Identified the remains of Isaac Rodriguez Lagar, a victim of the prison of Formentera

Jun 2, 2023 | Current affairs, Featured, Revista Lloseta, Thursday Daily Bulletin, Tradition

This is the second victim of Franco’s military camp in La Savina that has been identified

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Isaac Rodriguez Lagar

Isaac Rodríguez Lagar is the second mortal victim of Franco’s military colony of La Savina that has been identified in the cemetery of Sant Francesc Xavier, in Formentera, after the Cartagena-born Francisco Solano Vera, who was identified last November.

His remains were located during the first phase of exhumations and excavations of the old cemetery of Formentera, promoted last year by the Directorate General of Democratic Memory of the Government of the Balearic Islands, in collaboration with the Consell Insular de Formentera, as part of the Third Plan of Graves of the Balearic Islands (2021-2022), with the aim of locating a minimum of 58 victims who died in the Penal between 1940 and 1942.

The intervention was carried out by the Aranzadi Science Society and resulted in the recovery of at least six bodies compatible with the victims of the prison due to their characteristics.

According to the biological identification report carried out by the BIOMICs laboratory of the University of the Basque Country (Vitoria-Gasteiz), the identification of Isaac Rodríguez Lagar has been carried out through the genetic comparison of samples given by his son (José Rodríguez Rodríguez Rodríguez) and grandson (Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Saavedra). It must be said that the son has already died, but his daughter, María Luz, granddaughter of the victim and in contact for years with the Forum for the Memory of Eivissa and Formentera, kept her father’s hair in case it was worth for identification, and finally, it has been so, since there has been a match by Y chromosome and STRs.

His remains would have been recovered in grave 9 of row 5, in courtyard 2 of the Sant Francesc Xavier cemetery.

According to the documentation of the time, collected in the study by Ibizan historian Antoni Ferrer Abárzuza for the Second Graves Plan of the Government of the Balearic Islands, Isaac Rodríguez Lagar died in the Francoist military colony of Formentera on 2 June 1942 of cachexia (as an immediate cause of death) and pulmonary tuberculosis (as a remote cause).

The Fourth Plan of Graves and Democratic Memory of the Balearic Islands (2023-2024) provides for a second intervention in Formentera to search for other victims of the Penal as approved by the Technical Commission of Graves and Missing Persons of the Government of the Balearic Islands.

To date, the Balearic Islands have been able to recover the remains of at least 310 people murdered during the Civil War and Franco’s repression, of which 55 have already been identified and 50 have been returned to their families.

Isaac Rodríguez Lagar

Isaac Rodríguez Lagar was a farmer and was 44 years old. He was the son of Félix and Rosario. He was married and father of 6 children. He lived in La Parra, in Badajoz (Extremadura). On 22 December 1939, he was sent to Zafra prison in Badajoz, where he was tried in a court martial and sentenced to death, later commuted to 30 years. On 18th March 1941, he was evacuated to Formentera Prison, where he died.

Formentera Prison

Also known as La Colonia or El Camp de la Savina, due to its location next to the municipality of Formentera, the Formentera Prison was a Francoist penitentiary centre opened between April and May 1940 and attached to the Provincial Prison of Palma.

It was intended for people already sentenced by military courts and it is estimated that, during its two years of life, it housed up to 2,000 inmates from all the provinces of Spain.

Prisoners interned and sentenced to sentences of less than 12 years imprisonment were allowed to leave the prison to do work and chores. Those sentenced to longer sentences, however, were reserved for confinement or work inside the camp itself.

All of them shared deplorable living conditions, characterised by overcrowding, insalubrity, disease and hunger. These conditions led to the death of at least 58 inmates, a figure confirmed by the Franco regime’s own bureaucracy, and documented by the study of the penitentiary colony carried out by historian Antoni Ferrer Abarzuza, at the request of the Government of the Balearic Islands and as part of its Second Graves Plan.

According to the testimonies and documents gathered by this study, the dead were buried in the new cemetery of Sant Francesc, which began to be built in 1938 and was inaugurated in 1940, shortly before the first documented death in the prison, in April 1941.

According to this study, the deaths took place until October 1942 and “when a death occurred, the body of the deceased was taken by cart from the prison to the door of the church, where the rector said a response before the coffin, and from there it was taken to the cemetery”.

These testimonies state that “sometimes more than one corpse was placed in the same coffin” and also that “when a death occurred, the corpse was left in the infirmary morgue to await another death, in order to take advantage of the journey”.

The prison was closed at the end of 1942, probably and according to studies, due to the Franco regime’s fear that international public opinion would become aware of the horrifying situation that was being experienced on Formentera. The prisoners were then transferred to other penitentiaries.