ALFACAR, Spain — Crews prepared today to exhume a grave believed to hold the remains of acclaimed poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca, in a milestone in Spain’s drive to address the legacy of its 1936-39 civil war.
It is not clear if the writer’s remains will ever be identified because his family opposes the exhumation. The goal of the digging is to find and identify the remains of several men who, like Garcia Lorca, were executed in the opening days of the war and buried along with him.
The work will be done on a remote hillside area near the southern city of Granada, near where the men were killed by members of a militia loyal to Gen. Francisco Franco.
The war, which still divides Spaniards, pitted Franco-led rightist forces that rose up against an elected leftist Republican government and eventually prevailed, installing a dictatorship that lasted until Franco’s death in 1975. The conflict and ensuing hardship left an estimated half a million people dead.
Both sides committed atrocities against civilians but Franco’s government is known to have done a thorough tally of civilians executed by government militia and gave them proper burials. Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon says 114,000 civilians killed by Franco forces were never accounted for.
Garcia Lorca’s case is one of the most celebrated of these because he was Spain’s most acclaimed 20th century poet.
A group called the Association for the Recovery of Historic Memory has been working since the late 1990s to help Spaniards locate the graves of loved ones who went missing during the war. So far, the group says it has identified about 1,700 people.
The grave is being opened at the request of relatives the men who are believed to be buried with the poet. The work could take months.
Forensic experts and other specialists were expected to start excavating this evening, said Javier Giraldez, a spokesman for the justice department of Andalusia, the region that includes Granada.
Garcia Lorca’s family has opposed the exhumation, arguing that he should not be singled out when so many people died at the hands of Franco’s forces and saying they prefer his remains stay untouched. But the family said this month it might eventually provide DNA samples to identify him.