Today, Monday 24th January, marks the 45th anniversary of the assassination of the left wing lawyers gunned down in their offices in Calle Atocha by a far right hit squad.
The assassination of the five lawyers who were members of the then newly legalised Communist Party is considered a milestone in Spain´s transition to constitutional democracy following the death of General Franco in November 1975.
The commemoration today was a subdued affair with no crowds but flowers and a solemn remembrance of the men killed.
Flowers were laid at their graves in the cemeteries of Carabanchel and San Isidro as well as at the El Abrazo monument in the Plaza de Antón Martín, in front of their offices on Calle Atocha 55.
The killings had been intended to provoke a violent left-wing response that would trigger a right-wing counter coup to ensure that there would be no democratic elections and the Franco regime continue.
In fact the immediate aftermath of the murders produced a very different result.
In the words of one of the survivors of the attack, Alejandro Ruiz-Huerta: ” No one raised their voices, there were no screams or calls for revenge, but only silence. The dignified silence with which my compañeros were farewelled finally broke the loop of violence in this country.”
Writing on the 40th anniversary of the massacre, journalist Juancho Dumall noted: “It was a terrorist act that marked the future of the country in a way that the murderers would never have suspected and, instead, was the one desired by the victims.” Memorialized annually, across Madrid there are 25 streets and squares dedicated to the victims of the Atocha massacre”.
The perpetrators were sentenced to a total of 464 years in prison.
A year later the Spanish people voted overwhelmingly for a return to democracy and the new constitution was passed by the Cortes in 1978.
RIP: Enrique Valdelvira Ibáñez, Luis Javier Benavides Orgaz, Francisco Javier Sauquillo, Serafín Holgado de Antonio, Ángel Rodríguez Leal.