Amparo Menacho

In this post, I translate and reflect on key parts of Professor Cate-Arries’ interview with Amparo Menacho in Grazalema, Cádiz. Menacho is the great-niece of one of the sixteen women from that town who were killed by Franco’s troops and supporters at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). A surviving grandmother was able to relate the story of what happened in Grazalema to Menacho, with details provided by another family member who observed the scene from a hidden location. In the process of taking Grazalema, Franco’s supporters humiliated, tortured, and killed men and women. Menacho describes that women were raped, their heads shaved, forced to consume castor oil, and paraded through the town. Menacho’s great aunt was one of the three murdered women who were pregnant when the violence began. According to her, the baby was born amidst the violence and “was thrown away, and pigs ate the child” as his mother died.  Men in Grazelema were also affected by the violence. Her grandfather, described as “not a politician” but one who “liked politics,” was killed as well. Franco supporters, in their attempt to stamp out all resistance, killed many who were not directly involved in governing the Second Republic, many of the victims in Grazalema being prime examples. Another interviewee of Cate-Arries said that the troops justified the killing of “fifteen year old boys” by saying that even those who did not pose an immediate threat would “change, come tomorrow, into sharpened knives.”

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The difficulties posed by 21st century testimonies in studying the Spanish Civil War

Testimonies collected from the families victimized by Franco during and after the Spanish Civil War are a crucial part of understanding the historical memory movement. I hope to continue my research focused on the difficulties that surround projects of historical memory in Spain. As we transcribe and analyze the interviews of those in Cádiz who lost family to Franco’s dictatorship, I hope to add on a new dimension to my understanding of the difficulty of preserving the memory of an era that was forced into the periphery of Spanish society. While I focused nearly exclusively on the exhumation project at La Sauceda in my research project for the study abroad program, I hope to now shift the focus of my studies to the process of gathering testimonies. As the historian Santiago Moreno pointed out to me during our interview in Cádiz, “exhuming mass graves isn’t the only part of remembering, maybe the most striking.”

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La Sauceda: A Case Study in Projects of Historical Memory in Cádiz

Since I left for Cádiz, the focus of my research project changed  from evaluating the efficacy of the 2007 Law of Historical Memory to focusing on a specific historical memory project that I had several opportunities to interact with during my study abroad. This project revolved around the exhumation and commemoration of the victims of Franco’s army at the village of La Sauceda in Andalucía, near the boarder of the provinces Cádiz and Málaga. While the inefficiencies of the Law of Historical Memory were still relevant to my discussion of the project at La Sauceda, I decided to more broadly evaluate all of the challenges that the project faced, along with the reasons for which the project has been successful .

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Projects of Historical Memory in Cádiz

On Sunday, I returned home from Cádiz, Spain after having experienced a multitude of once in a lifetime adventures. Some of the most inspiring, serious, and thought provoking moments of my study abroad came while I was working on my research project and while discussing the legacy of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) with the diverse assortment of individuals I met in Spain. I attended documentary screenings about a recent exhumation of a mass grave at La Sauceda, interviewed a historian, and traveled through Cádiz with Professor Cate-Arries observing how modern Spaniards remember and commemorate their past. I heard a member of the audience at the documentary say that equally as important as the disinterment of the remains is the “recovery of the ideas of these bones.” I saw flags of the II República waving over buildings dedicated to historical memory. The flag of the government that ruled Spain in the early 1930s, only to be overthrown by Franco, is now a powerful symbol. My host parents in Cádiz told me that they couldn’t understand why anyone bothers to study the Spanish Civil War because it’s over, a part only of Spain’s distant past.

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W&M Memory Matters in Spain: Franco’s Repression in Cádiz

My name is Robert Bohnke, and I am a freshman intending to complete a major in Hispanic Studies. I’ll be traveling to Cádiz, Spain through the W&M summer program, and completing an independent research project on historical memory related to the repressive dictatorship of Francisco Franco. I plan to focus my independent research project during my study abroad on the effects of the Ley de la memoria histórica in Cádiz. This national law passed in 2007, mandated a renewed initiative on the part of the government of Spain to support projects that foster historical memory, including the exhumations of the mass graves left behind by Franquismo.  During my time in Cádiz I plan to interview people whose families were affected by the violence of the Franco era and the following pacto de silencio, which survived past Franco’s death in 1975 and discouraged any public display of grievance for lost loved ones.

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