Among the 3,000 bodies known to have been buried unceremoniously in La Almudena cemetery are the so-called ‘Thirteen Roses’, 13 women aged between 18 and 29 who were executed on August 5, 1939, accused of anti-Franco activism in a socialist youth party.
“Spain is a land full of secrets,” Francisco Ferrándiz, an anthropologist and leading expert in Spain’s civil war graves, told The Telegraph.
“This is all part of a general process, whereby we first looked for buried victims in the countryside, but there is a growing awareness that there are also mass graves inside cemeteries.”
The discovery comes at a difficult moment for Madrid, with Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist government recently admitting that it may be unable to exhume Franco’s remains. The government has been fighting to remove the dictator’s body from his tomb at the Valley of the Fallen monument, but having called elections for April 28, it may not have time to enact its own policy.
Franco’s family has opposed the move, and one of a series of legal challenges to the licence for the exhumation process was accepted by a Madrid judge, who has frozen the initiative.
Madrid’s Left-wing council has also faced opposition from the conservative Popular Party in its bid to change street names glorifying the dictatorship and erect a monument to civil war victims in La Almudena cemetery.