All posts by charlie_nurse_c_catalan

Victory for Ascensión Mendieta

In 2010 the Guadalajara branch of the  Izquierda Unida party published a list of the hundreds of victims of the Francoist repression in the province.The list included the names of 839 people who were shot. Of these 217 were executed in the city of Guadalajara itself: 69 of these were natives of the province and the remaining 148 came from other provinces. aims to use documents such as this list, wherever possible supported by references to the archives, to create a central database of the victims of the Civil War and the subsequent Franco regime.

At the age of thirteen Ascensión Mendieta, the daughter of one of the men on this list, opened the door of her home because someone was knocking. A group of men took her father away and executed him. She never saw him again and has spent her life taking flowers to the city cemetery, knowing that her father’s body had been thrown into a mass grave there. Since 2013 she has been fighting to recover the remains of her father; her efforts have finally been successful.

Timoteo Mendieta, who worked as a butcher, was shot on 15 November 1939 after being tried by a court martial on charges of having belonged to the Socialist UGT trade union and of having been ‘an accomplice to rebellion’. He left behind a widow and seven children. Later a wall was built in the cemetery to prevent families such as the Mendietas gaining access to the mass grave. This wall was only demolished in 1979, four years after the death of Franco.

The Spanish justice system refused to allow Ascensión Mendieta to exhume her father’s corpse. Blocked in this way, she flew to Buenos Aires, celebrating her 88th birthday on the flight, to testify before the Argentine judge María Servini in what has become known as the  “Argentine lawsuit”.

As a result of this, Ascensión Mendieta has become the first descendent of a victim of execution by the Francoist state to gain the right to exhume the remains of one of their relatives. For the first time also the descendent of such a victim has been able prove before a judicial system (in this case an Argentine court under universal justice) using documentary evidence – as opposed to DNA evidence – what happened to him, that he was executed, thrown into a mass grave and that his relatives were prevented from gaining access to his remains. Such cases are not permitted in Spain as a result of the 1977 Amnesty Law. In the words of the lawyer Ana Messuti, interviewed on SER radio, the role of the courts in Guadalajara in accepting the ruling of the Argentine judge has been of fundamental importance.

Few Spanish media outlets have followed this story. Among those which have are the TV channel La Sexta and the newspapers, Público and

For photos relating to this case go to flickr of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARMH) . The association financed the two exhumations in Guadalajara cemetery: in grave no. 1 in January 2016, which proved negative, and in grave no. 2, last May, which proved positive. There is also a photo of the chief Justice of Guadalajara greeting Ascensión Mendieta.

ARMH is a non-governmental organisation which receives no state support. The most important contribution for this exhumation was provided by an electricians’ union from Norway which since 2014 has donated 50,000 euros.

Digital Journalism from the Archives

On Thursday 25 May we continued with our work with the archives. As users of new technology and digital platforms to widen access to historical documents, we attended a day-long workshop Els arxius històrics en l’entorn digital (Historical Archives in the Digital Age) which is being organised to celebrate the centenary of the Arxiu Histórico de Barcelona.

We participated in a session on the representation and visualization of data drawn from historical sources.

In addition to presenting our project of developing a centralised database listing the victims of the Spanish Civil War, on which we are currently working, we will be discussing Eight Hundred Days Under Bombardment, our project originally produced for Barcelona Televisió. This includes an audio-visual summary of the bombardment of Barcelona in 1937-1938 as well as an interactive map of air-raid shelters and of sites where bombs fell.

Captura de pantalla 2017-05-16 a la(s) 22.45.36

Following changes at Barcelona Televisió this is currently only available in an Italian version. Perhaps because, as they say in Spanish ‘nobody is a prophet in their own country,’ Eight Hundred Days Under Bombardment can therefore be viewed on the website of the exhibition Catalogna Bombardata, which has been shown in nearly 70 cities and towns in Italy, but not in its original Catalan version.

Here is the programme of the day:

The Forgotten Prison (Forgotten until when?)

During the research on the Spanish Civil War which Innovation and Human Rights has been carrying out for the last few months we have found interesting sources which we plan to share here. One of them is the major online work on Las Corts Prison (La Prisón de las Corts). This women’s prison which stood in Avenida Diagonal is marked only by a sad plaque on the facade of Diagonal branch El Corte Inglés.

Among the many women imprisoned here in the period after the Civil War was Tomasa Cuevas (1917-2007), author of several books on the experiences of women prisoners and on the anti-Franco resistance, who was awarded the Creu de Sant Jordi by the Catalan government in 2004. At the moment the city of Barcelona has placed a plaque to her in a Civic Centre in the neighbourhood of Las Corts. If you follow the links below you can read

a summary of her life,

as well as her own testimony and

her obituary

These will enable you to draw your own conclusions as to whether you think the city should speed up the long-delayed process of providing a permanent monument as a more fitting tribute to her as demanded by ACME (Associació per la Cultura i la Memòria) and other organisations.

The future is now

Innovation & Human Rights is starting a blog to publicise interesting new initiatives and to share our work.

One of our projects is #GuerraCivil #opendata: this will be a central database of disappeared persons and victims of the Civil War, based, wherever possible, on specific documentary sources. In this we enjoy the cooperation and support of the Associació d’Arxivers i Gestors Documentals de Catalunya. We aim to base this on material drawn from the widest possible range of available sources documenting the deaths which occurred as a result of the Civil War and the Franco era.

Therefore we were present at the XVI Congrès d’Arxivística i Gestió de Documents de Catalunya held in Reus between May 4th and May 6th with a major article in the review “Lligall” in which this project is further explained. This article will be published soon on our website.

The availability of archives and open access to them are of fundamental importance: for democracy, for transparency, for open government and for high quality historical research. In the case of documentation related to the Civil War and the repression which followed, such access may also be regarded as a debt owed to the descendants of the victims and to society as a whole.