Remembrance Through Personal Documents and Testimonies

When Francisco Franco gained power after his regime won the war in 1939 against the democratically-elected Republic, he ruled Spain through a conservative dictatorship until his death in 1975.  During this strict reign in Spanish history, Franco repressed and punished those who had fought against him during the war and those who dared oppose his regime in generations following.  In this setting, Spain lost the memory of those who fought for the side of the Republic as Franco wrote the official history of the post-war era and controlled the society that developed during this time.

Following Franco’s death, Spain entered an unspoken “pacto de olvido” or pact of oblivion during which nobody spoke of the war or the dictatorship in an effort to completely separate and move on from this period in Spanish history.  In recent years, the government has begun to make an effort to revisit this historical time frame and as a part of this effort, passed the “Law of Historical Memory” in 2007.  This law includes provisions to recognize the victims of the civil war, provide compensation to the victims and their families, set up commemorative sites, provide better access to records from the war, among other initiatives.

The general aim of the group’s research will take this background knowledge of the civil war that we have learned in a previous Hispanic Studies class and use it as a starting point in an investigation of the manifestations of this new Law of Memory in Spain.  We will visit sites of memory such as museums dedicated to the civil war and places that were significant during the war.  I personally intend to concentrate my research on the archives from the war and the post-war era. These include official records from the government, such as those archived at the Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica in Salamanca as well as personal documents that have been preserved.  . Included in our plan is a visit to the Archive of Popular Literature and Oral History at the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares where we have already set up contact with three faculty members of the history department, Antonio Castillo Gómez, Victoria Sierra, and Carmen Serrano. I am especially interested in these personal records because they will give an individual’s perspective on different aspects of Spanish culture and daily life during these years.  For example, our group plans to meet with Marcos Burgos who is the son of an executed former Republican.  He will be able to share his father’s personal papers with us and we will be able to bring back his personal perspective on the memory of the Civil War.  Through such interviews as well as visits to these archives, I will be able to collect first hand documentation of the various sites of memory in Madrid and be able to present a unique insight into these places when I collaborate with the group to create the project website.

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