Monday, January 14, 2008

Franco's Monument

El Valle de Los Caidos (Source: El País)

An interesting article (via the estimable New York Times) regarding Pedro Muguruza's infamous El Valle de los Caídos. Hewn into the side of a mountain, the building is comprised of an amphitheater-style entrance leading into a gigantic nave. Inside are a series of crypts and ossuaries containing the remains of Nationalist soldiers. Late last year, Spanish historian Julián Casanova made a much publicized visit to the site. In a trip that was near-comic, Casanova was routed and rerouted from various librarians and staff members throughout the site. His purpose was to find ledgerbooks containing the names of the Nationalist dead. This was, of course, motivated by Casanova's own suspicion. The site is rumored to contain the remains of murdered Republican soldiers, victims who were also used to build the site from 1940 until 1949.

General Francisco Franco visiting the construction site at El Valle de los Caídos

The article is a nod to what has been a tumultuous decade in Spanish attitudes towards the Spanish Civil War. With the formation of the ARMH (Asociación para la Recuperación de la Memoria Histórica) in 2000, and the passage of the Law of Historical Memory late last year, the recuperation of "Republican Memory" -- via the exhumation of mass graves, the publication of new histories, and through various other expressions -- will come at the price of negating the existence of the Franco regime.

The architecture of the period, however, will stand. Whether it's El Valle de los Caidos, or other public buildings, at least future generations will have physical evidence of a scarifyingly repressive regime that lasted well past Hitler's or Mussolini's. The Franco regime needs to be understood before it is forgotten, and perhaps its architecture can aid in this process.

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