Archivo de Escrituras Cotidianas

May 11, 2009

The Archivo de Escrituras Cotidianas (Archive of Everyday Writings) in Alcalá de Henares is a part of the Red de Archivos e Investigadores de la Escritura Popular (Network of Archives and Investigators of Popular Writing) which is a group of six archives across Spain that work together to conserve and study personal documents and materials from Spanish history in order to bring to light the importance of the collective memory of the people. This organization aims to recuperate the history that has been ignored by historians who only study and collect official records. While the official history is an important part of the story, these archives look to complete the historical record with personal materials that represent an essential part of the history of Spain that has never been written down and recorded. These historians also emphasize that personal testimonies show a different view of the past and create a history of peoples’ experiences, as opposed to one of just facts. Sample document from archive

More specifically, the Archivo de Escrituras Cotidianas was founded in 2004 in the Department of History and Philosophy at the University of Alcalá de Henares through the funding of the Interdisciplinary Seminary of Studies of Written Culture (SIECE). The objectives of this research center are to conserve, study, and publish the history of the common people that would otherwise be lost forever in personal records. Included in this archive’s growing collection of materials are personal letters, war-time diaries, school notebooks, songs, poetry, and much more. This archive also aims to develop an interest in this history among the younger generations by creating educational materials for them to use in their own studies of this personal history. The historians and archivists at the university also organize publications, expositions, conferences and round tables as a means to share their research and promote the significance of the common people’s everyday writings in the process of recuperating memory. Source: Presentation Booklet from the Red de Archivos e Investigadores de la Literatura Popular which can be found here.

General Introduction

May 11, 2009

Valley of the Fallen, inaugurated by Francisco Franco in 1959, rests in the Cuelgamuros Valley outside of Madrid. Its structure boasts of a cross 150 m high, a crypt 262 m into the mountain, and a dome 33 m in diameter. Several common graves, both of Republican and Nationalist soldiers, lie beside the bodies of Franco and the founder of the Falange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera. Catholic Masses take place here every Sunday as there is a Benedictine Abbey on the other side of the cross as the entrance to the crypt.



The Valley is dedicated to everyone who died in the Spanish Civil War, but in reality, the monument is more one-sided than it claims to be. It is covered in Falangist symbols and slogans, and is the final resting place of two of the greatest champions of Nationalist Spain. Every November 20th before the Law of Historical Memory was enacted, there were memorial celebrations commemorating the deaths of these two leaders.

The Law of Historical Memory seeks–however polemically– to address the ideological bias present in this place of remembrance, a site ostensibly constructed in the name of all the war´s fallen. No longer are the celebrations of November 20th allowed, nor are any pro-Franco symbols or flags. For many observers, these measures–rather than resolving ideological tensions–have fanned the flames of controversy and heightened the debate that surrounds the Valley of the Fallen as a long-contested site of national memory .

Almudena Cemetery – General Introduction

May 11, 2009

Chapel at Almudena CemeteryThe size of Almudena Cemetery, the largest cemetery in Madrid, perfectly reflects the scope of its contents, containing more graves than there are citizens in the city. However, there is definite evidence of who were the victors and losers of the Spanish Civil War, something Francisco Franco made well-known throughout his dictatorship.

There are several imposing monuments to commemorate the Nationalist dead. There is a monument to the División Azul, those Francoist soldiers sent to fight for Hitler against Russia in World War II. The visitor will also find  the graves of members of the German Condor Legion, the division that bombed the town of Guernica in 1937, inciting Pablo Picasso to paint his famous Guernica for the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris.

The commemorations to the Republican dead are modest, including the site of the deaths of the “13 rosas rojas.” These 13 young women were incarcerated shortly after the end of the civil war for their involvement with the Communist Party of Spain (the PCE) or the Unified Socialist Youth (JSU). They were pulled from Ventas Prison in the middle of the night and executed by firing squad in Almudena Cemetery in August of 1939. The site, a simple wall, is marked by several plaques, including one that that says, “They gave their lives here for liberty and democracy the 5th of August, 1939.”

Also in Almudena, one can find the grave of La Pasionaria, Dolores Ibárruri, who was a champion of workers’ and women’s rights through her positions in the Republican government and Communist party. Madrid fended off the three year siege by Nationalist forces with the help of Ibárruri’s famous cry “No pasarán!” (“They shall not pass!”). After the war, Ibárruri went on to become Secretary General and then President of the PCE. Also, after Franco’s death in 1975, she was appointed to the Spanish government as a representative of the Asturias electoral district.

These commemorations in Almudena Cemetery serve as an interesting counterpart to the veneration for Franco and his fallen at Valle de los Caídos, since the size of the cross alone physically dwarfs the commemoration for fallen Republican soldiers, which in one instance consists of a single photo against a cemetery wall.

Asociación de Descendientes del Exilio – General Introduction

May 11, 2009

The Asociación de Descendientes del Exilio (the Association of Descendants of Exile) is an organization based in Madrid. According to its website (, its purpose is to

  • Maintain historical memory in Spain and the countries that welcomed exiles
  • Promote the recuperation of Spanish nationality for the descendants of Spanish exile caused in 1939 by the military uprising against the 2nd Spanish Republic in 1936
  • Facilitate, for those who desire it, the return to Spain
  • Develop actions aimed at ensuring social and economic protection of exiles and their descendants in Spain
  • Establish social and cultural links between the exiles and their descendantsLudivina Garcia, president of the association, with member Ceferino Alvarez

Aside from these goals, the Association works with the Asociación de los Amigos de las Brigadas Internacionales to place plaques in Fuencarral Cemetery recognizing the sacrifice of the International Brigades. The group also spearheaded an initiative to place a statue in Parque Norte in Madrid honoring Lázaro Cardenas, the president of Mexico in 1939 who received Spanish exiles with open arms. Other acts organized by the Association include the May 7th, 2009 commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Spanish exile.

Click here to view the association’s photostream on Flickr.

Contact Information:

Asociación de Descendientes del Exilio – Address: Calle Guadalaira No. 2, Villaviciosa de Odón, 28670, Madrid

Ludivina García (President) – E-mail:

María Luisa Fernández (member) – E-mail:

Robert Capa Introduction

May 7, 2009

Robert Capa is perhaps best known in the United States as the photographer who was on Normandy Beach on D-Day, however he had a long and expansive career which led him to cover almost every major conflict in the world for 30 years. One of those conflicts was the Spanish Civil war.

Capa was actually born in Budapest in 1913, but soon emigrated to the United States, where he ostensively lived in New York (he spent many of his years away covering different conflicts). He arrived in Spain in 1936 to cover the Republic’s struggle against the rebellion, and he would stay there until 1939. [Magnum Photos, Biography of Robert Capa] Out of this time spent in Spain came arguably Capa’s most famous photograph, Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936, or as it was commonly known as, Falling Soldier. The photo was taken on the Cordoba front in 1936 and was first published in the French magazine Vu, however it would eventually become both a symbol of the Civil War, as well as one of if not the greatest combat photo ever taken. (Whelan, 2002) This photo was one of several larger collections which Capa sent back the U.S. and other countries as exhibits, and which now hang in the Reina Sophia Museum.
Although Capa was a legendary dare-devil of the battlefield, this characteristic would eventually be his undoing. While covering the First Indochina War, Capa was killed when he stepped on a landmine. It is said that Capa died with his camera in his hand.[Magnum Photos, Biography of Robert Capa]

Carabanchel–General Introduction

April 21, 2009

Carabanchel Prison was built on the outskirts of Madrid during the first years of the Franco dictatorship. Inaugurated in 1944, its purpose was to remove political prisoners from the Porlier prison in Madrid´s downtown center. It include a women’s prison, children’s center and hospital. Built by Franco’s political prisoners, Carabanchel Prison was designed as a star with 8 arms “radiating out of an eye that never closed.”  The prison was designed so that each prisoner would feel like s/he was being watched at all times. It could hold up to two thousand inmates which included political prisoners, as well as petty criminals like pickpockets, and homosexuals.



Demolished October 2008 in the middle of the night, so as not to attract protesters against its destruction, the prison remains a controversial subject always present in conversations about the memory of the Franco dictatorship. There are debates over how the new space should be utilized; its use as a new hospital; a recreational center; or a municipal building are among the ideas that have been proposed by civic organizations and neighborhood associations.

One might ask why the neighborhood of Carabanchel is so involved in plans for the old site of the prison. It may seem strange that the people would oppose demolishing a symbol of Franco’s repression, but somewhere along the way, Carabanchel prison transformed in the eyes of the community from a place of repression to a place of commemorative memory. They want to keep this memory alive.

GEFREMA: Introduction

April 16, 2009

El Grupo de Estudios del Frente de Marid, or the Group for the Study of the Madrid Front is an association which dedicates itself to the research and publicity of the battle front of Madrid. This is accomplished both through research of the metropolitan area, which has been built over many times since the war, hiding (for the most part) evidence that there was a terrible battle that took place there; and by providing tours and placing plaques around the city to disseminate that research to the population.

For more information about GEFREMA click the following link (In Spanish):


To see the various locations marked on the walking tour of the battlefront, look at the map to the right.

General Information- Asociacion de Amigos de Las Brigadas Internacionales

April 16, 2009

The organization’s mission statement is to recognize, recuperate, and preserve the history and legacy of the international brigades. The organization does this by organizing events and maintaining networks of communication among the various veterans and commemorative groups throughout the world.

To learn more about the Association, see their website (In Spanish):

General Introduction

April 14, 2009

The Center of Investigation and Republican Studies is a group that aims to study, investigate and realize the goals of the Republican ideology that historically influenced the formation of the Second Republic in Spain (1931-1939). The organization aims to inform about the Republican ideals without aligning with an official political party so that everyone feels comfortable consulting the sources at CIERE for information. In order to achieve these goals, CIERE publishes books, organizes cultural activities, and grant money to activities that work to promote the goals of the center. For more information and specifics about the objectives of CIERE, visit their website:

“His most important picture”

April 12, 2009


Picasso was commissioned to create a mural for the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris World Fair in 1937, and subsequently, upon the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica on April 27, 1937, he found his subject (Fisch 13). At the close of the Paris World’s Fair in 1938, Guernica embarked upon a world tour spreading awareness of the tragedy of the Spanish Civil War, until it landed in New York at the Museum of Modern Art, where it was safe, and remained during WWII, until 1981 (13).” Read the rest of this entry »