The Role of International Groups in the Formation and Recovery of Spain´s Civil War Memory

Outline and Objectives           This Mellon Grant research project, “Mapping Memory in Madrid”, consists of two main components, which combined, form an ultimate goal of creating a permanent research framework for future W&M students planning fieldwork abroad on topics related to the recovery of historical memory of the victims of the Spanish Civil War and Franco´s regime of political repression.[1] The assignment consists of two parts: the group objective and an individual focus.            The project topic, the recovery of historical memory about the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and the subsequent fascist dictatorship that followed for the next 36 years, is both hotly debated in contemporary Spain, and relatively unknown to the international community. The study focuses on the efforts to recover the history of the regime and its atrocities following the establishment of the Law of Historical Memory in 2007, which aimed to provide information and retribution to those families who had been affected by the actions of the Franco regime. Our team will focus on gathering information regarding the recurring themes and physical spaces which constitute memorials to the events spanning from 1936-1975. This field research, conducted in Madrid, will cover both physical locations like buildings and monuments, as well as interviews with individuals who either constitute primary sources of memory, or possess knowledge of the methods and processes of the recovery of memory. Each member of the team will use this opportunity to research an aspect of these places of memory that is of particular interest. These individual projects will assist in building a more complete story of the struggle to recapture the history and memory of the war and the fascist rule. By examining particular areas, each student will create materials upon which the final group project of dissemination is constructed.              The Group Component Our group´s task is not only to gather information; but also disseminate our findings in a manner that makes them accessible and sustainable as a research tool for future scholars. This objective will be completed by utilizing several online resources, including blogs, Google Maps, and an eventual website which will allow access to the primary research.Our website work will begin after the trip itself, since the task of dissemination cannot begin until there is information to distribute.  Before and during the trip, the team will be key in deciding overall focus points and determining which sites will be worthwhile in building those themes. With guidance from Dr. Cate-Arries, the group’s choices of sites will be published in such a manner that future researchers and scholars will be able to literally view a “map of memory”, which will show the key locations that demonstrate the recovery of memory of Franco’s Spain.    The Individual Component             As one of five team members, I have been tasked with creating a specific point of focus related to the topic of memory recovery in Madrid. My focus is on international influences on the formation of an official memory of Franco’s Spain, especially the influence of international groups and individuals, most notably the international veterans’ organizations like the New York-based Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives and the Madrid-based Friends of the International Brigades. These organizations and certain individuals within their ranks, like the recently deceased civil war veteran Abe Osheroff have played important roles in the formation and reformation of the memory of the war and its aftermath. In some cases, these parties were the key promoters of new monuments, like the memorial at Madrid´s Fuencarral Cemetery; on other occasions these groups were honored by other institutions working in Madrid to recognize the experiences of all the participants in the war and the regime.             This trip will allow me to gather first-hand information and media in the form of pictures and videos of these physical sites of memory, as well as provide me with an opportunity to meet with leaders of various groups concerned with the international brigades, such as The Friends of the International Brigades, which have offices in Madrid. The trip will also facilitate the acquisition of research materials (particularly of primary sources) that are not available here on the William and Mary campus. The dissemination of this research will shed much-needed light on the continuing influence that the international brigades exert on the ongoing process of remembering and memorializing those who fought against Franco’s Spain.


[1] This overall purpose is taken directly from the objectives listed in the original Mellon Grant proposal.

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