying out the task is a team of forensic doctors, anthropologists, documentalists and art historians belonging to the scientific association ArqueoAntro.

The expectation as the dig got underway was enormous as descendants of the reprisals attended, most from the Vega Baja. Many of them carried photographs, the last letters they were sent and even sentences of the summary trials of the military court that condemned them.

Many of the family members were in tears in the hope that their 82-year search may have come to an end, enabling a dignified burial for their relatives.

The minister for Participation, Rosa Pérez Garijo, was at the excavation where she declared that, with this exhumation, “We make Alicante a more dignified city. A country that has people killed in mass graves has yet to regain its dignity and to move to a full democracy.”

Preparation for the exhumation
Preparation for the exhumation

The minister aid that prior to this legislature the only exhumations carried out had been in Paterna (Valencia), but now the Alicante exhumation can be added to those carried out in Monóvar, Orihuela and Benissa in the province, as well as those in Segorbe and Castellón.

She confirmed that map of graves shows the existence of more than 400 throughout the Community. “There is still a lot of work to be done, but we continue to make progress to achieve the goal we set for ourselves at the beginning of the legislature: a territory free of graves,” she said.

The Alicante exhumations are part of a group of four contracts awarded by Calidad Democrática, amounting to a cost of 74,653 euros, to scientifically exhume the bones of people killed during the Franco dictatorship, to be able to identify them and deliver the remains to their families.

Miguel Mezquida, archaeologist director of the project said that the remains will be sent to the Autonomous University of Madrid, where a team of anthropologists will prepare a detailed report to certify that they belong to those executed by the dictatorship.; and they will be compared with the DNA bank held by the Generalitat to identify the remains.

But he also warned that the grave was used up to the 1980s as a common area to bury people without resources, new-borns and even amputated limbs from hospitals, so his team are expecting to find much than the remains of the 11 who were executed by Franco.