Bringing it Back

Looking back on the whirlwind week that was our research trip, I can easily think of the countless things we have brought back with us to the US. We took photos of battlegrounds, prisons, statues, and memorials. We heard personal testimonies from descendants of exiles, children of soldiers, and a civil war veteran himself. We received books about the history of the war, about the process of remembering and about where republicans stand today. Through all of this, we gained invaluable information about the civil war and a deeper knowledge of the impact that it truly had on Spain and its people.

But maybe more important than what we are taking back are the things that we, unexpectedly, left behind. We left the Association of Descendents of Exile with an exciting outlook for the future studies of memory of the war. We served as a connection between students at William and Mary and their contacts from last semester with whom they discussed life during and after the war. Additionally, our most exciting legacy left from this trip occurred when we helped connect Marcos Burgos, son of a republican captain killed by Franco, to an archive in Alcalá where he will be able to share his story and provide all of the information he has collected so that it can be studied and preserved in the collection. Knowing that Marcos Burgos would not have had this connection with the archive without our research is a rewarding feeling and gives our research more than an academic purpose. We were able to take our interest in the memory of the Civil War and the knowledge we had acquire in order to leave this tangible evidence of our work in Spain.

I leave this trip with so much more than I expected I would. I thought I would only be able to pick up information about the war and maybe speak to a few people who were also studying it. I never imagined that I would form such a personal connection with the people we worked with. From Marcos Burgos, who in a way was doing the same research as us in his search for his father’s story, to Sefarino and Ludi in the descendent’s organization, to Isabel who I talked to at length on our last night, every person invited us into their life so we could know their story and learn from it. In this manner, all of these wonderful people left me with such a wonderful impression that inspires me to continue studying this topic.Speaking with these witnesses of the post-war era in Spain has also left me with a greater appreciation of the true freedom we have here in the United States. Almost everyone we met said they felt that there was still a fear of a coup in the Spanish government and that in many cases, the topic of the civil war still carries a stigma that makes it hard to study or even discuss. This is evident in the controversies that have arisen over various aspects of the “Law of Historical Memory.”Coming back home where I feel so free to speak my opinion, I have a new gratitude for American’s ability to discuss differences that existed in our nation’s past, for example, our own Civil War, as well as differences that exist in the present, such as discussions between members of various political parties.

En consecuencia, while we were able to bring back invaluable information, testimony and documentation for our culmination of this research, our group gained so much more than I thought possible from this experience. Being able to also leave our mark in Spain gave a more personal purpose to our work and made each day that much more exciting. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have spent this week studying the memory of the Spanish Civil War and hope I have the chance to return to Spain at some point so I can follow up on everything we have investigated.

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