Spanish Professors Publish Translation of Franco’s Mass Graves – Asbury University
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Spanish Professors Publish Translation of Franco’s Mass Graves

July 3, 2024

Recently-retired professors of Spanish Dr. Shelby Thacker (Asbury University) and Dr. Veronica Dean-Thacker (Transylvania University) recently published a translation of Franco’s Mass Graves: Breaking the Silence in Spain, written by Emilio Silva Barrera. Silva is a Spanish journalist whose grandfather was murdered in the Spanish Civil War on October 16, 1936.

“With thousands of mass graves, Silva’s grandfather was the first victim to be identified in a grave of 13 men, thanks to DNA technology, forensic anthropology, and archaeology,” said Thacker. “The grandson exhumed his grandfather’s remains 64 years later for a proper burial.” 

Dean-Thacker reflects on the significance of the book.

“There are many lessons that we can learn from this history,” said Dean-Thacker. “Silva wants to continue uncovering the truth with reference to Spain as ‘a funerary culture.’ In other words, citizens need to be able to bury their dead. We need to be honest about our history, so we can know it and learn from it.”

During the Spanish Civil War, Franco’s army forced Republican civilians into concentration camps and denied citizens social welfare, educational opportunities, and access to Polio vaccines.

“There was a lady in the south who shared about the religious implications on citizens’ healthcare,” Dean-Thacker said. “Her parents and grandparents told her that local priests had to sign documents stating that citizens deserved medical aid, and they would not sign for non-churchgoers and anti-government citizens.”

Thacker notes the continued oppression of Spanish citizens after the war ended in 1939.

“Franco was a dictator until 1975, and even after the war, he continued to execute civilians who were political enemies during the 40s and 50s,” Thacker said. “People in Spain want to turn the page of history by looking to the future and not thinking about the past. The ones with victimized relatives cannot turn the page because their families were scarred.”

As Professor of Spanish at Asbury University for 35 years, Thacker taught numerous courses in Spanish literature, linguistics, culture, research, and more.

“During my time at Asbury, I formed meaningful connections with hundreds of students who are using their Spanish to serve around the globe, and for that, I am thankful,” Thacker said. 

Thacker’s and Dean-Thacker’s research interests include contemporary Spanish literature, notably novels and short stories. Both professors presented their research during invited lectures in southern Spain in 2022 and 2023.

The Asbury University Ancient & Modern Languages Department offers four majors (in Ancient Languages, Latin Grades P-12, Spanish, and Spanish Grades P-12) and five minors (in Biblical Languages, Classical Languages, Greek, Latin, and Spanish).