Visit to the Amigos de Las Brigadas Internacionales

After the visit to the cemetery at Fuencarral, it appeared to me that there was very little, if any, true coordination on behalf of the International Brigades to recover their place in the Spanish historical memory. After a visit with Ana Perez, the president of the Amigos de Las Brigadas Internacionales (Friends of the International Brigades) I realize that I could not have been more wrong. Not only is there a very coordinated effort to reaffirm a place for these individuals in Spanish memory, but it is one of the first efforts to do such a thing in the field of historical memory.

The organization started in 1996 with an interest in starting a homage and return to Spanish battlefields for these veterans. The effort was a massive one, given that no one in the Amigos actually had contact with any veteran, however as Ana Perez is quick to point out, the momentum that the movement gained was incredible, to the point that when the first of the brigadiers arrived at the train station in Barcelona for the first homage, there were hundreds of people there to greet them. This is certainly not to imply that it was a completely well received idea on all fronts. For example, whether for political or ideological reasons, the mayor of Madrid at the time was quoted as saying that he would not welcome again a group of individuals who came from all over the world to kill his people.

Although this type of resistance existed, it did not prevail and the Amigos have had massive success in forming a network between the brigadiers and preserving their documents and historical pieces. In this second area there has been a greatly increased effort, with two separate archives to house the artifacts of the Brigades, one which is house in the office of the amigos itself.

One thing that concerns Perez is the fear that as the brigadiers die off, and they are dying quickly now, the interest in what they contributed to the war and the republic will die with them. She says that it is extremely important for the grandchildren of these veterans to take an interest in the histories of their grandparents. It is really impossible to say what will happen to the Amigos de las Brigadas in the next year ten years after the last veterans are gone, but it seems from talking to Ana Perez that there is an interest from the next generations, and that the work will continue.

The placement of plaques at Fuencarral, although important, are only a tiny part of what is happening within the organization, with the newest being dedicated on the 7th of May of this year. The other work that they have done here is one that is much more important. By building networks of people and a public image of the Brigades, the amigos have assured that not only will there be plaques to see in 20 years, but that there will be interested people to go see them as well.

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