A man’s life, in a bottle by his grave

Andrés Gangoiti Cuesta died here as a result of pulmonary tuberculosis. He was 23 years old, single, marine profession. From Gorliz (Vizcaya) and resident of Bilbao. Son of Lorenzo and Lucia. This convict was sentenced to 30 years by a court martial held in San Sebastian for the crime of joining the Rebellion.”


While reading an article of Alfredo González-Ruibal, about the Archaeology of Internment in Francoist Spain (1936-1952), I came across the reference of a 2007 article in El Pais. The author, Natalia Junquera, narrated a quite impressive story, one of a failed escape from San Cristobal Spanish prison camp, in 1938.

The “highlight” of the article is the transcript of one of the latter findings in the camp’s ruins, namely a piece of paper bearing the story of the life and death of one of these victims. As far as I know, this is quite a unique finding and one to make a very interesting material for any archaeologist interested in viewing the material as lieux de memoir , to use P. Nora’s terms. It seems that one of the officers thought that the deceased should be given back their story and identity, and even though the graves of the camp were anonymous, he/she placed glass bottles “between the prisoners’ legs
with a document inside telling his circumstances of death” (González-Ruibal 2011).

Memory… is the diary that we all carry about with us.” (Oscar Wilde)


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