The Taboo of the Mountain of the Pozo Grajero

The Grajero Group association held the XIV anual act of homage to those who died at the Pozo Grajero in Lario.

FEC Essay – Photo: José María Campos / Memorial Forum

On 14 July, 2001, the last open portion of the cave was sealed, and the first act of remembrance was held for those who were shot here for standing in defence of their ideals. This was the first act of its kind in the province of León, and many new faces visited the Pozo Grajero, among them communist youth and individuals from the athenaeum of Castellón.

The secretary of the association, Ana Aida del Campo, described the act as an homage not only to the dead, but also to those who continue to fight for these same democratic values and in defence of the liberty that is denied society by the regime. “We must recognise the values as did the Republic in defence of which stood those who were executed at the Pozo Grajero”.

For the UL representative and President of the FEC, “not only are the memories of those who died here defending liberty and democracy remembered, but we recognise their memory as a model to be followed as we continue to defend these republican values so necessary in these times”.

According to José Antoino García Rubio, in charge of economics for the UL, it is a matter of moulding the evocative remembrance of the men of the Pozo Grajero in order to suggest a constitutional process that will bring a Republic to Spain. “This is not simply a question about who is the Head of State, but rather it is about a right to work, to housing, and to social rights in general”.

Del Campo believes that “society is prepared to think sincerely about the Third Republic, and we believe that this is the moment to take this step”. He recalled that, thanks to guerillas like Nicanor Rozada and others, we have been able to know the story of those who gave their lives in the defence of liberty. “These people are those who push us to continue holding these acts, and not to forget the values that they defended”. He believes it essential to continue to relieve those at the forefront of this fight so that others may follow and continue this work of keeping the memory of the Pozo Grajero alive.

The homage was begun in Puebla de Lillo with a floral offering at the cemetery. That afternoon, a republican act was held in the public space of the schools, presented by the secretary of the association, Ada Aida del Campo. In this act, speakers included Francisco Erice, Profesor of Contemporary History at the University of Oviedo; José Antonio García Rubio, Federal Secretary of Economics and Labour of the United Left; José María González, government lawyer, president of the Foundation for a Europe of the Citizens, and Cordinator of the UL of Castilla y León; along with Manuel González Orviz, Coordinator of the United Left of Asturias. The act concluded with a concert performed by Lucía Sócam and Juan Pinilla.

The Taboo of the Mountain

On 13 November, 1937, into the Pozo Grajero, in the Leonese locality of Lario, fell the lifeless bodies of about 13 people who, hours before, had been captured in Ponga, on the other side of the border between Asturias and León.

It was intended that the bodies never be found, and that they remain forgotten. However, one of the victims of the nationalist troops was able to escape the cave, known for its darkness and for the fact that hundreds of birds roost there (it is from this that the name ‘grajero’ derives).

The sole survivor, Jacinto Cueto, was able to identify the final resting place of his companions in this tragic adventure. 60 years later, and almost in secret, several of these bodies were recovered by their families in what was supposedly the first of these exhumations in the province of León.

All of the victims had the same fate: first captured, then brought to the barracks of San Juan, where they were stripped of their clothing and tied with thin wire. They were then cornered and subjected to brutal beatings. Shortly thereafter, they were forced to walk the difficult mountain terrain of Asturias until arriving at Lario. There, they awaited their executioners, who shot them and tossed their bodies into the cave.

And this was not just another exhumation; the story is of epic tones, given that the sole survivor, Jacinto Cueto, survived for months hidden in the attic of his house, which has since become an important point of remembrance for the victims of that era.

The heroism of Cueto (who spent ten days in the cave and survived two bombs thrown in from the surface by his captors, who continued in spite of his shouts) made it possible for the families of the other victims to visit the place where they were buried.

As Mario Osorio, a tireless fighter who helps to organise the acts of remembrance each year, explains, “even in 1998, when the exhumation began, there were people of the area who did not want to know the story of the 13 victims, there was still a taboo upon the mountain. Many were afraid to speak, even after so many years had passed”. The recovery of the remains of the victims was a crucial step in the recognition of the victims, and, more importantly, in the search for such graves in all of Spain.