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Gijón pt 2, Cemetery of El Sucu, Ceares & Update

Updated: Nov 9, 2021

Hi guys, I know it has taken me a long time to update, I have been very busy as my research project is very much underway. In order to make updating easier for me, I'm going to be posting everything in English for now and I will translate my posts to Spanish this summer, when I have time to do so!


This particular Sunday I woke up to go to the cemetery. I know, maybe it's a weird thing to do when you are travelling, but I did have two distant relatives buried there, and cemeteries are very interesting to me, I have always wanted to one day take care of an abandoned cemetery (so maybe I would have gone even if I had no one, weird, I know, but seeing Bukit Brown was one of my favorite things I saw for the short time I lived in Singapore).

Google maps told me that the cemetery (El Sucu in Ciares) was only a little over thirty minutes for walking, and considering I would be climbing a mountain (maybe a short one with a path) the next week, I decided to walk it, and also to see more of the city! And I decided to walk across the city to find the one flower shop open on a Sunday to get flowers for my relatives' grave (+30 minutes), to only find out when I get there that there is a flower shop connected to the cemetery that is open, oh well.

El Sucu is in a large park and is very uphill, it was quite a walk. And when I get into the cemetery, it is larger than I expected. However, I did not have much trouble finding my relatives' grave as it is the grave of many others.

My relatives are buried in the El Sucu mass grave. I see different estimates of the number of people buried in the El Sucu mass grave, but this usually ranges from 2,000~3,500. One of my relatives was executed by firing squad in 1938 for being part of the Izquierda Republicana at Cárcel del Coto in Xixón while the other also died in 1938 from a disease while serving an indefinite sentence at the Prisión Provincial de El Cerillero also in Xixón for unknown reasons. So it seems most of the people here died in Francoist prisons and concentration camps.

After leaving flowers and finding my relatives' names (those aren't my flowers they seemed to have been there a long time), I decided to look around for Vaqueiro graves. There is supposedly a braña in the concejo of Xixón, Serín, which is now called Sisiello and the whole parroquia is now called Serín. However, they would be buried in the parroquial cemetery of Serín. But there would be plenty of Vaqueiros who moved to the city and assimilated. A traditional Vaqueiro grave has along with the information a headstone normally has, their Vaqueiro house and their braña(s). Also, I wanted to see if I could see remains of segregation in the cemetery, for there are many that although they no longer bury bodies segregated, or there is no longer visible segregation markers, you can tell of past segregation by all the Vaqueiro surnames being confined to one side of the cemetery, or all the Vaqueiro surnames getting worse headstones or worse spots in the cemetery.

I was able to see Vaqueiro surnames, but there were no traditional Vaqueiro headstones and there didn't appear to be vestiges of segregation, possibly because of how niches work (if you are southern European or Latine, you may be familiar, my Italian family is buried in them). Among Vaqueiros and rural western Asturias, usually each family had a niche (now families usually have more than one), when someone dies, the body is placed in the niche and decomposes and when the next member dies, the bones which are left from the last family member are pushed to the back of the niche so the new member can be put in.

But this means that the lettering on the front of the panel changes when someone dies, so eventually old family members, especially of poorer families, aren't on the panel anymore, so it's not like a ground cemetery where you can walk past and see every person who has died for hundreds of years. Niches are much more space efficient so many more people can be buried there, but usually you have to pay 'rent' for them. I think I remember my mom telling me once that they existed so you didn't have to be in the ground and were closer to heaven, which sounds like a very Vaqueiro thing to say, but the space efficiency seems to be the reason for them.

At one point I found what I thought might have been a section for Vaqueiros, the graves were in the ground and they were small and I thought they were older (it ended up that they were not very kept up). When I went to read the graves, I saw that I was very wrong, they were not Vaqueiro graves nor was it an older section of the cemetery. This part of the cemetery was where babies and small children were buried, which was very sad, but also interesting to me that they were not buried in the niches.

All in all, there did not appear to be any graves anywhere in the cemetery that were older than the 1900s, because every part of the cemetery appeared to be in use, except for maybe the large mausoleums in the center for certain wealthy families. I looked for other graves with my Vaqueiro surname but did not see any. I saw a few more people in the cemetery, most watering the small flower boxes that were on some of the niches. And I also saw a cemetery cat! I am glad to see that there is a cat to keep them all company.

I spent maybe an hour and a half in the cemetery and after leaving, I walked the park to find some interesting plants. Photos are of the common ramping-fumitory (Fumaria muralis) and zigzag clover (Trifolium medium). If you are very interested in botany or plant species I find, you can see all the ones I document here, on my iNaturalist account.

Next week I will share about the first brañas I went to, in Somiedo!

See you all until then!

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