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Unmarked mass graves along the Via de la Plata


Year of past OR future Camino
Francés, Plata, Levante, Norte (part), Primitivo, Catalan, Lana (part), Madrid, D.V. Francés 2020
I have just learned that along the VDLP there are probably several unmarked mass burial sites where opponents to Franco were executed and their bodies dumped in the early months of the Civil War.

For obvious geographical and logistical reasons, one of Franco's columns, after landing on the mainland from N. Africa in July 1936, headed up north for Madrid following the VDLP. As they captured towns and villages they executed without trial their Republican opponents. In Zafra, for example, Castejon, the commander of the Franquist forces, demanded the execution of 1% of the population – 70 people in all. As Castejon's column headed on to the next village, they executed the 70 in groups of 10 or 12 every few hundred yards.

The identification of such burial sites and of the bodies they contain has recently become a controversial issue in Spain. In Zafra people want a monument to the "honour" of Castezon removed.

Numerically, the Republicans killed more people without trail than did Franco's supporters, but most of them were killed by uncontrolled crowds. Franco's repression was more systematic.

I think that it is important for us (future) pilgrims to be aware of what happened along the VDLP in 1936 and to spare a thought, as we walk, for all those who suffered and died, on whatever side, and for their descendants, some of whom are still in pain as a result of what happened.
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Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Year of past OR future Camino
Many, various, and continuing.
This post should be put in the general "All Caminos" files, as these graves, or places of execution, are scattered all across Spain. There are several along the French Way, at least one I know of is on the pilgrim path from Madrid.

This country has a bitter past that a lot of people would rather just forget. Thanks for your sensitive reminder.

Year of past OR future Camino
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
I have had such gravesites pointed out to me near Talladell and Monzón on the Cami Sant Jaume, and near Atapuerca and Población on the Camino Francese. A Spanish friend tells me that as many as one in four pueblos will have such spots which are known, but not discussed. The Spanish are engaged in a very difficult and painful process here, and we should provide them with respectful support as they work to deal with their history.


Active Member
Last year, while walking the CF I hurt my foot and stayed at my uncle's summer home in a village in Palencia until I could get back on the Camino. While there he would tell me stories of the war,including something I had never heard, stories about my father. My dad never talked of anything related to his time in the Republican army, his battles, not even how he was gravely injured, nada. So like Rebecca says there are some who would rather not talk about it, but some who will share (if asked). Like my mom, who on the other hand, spoke volumes of her time as a nurse during the war, their escapes to France, the time spent in a concentration camp.... and thankfully has written her memoirs for her descendants to read. It is quite the read. I am very fortunate to have her stories. Both have died as all these folks are getting very old and their stories go with them. I hope to see these graves as I travel north on the Via, as they will be reminders of the sense of adventure and determination and strength my parents have passed on to me.

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