Memorial and Dignity finds two mass graves in Villasayas

Following the failure of the first attempt in March 2022, the exploration efforts to find the kidnapped, murdered and secretly buried people in the area called “El Cargado” near Villasayas (Soria) have yielded results, delineating two common graves . Both were discovered after a week of intense work and more than three years of investigation and questioning by neighbors.

The two tombs are very close to each other, with two corpses and one corpse buried respectively. Based on all the evidence found, and pending confirmation by DNA testing, the two mass graves will house the three people being sought by Memorial and Dignity at the family’s request.

The first victim was Esteban Ciria Ballesteros, a mason from Almazan. His brothers last saw him on September 19, 1936, when they forced him into a car in the town’s Puerta de Herreros. He was murdered alone.

Two other victims were shot together. Their name was Rufino Felipe Gómez Escribano, a teacher from Barahona who was murdered on August 22, 1936 ; Félix Iglesia Casado, a burly peasant from Barahona, who was lifted out of bed with Rufino when he suffered from pneumonia (Rufino) was shot together with Gregorio Ranz Iglesia, who was exhumed by his family on the night of his murder and buried again in the civil service of Barahona cemetery.

This exploration work is reminiscent of the successful exploration work carried out by memoria yignidad in Adradas last July. The figures were again dizzying: 6 days of intensive work; 750 cubic meters of earth excavated and removed along 180 linear meters; a total excavation area of ​​1,600 square meters (375 square meters of farmland and 1,525 square meters of ravines).

More than two dozen volunteers devoted all their available time to collaborate on the search. Several residents of Villasayas, Almazán, Barahona and Fuentegelmes have come to the area to help, providing verbal testimony, support and cooperation in the mission. Relatives of the victims witnessed the entire incident and participated in the search. Everything makes this intervention not only a scientific but also a human task, with the sole aim of respecting human rights, not losing the memory of the victims and guaranteeing the values ​​of non-repetition of the past. The atmosphere was warm, supportive and brotherly thanks to all who participated in one way or another.

As is customary in Memorial and Dignity inquiries, we maintained direct contact with the scientific and judicial police throughout the intervention. Therefore, after the grave was discovered, the National Guard was notified to begin judicializing the murder, handing over the bones released during the excavation to the relevant legal proceedings and sending them to the courts. Through this procedure, the goals of commemoration and dignity were achieved: the victims of Franco’s regime were treated as murdered people rather than as archaeological remains. Therefore, the protocols to be followed are the same as those used in current crimes: cordon off the area, respect the victim’s privacy and police presence.

The task of delineating the grave was carried out by ARECO Archeology, a company from Soria with extensive experience in the province and a regular collaborator of the organization “Memorial and Dignity”.

Following the completion of the exploration work, necessary work was carried out to restore the site and its adjacent working areas to their pre-excavation condition.

This intervention is funded by the Government of Castilla and León. While much of the work is done by volunteers, many tasks require professionals: rental and driving of excavators, archaeological supervision of excavations, forensic analysis of remains… In any case, the murdered bear the costs of searching and exhuming their loved ones .

This is Remembrance and Dignity’s sixth judicial intervention.

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