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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