The remains of Spain´s first elected woman local mayor, who was murdered by Nationalist forces during the Spanish Civil War have been found.
Feminist Maria Dominguez Remon was Spain’s first democratically elected female mayor who was executed by dictator Franco’s supporters after being shot against the wall of a local cemetery before thrown into a hole in the ground during the country’s violent civil war. Her identity has been confirmed with a DNA test.
It confirmed that the remains, found in an unmarked mass grave, belong to the woman, who was the first democratically elected female mayor in the history of Spain.
She is remembered as a republican socialist and a feminist who fought her whole life for workers’ rights and gender equality, and she was executed after the coup d’etat led by General Francisco Franco at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.
The skeletal remains of Maria Dominguez Remon were found a month ago in a mass grave in a cemetery in the town of Fuendejalon, in the northern Spanish province of Zaragoza, in the Aragon region, along with personal items, such as a comb, sandals and buttons.
A few feet under her remains, those belonging to a man were found, and it is believed that he was also executed.
Marisancho Menjon, the Director General of Cultural Heritage for the government of Aragon, told Real Press in an exclusive interview that Dominguez was an “important figure in our history, as she was the first democratic female mayor, who was elected as mayor of the town of Gallur and worked from 1932 to 1933.”
Menjon said that she was born in the village of Pozuelo de Aragon in 1882, into a poor family. She did not go to the school, but “she was always willing to learn, despite her mother’s wishes, who believed that she was not socially elevated enough for education.”
After fighting to be allowed access to education, she even managed to pursue higher education studies and became a teacher as, according to Menjon, “she always believed that education could lift children out of misery.”
She was also a victim of domestic violence after she was forced to marry a man who repeatedly abused and beat her, but after living with him for a while, she decided to leave him and lived as a separated woman outside of town.
She was a socialist, a republican and a feminist and she wrote several treatises about the women’s rights. In 1916, she wrote about these issues in various newspapers, as well as about how important it was for children to have a good education. She remarried at the age of 40.
In the 1920s, she moved to Gallur, where she was elected mayor and during her term in office, she ordered that a school be built in the town.
After Franco’s coup d’etat on 18th July 1936, which kicked off the the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), she returned to her hometown, where she was denounced by locals and jailed for her socialist, feminist and republican ideas.
On 7th September 1936, she was executed in Fuendejalon. She was put up against the cemetery wall and shot. A few days beforehand, her second husband, Arturo Romanos, had been executed in the nearby town of Tabuenca.
According to Menjon, she was shot in the head and “her remains were found with the arms pointing upwards, as if she had been thrown there.”
She did not have a fair trial, as Menjon explained that at the beginning of the war “people were simply dragged out from their houses and shot”, and it is unclear who betrayed her.
The general location of her body had always been known, with a plaque even installed over where she was believed to have been buried, but the exact location was unclear. The Association of Relatives and Friends of the Murdered and Buried of Magallon (AFAEM), which works to exhume the victims of the civil war and subsequent dictatorship, often so that they can be formerly identified and reburied properly, asked the regional government to exhume the body.
After unearthing her remains, along with her personal items and the other body whose identity is still under investigation, a DNA test was performed using samples from her living relatives: a great-grandson of her sister, Juan Jose Espligares, and a grandnephew, Jose Maria Lostes, 88.
Espligares was the first one to be told about the DNA results and the association was also informed. The president of the association, Pilar Gimeno, explained to Real Press in an exclusive interview that “the remains of Maria will be sent back to Fuentelajon following the family’s wishes for her to be buried in a proper grave and there will be also a ceremony to pay tribute to her, but only after the end of the [coronavirus] pandemic.”
Gimeno said that Dominguez is an important feminist, republican, Socialist and trade unionist figure, adding that “she was killed because of those ideas.” She said that even in death, she still “threw light into the darkness of the era”, as her ideas were very modern.
Gimeno also added that one of the most important sentences she is known for is: “We the women are the children of the town, the only ones who have the right to raise our voices, because we are the ones most damaged in attacks against feminine freedom.”