In the year 2007, Spain’s Parliament passed a highly controversial, landmark piece of legislation, The Law of Historical Memory, designed to address the human rights violations committed both during the war and the period of the Franco regime. The year before–on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the military coup that initiated the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s rise to power– the Parliament officially proclaimed 2006 as a “Year of Historical Memory.”These days in Spain, “memory work” is everywhere, including museum exhibits chronicling the history of Franco’s “losers”; public acts of commemoration honoring the dead; the nationwide project begun in 2000 to excavate the mass graves of Franco’s “disappeared.” Elderly survivors of civil war, as well as their children born in times of exile and repression, are increasingly eager to tell their story of struggle, bringing to light traumatic memories long silenced during Franco’s regime and the period of public “amnesia” after his death in 1975.
Our “Mapping Memory in Spain Project” is squarely placed within the contemporary context of Spain’s massive efforts to recover the memory of the civil war, and to confront the legacy of forty years of dictatorship. The genesis of this project was a Mellon-funded faculty-student research initiative, including a one-week field trip to Spain in March 2009. Professor Francie Cate-Arries and five Hispanic Studies majors–Nathan Hoback, Casey Lesser, Shannon More, Mary Schrack, and Alex Wright–routed their journey through Madrid’s most significant “places of memory,” both public and private. The Mellon research team’s efforts to document these places–and tell the story of the individuals, citizen groups, academic institutions or government agencies associated with them –was the starting point for this internet site.