Saturday, April 20

«Miguel Ángel, you did not have to be here»


Aurelio and Pacita, two of the uncles of
Michelangelo White, are the custodians of his nephew’s deadly challenges in the Galician village of Faramontaos, a tiny town located half an hour’s drive from Ourense. It is a village connected by narrow roads where herds of sheep still force vehicles to stop and roe deer walk near the gutters with the calm of retirees. Ten years ago the family of the assassinated councilor decided to transfer the remains of the young man from Ermua to Galicia, fed up with the constant attacks on the niche of the ETA victim. They had grown tired of the crime not seeming enough to the violent and their acolytes continued with the humiliation and contempt. Since then, it has been a place of pilgrimage for those who want to remember what happened a quarter of a century ago.

«A few weeks ago we found a red ertzaina beret on top of the grave, with a letter and some photos that the agent had wanted to leave there as a souvenir. We collect everything to give it to the sister, to Mari Mar”, explains Aurelio Garrido. At 80 years old and after a delicate operation, Blanco’s uncle walks from his house in the center of the village to the Faramontaos cemetery, located at the entrance of the town. Miguel Ángel Blanco is buried there, but also the mayor’s parents, Miguel Ángel and Chelo, who died two years ago, barely twenty days apart. The tomb is decorated with a small photo of the mayor and a golden crucifix. “We made the transfer from Ermua almost in secret, talking to very few people because we didn’t want to make any noise. As soon as it was known, there were several tributes and a lot of people came, but in recent years the visits have dropped a little », he adds.

Aurelio speaks without rancor about the reason for the transfer of his nephew’s remains. He shrugs when asked about the attacks and insults, preferring to remember how happy his nephew was in Faramontaos. «He relaxed here and we saw him happy. He spent the day in the mountains and he had many friends. He used to tell us: I come badly and return to Ermua as new. And it’s not like he visited us from time to time. In the summer, at Easter and even at Christmas he would show up at Faramontaos, even if it was just to spend a few days». Aurelio’s wife, Pacita, remembers him as a very good young man, the best friend of his daughters: “they loved him like the brother they never had.”

Twenty-five years ago, when the kidnapping and murder took place, the couple came to believe that the mobilization of millions of people would save their nephew. “I’ll tell you one thing,” says Pacita, “since that day I don’t believe in the one above as I used to. Recently a nun came to visit the tomb and she told us how they spent all those days praying that he would not be killed. What was the use of all the prayers, she wondered since then ». Aurelio, more restrained, remembers that his daughter left for Ermua as soon as she found out about the kidnapping. «When Miguel Ángel appeared with the shots in the head, they did not want to let him enter the room where my nephew was. She yelled at them and told them that she was going to see him yes or yes and in the end she went inside. The only thing she could do was hold his hand while he was dying and she assured that Michelangelo squeezed her hand tightly. Those memories stay with us.”

Stabbed in Caracas

Miguel Ángel Blanco’s uncles had already known violence, although it was in Venezuela, where they lived for more than a decade as emigrants. «I went to Caracas when I was seventeen years old to avoid doing the ‘military’ and there I worked in a laundry. One day they stabbed me to steal the collection and the stab wound affected my lung and liver. I was very bad, “recalls Aurelio. “I was robbed three times, one of them with a gun to my chest. As soon as we could, we returned to Ourense”, adds Pacita. With what he had saved in Venezuela he opened two laundries in his homeland-“we baptized them Lavomat, the same name as the business we had in Caracas.” What they did not imagine is that the violence would reach them again, this time, from the hand of one of the cruelest attacks in the history of ETA.

Now, keeping the memory of his nephew alive is one of the missions of the retired couple. Years ago they even handed over a hill they owned to the City Council of La Merca, near the village of Proente, so that a park in memory of Miguel Ángel Blanco could be built there. In the next few days this monument will be inaugurated. «It is a very large, white sculpture, more than nine meters high. And what I hope is that it can be seen from all the villages in the region. That people look at the horizon, see it and remember it».

Monument in memory of Michelangelo in faramontaos (Ourense), under construction /

BRAIS LORENZO

In Faramontaos it is not difficult to save Miguel Ángel Blanco from oblivion. Many of the neighbors who still come to town played with him and remember how they used to go together to the A Manchica disco or crossed the border on Good Friday to eat cod in Portugal. “Look, he was the best kid there has been here in town,” says Ramona Lorenzo Pardo, one of his childhood friends who remembers him while walking along the roads of Faramontaos. «He had a kindness… I don’t know how to say it. If he saw an old man from the town he would leave everything to talk to him and keep him company for a while». «Many days he went through the cemetery to see his grave and I always tell him the same thing: Miguel Ángel, you did not deserve what they did to you. You didn’t have to be here.”

Pilgrimage to the tomb of Faramontaos

The remains of Miguel Ángel Blanco have been found for five years in Faramontaos, a small village in Ourense from which the family of the young man murdered by ETA originated. The transfer took place in a discreet manner, after those close to him were fed up with the fact that the radicals combined the offense with crime and dedicated themselves to attacking Michelangelo’s tomb, staining it with graffiti and destroying the flowers placed there by those who refused to forget him

Blanco then had a second burial in Faramontaos, in a tiny cemetery located next to a forest at the entrance to the town. Despite the discretion, the secluded corner became a must for those who remembered the crime and horror that occurred 25 years ago in the Basque Country.

Over the years, the family has collected all kinds of memories left in the tomb by those who pilgrimage there with Miguel Ángel Blanco in memory: children’s drawings, flags, letters, crosses…. and above all, many flowers. Fate also wanted the parents of the mayor of Ermua, Miguel and Chelo, to die just fifteen days apart in March 2020. Since then the three have rested in peace in Faramontaos.


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