Marcos Burgos

Marcos Burgos in front of wallThere is an inconspicuous wall in the middle of Almudena Cemetery with a tiny framed photo at its center. The photo is of Marcos Burgos Salcedo, the father of Marcos Burgos (in the photo to the left). Burgos Salcedo was a captain in the Republican army during the Spanish Civil War and was executed against that wall in Almudena Cemetery (in the photo above) on July 12, 1939.

Two months before, Marcos had been born. As a child, naturally he asked his mother where his father was. Her response was always that his father died during the war; she knew exactly how his father died, but shared nothing of her husband’s execution or involvement in the Republican army, because of her fear of reprisal under Franco’s dicatorship.

In 1977, Marcos’s mother died and it seemed that perhaps his father’s story would go on a secret. However, when Marcos’s sister died in 2006, Marcos was sorting through her things and found a letter, which detailed the circumstances of his father’s death. At the age of 66, Marcos was finally learning of his father and was desperate to learn more. After searching through various archives, including the Archive of Salamanca, Marcos discovered the story of his father’s execution:

Marcos Burgos Salcedo was first a lieutenant and later a captain inMarcos Burgos Salcedo the Republican army. He was arrested by Franco’s Nationalist troops on April 13, 1939 on the charge of having been part of the headquarters of the Regiment of Combat Engineers of the Cuartel de la Montaña and for being responsible for the deaths of Lieutenant León and Sargeant Santos (the irony of Burgos Salcedo´s “crime” is clear: soldiers like Burgos stationed in Madrid´s Cuartel fought to defend the democratically elected Republic against rebel insurgents collaborating in General Franco´s military uprising, the coup d etat that precipitated the civil war). On May 8th, 1939, he was sentenced to the “pena de muerte” (death penalty). Salcedo remained in prison, often writing letters to his wife to comfort her after she received word of the punishment he would receive. These letters were often censored and Salcedo was forced (as all prisoners were) to write “Arriba, España! Viva Franco!” (“Long Live Franco!”) somewhere in the letter or on the envelope.

In the next two months, friends, family, and even several members of the Falange wrote to the courts to give written testimony, saying that Marcos Burgos Salcedo was an honorable man and deserved a pardon. Nevertheless, he was taken from his cell on July 12, 1939 and led to Almudena Cemetery. Like many others, he was placed in front of a firing squad and executed against the cemetery wall.

Seventy years later, his son Marcos becomes emotional very easily when thinking of his father. He and his wife decide to mark his father’s final resting place with the small photo of his father and an arrangement of red, yellow, and purple flowers (the colors of the Republican flag).

A representative story

The story of Marcos Burgos and his father is an example of the larger context of the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship. First of all, it was common for families and, sometimes, Franco’s officials to write requesting a pardon for a condemned party. However, there was no amnesty for Republican captives under Franco, only the pain of death. Also in Almudena Cemetery is a wall honoring the “13 rosas rojas” (13 red roses), who were a group of 13 young, female political prisoners arrested based on loose political ties and finger-pointing. After they received judgment of their case and learned they would be executed, their families, just like Salcedo’s family, wrote to beg for a pardon.

Marcos Burgos’s family also serves as an example of the “Pacto del Olvido,” an unspoken decision on the part of the Spanish people during the nation´s transition to democracy after Franco´s death in 1975, not to talk about the war or the crimes of the dictatorship. In the documentary Muerte en El Valle, the U. S. director Cristina M. Hardt, travels back to her family’s village in Spain to discover what happened to her grandfather. Like Marcos’s father, Hardt’s grandfather was executed by Franco’s men. However, upon arriving in El Valle, Hardt quickly found out that her family, like Marcos’s relatives, would rather not talk about it. Many family members passionately told her that it was better to forget than to recall such a painful past.

Despite the “Pacto del Olvido,” Marcos Burgos has been able to learn more about his Document showing that Marcos Burgos Salcedo’s sentence has been overturned in 2007.father thanks to the Law of Historical Memory (2007). This law was passed by the Spanish government to address Franco’s human rights violations during the war and the dictatorship. One article of the law overturned the judgments made by the courts in Franco’s dictatorship, including the judgment against Marcos’s father (in the document to the right, the court officially overturns this judgment). Another article of the law calls for pension for widows and families of prisoners who were executed and Marcos has applied for and received such compensation. Also, the law created the Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica, which Marcos used to acquire the documents concerning his father. Aside from actually creating archives, the law created an atmosphere in which archives and associations could readily emerge. One such archive is the Archivo de Escrituras Cotidianas. In March 2009, the W&M “Mapping Memory” research team placed Marcos in contact with the Archivo´s directors, Universidad de Alcalá de Henares academics Antonio Castillo and Verónica Sierra. Marcos is ecstatic that his father´s documents have found a permanent archival home at the Archivo, thereby facilitating further dissemination of his father’s story.

Contact Information:

Marcos Burgos

Calle Milán, 1-A, 7º A, Torrejón de Ardoz

Telephone: 656 38 57

E-mail: marcosburgos@mi.madritel.es

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