On November 18, the district council of Latina in Madrid inaugurated a plaque in memory of Yolanda González, a 19-year-old student activist who was kidnapped and shot in 1980 by far-right militants from the New Force (FN) party.
A week later, a swastika had been painted over the tribute, as though someone wanted to kill her memory. Then, last weekend, a resident found the plaque in the trash, prompting a group of locals to put up a temporary laminated plaque in its place.
The tribute on the plaque read: “Yolanda González Martín. She was a student leader, worker and Socialist Worker Party militant. She fought for democracy, justice and social and workers’ rights. In February 1980, she was abducted from her house in Aluche and shot by a fascist group. She was 19 years old. These gardens are dedicated to her memory which lives on.”
“It’s not just painful, it makes you angry,” says Mar Noguerol who shared an apartment with González and her boyfriend until González was kidnapped by Emilio Hellín and his henchmen and taken to a wasteland where she was shot by the extremist. “This totally reflects what right-wing totalitarianism is about, with its violent response to everyone who doesn’t think as they do. She was a woman with a very clear vision. She was very independent, determined and idealistic like all of us from that generation who went on mass protests and were militant about ending the dictatorship and making sure the Transition [to democracy] was more than a half-baked effort. She started getting interested in politics at 16. She came to Madrid for love and to start a new life with her partner in my apartment in Empalme, which is where she was abducted. It was years before I could go back there.”
The 60-square-meter apartment González moved to with her boyfriend Alejandro Arizcun was on Tembleque Street in Aluche. Once in Madrid, she took a job as a cleaner to fund her living expenses while studying electronics. But much of her time was spent in pro-democracy demonstrations.
On February 1, 1980, González was alone in the apartment when the bell rang. She opened the door and found herself facing members of Group 41, a criminal gang linked to NF. The men forced their way in and searched for evidence that González had ties to Basque terror group ETA. She did not and they found nothing. But they were undeterred. They hauled her downstairs and forced her into a car. And they interrogated her all the way to the wasteland by the highway linking Alcorcón and San Martín de Valdeiglesias. When they reached their destination, they shot her three times. Shortly after, EL PAÍS published the story on the front page of the newspaper with the title “New Force militants murder Yolanda González.”
Almost 40 years have passed since that day. The crime, which had all the elements of a thriller including the murderer’s escape to Paraguay, gripped the country. But the plaque that paid tribute to González lasted less than a month.
“It’s inexplicable,” says Carlos Fonseca, who wrote Don’t Forget Me. Yolanda González, the Most Brutal Crime of the Transition, based on the testimonies of González’s colleagues and friends, photos and documents. “Yolanda didn’t run any political party nor was she a particularly significant figure. It was a cruel murder. I can’t get my head around what kind of hatred could still exist towards a girl who was brutally murdered 38 years ago and whose ‘crime’ was to be a left-wing youngster living in that era.”
Meanwhile, Carlos Sánchez Mato, president of the district council, says that though the plaque itself cannot be salvaged, the fact it was rescued from the trash indicates there are still plenty of decent people in the city. “We received threats when it was inaugurated,” he says. “These people are cowards who are capable of little more than miserable acts such as tearing down a plaque in memory of a student murdered by fascists. It is despicable. And obviously we’re going to put it back up. A thousand times if need be.”
Just days after it was put up, the temporary laminated plaque in tribute to the activist has been destroyed by vandals. In response, 20 locals have put up posters in her memory across the neighborhood. “They even want to deny us from remembering our victims,” says Noguerol.
“This is not a crazy person, a guy who comes the park, takes down the plaque and rips it apart. It's a fascist group from the neighborhood,” says Josefa.
English version by Heather Galloway.