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Reconstructing Spain

Cultural Heritage and Memory after Civil War

Dacia Viejo-Rose is a British Academy Post-doctoral Fellow at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, an Affiliated Lecturer at the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology of the University of Cambridge, and a Research Fellow at Darwin College, Cambridge. She was a researcher on the European Commission funded project “Cultural Heritage and the Reconstruction of Identities after Conflict” (CRIC) and in 2006 founded the Cambridge Post-Conflict and Post-Crisis group.

This book explores the role of cultural heritage in post-conflict reconstruction, whether as a motor for the prolongation of violence or as a resource for building reconciliation. The research was driven by two main goals: first, to understand the post-conflict reconstruction process in terms of cultural heritage, and second, to identify how this process evolves in the medium term and the impact it has on society. The Spanish Civil War (1936–39) and its subsequent phases of reconstruction provides the primary material for this exploration.

In pursuit of the first goal, the book centers on the material practices and rhetorical strategies developed around cultural heritage in post-civil war Spain and the victorious Franco regime–s reconstruction. The analysis seeks to capture a discursively complex set of practices that made up the reconstruction and in which a variety of Spanish heritage sites were claimed, rebuilt or restored and represented in various ways as signs of historical narratives, political legitimacy and group identity. The reconstruction of the town of Gernika is a particularly emblematic instance of destruction and a significant symbol within the Basque regions of Spain as well as internationally. By examining Gernika it is possible to identify some of the trends common to the reconstruction as a whole along with those aspects that pertain to its singular symbolic resonance. In order to achieve the second goal, the processes of selection, value change and exclusionary dynamics of reconstruction and the responses it elicits are examined. Exploring the possible impact of post-civil war reconstruction in the medium term is conducted in two time frames: the period of political transition that followed General Franco’s death in 1975; and the period 2004–2008, when Rodríguez Zapatero’s government undertook initiatives to “recover the historic memory” of the war and dictatorship.

Finally, the observations made of the Spanish reconstruction are analyzed in terms of how they might reveal general trends in post-conflict reconstruction processes in relation to cultural heritage. These insights are pertinent to the situations in Cambodia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Published in association with the Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies


Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-435-2
Hardback Price: £65.00 / $90.00
Release Date: June 2011
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-629-5
Paperback Price: £37.50 / $55.00
Release Date: March 2014
Page Extent / Format: 272 pp. / 246 x 171 mm
Illustrated: Highly illustrated with colour plate section


List of Figures, Tables and Text Boxes
Author’s Preface
Series Editor’s Preface, Paul Preston

1 Cultural Heritage and Post-Conflict Reconstruction
Purpose, Theory, and Method
Deconstructing the reconstruction process
Locating the field
Reconstructing cultural heritage: meaning and memory
From landscape to heritage-scape
The politics of space and performance
Research Methods
Structure of the Volume

2 Spain: Background and Context
Cultural Heritage, Conflict, and Identity in Spain in the
Run up to 1936
The idea of Spain: Las dos Españas
The Spanish Civil War and its Symbols
The cultural front and the “Two Spains”
The visual front and the propaganda war
Destruction and protection of cultural heritage during the war
The war and the production of heritage

3 Reconstructing Spain, 1938–1957
Administering the Rebuilding
Scope of action
Ideology behind the rebuilding
Propaganda and public communication
Reconstructing the Nation – History, Memory and Meaning
Constructing a selective past
‘Restoring’ the past: Preserving (some) heritage and traditions
Constructing memory: memorials, martyrs and ruins
Codifying space: inscribing meaning
Contradictions, Responses, and Consequences
Heritage and memory in exile and resistance movements
Evolution of the reconstruction project

4 Reconstructing Gernika
Gernika: Symbolism and Significance up to 1936
Gernika during the Civil War
The bombing
The Regime’s Reconstruction of Gernika
Regiones Devastadas and the rebuilding
Constructing place: Basque architectural styles and Regiones Devastadas
Constructing space: social dimensions and realities
Reconstructing Gernika’s heritage-scape
The ‘Other’ Reconstruction of Gernika
Guernica as a twentieth-century icon
Exile, resistance and the construction of another memory
Gernika and Guernica, 1945–1975
What Gernika’s destruction and reconstruction reveals

5 Reconstruction Continued: Transition and recovery
Reconstruction Continued
The 1960’s: a new formulation of Spain on the horizon
La Transición
The Restless Past, 2004–2007
Reconstructing Guernica and Gernika in the Transition
Guernica and Gernika in Transition
Gernika: breaking the silence and recovering memory
Gernika and Guernica: evolution of a relationship
Gernika in 2007
Gernika’s heritage-scape 70 years later

6 Deconstructing the Reconstruction Process
Physical, Symbolic, Social
On materiality and physicality (or the place in space)
The symbolic plane: meaning and memory of the imagined community
Function and social impact
From Common Trends towards an Analytic Framework
Resilience, recovery, reconciliation, and the “consequences of peace”

Conclusion: “The Minds of Men”


A – Key people of the Reconstruction
B – The Alcázar of Toledo: Building as Martyr
C – Sagrado Corazón de Jesús Monument
D – Re-codifying Space in Madrid
E – Accounts, Reactions and Interpretations of the Bombing
F – Gernika and Guernica as Inspiration
G – Evolution of Gernika’s Monument-scape
H – Statement by German President Roman Herzog
I – The Tree of Gernika’s Timeline

Viejo-Rose (Jesus College, Cambridge) asserts that studying the efforts of Spaniards to appropriate and reconstruct history and cultural heritage after their civil war (1936–1939) and during the Franco dictatorship (1939–1975) is helpful for the study of aftermaths of other recent international civil conflicts. Spain is a useful case study because the more than 70 years since the civil war gives scholars the opportunity to examine both short-term and ‘midterm’ projects and the effects of reconstructing cultural heritage. That process involves the forging of a new version of the nation and its visual landscapes; rewriting history to retell the national past in light of conflict; constructing new memory with monuments and commemoration; and recodifying politics of space and place, or the ‘symbolscape.’ The book features an analysis of the destruction of the Basque village of Gernika in April 1937, the regime’s attempts to physically and discursively reconstruct Gernika, and, finally, a deconstruction of those reconstruction projects. Over 200 images, tables, and text boxes pepper 200 pages of text, making for an often choppy, frustrating read. Despite this, the book is of significant value to both Hispanists and students of civil wars, memory, and reconstruction. Highly recommended.

Reconstructing Spain underlines the importance of rescuing the truth through collective memory as an analytical tool. Dacia Viejo-Rose has conducted meticulous research using visual and documentary evidence including architecture, monuments, the built landscape, cartoons, newsreels, museums and museum archives, written materials, and political party documents, especially the Basque National Party (PNV) in the case of Gernika. She also uses participant observation, acts of remembrance, and informal interviews. This kind of analysis is especially apposite in contemporary Spain, where at last, almost 40 years after the end of dictatorship, there are attempts to confront truths about the darkest decades of the twentieth century.
... Reconstructing Spain is an excellent book, strongly recommended to those with a general or scholarly interest or anyone wanting to know more about the role of heritage as a propaganda tool, and the risks in reconstructing heritage in postconflict situations. The book offers a fascinating insight into a less reported aspect of the Franco regime. It further enables a better understanding of the current debate about the recovery of lost memories a couple of generations after the end of the Civil War. Perhaps even more importantly, the book contains significant lessons in how the international community should respond to nation building and post-conflict reconciliation.
International Journal of Heritage Studies

Cultural heritage in its many different expressions and manifestations, from sites and monuments, through museums and collections to the intangible and oral heritage, has become an increasingly important part of contested identities over recent decades, and in many countries is now seen as a key element of national and regional identities. … This book is an important and original contribution to a field that is of considerable importance and continuing present-day relevance.
Patrick Boylan, Professor Emeritus of Heritage Policy and Management, City University of London

Reconstructing Spain examines, through the example of the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath, the role played by cultural heritage in post-conflict reconstruction, either as the justification of the prolongation of violence or as a contribution to the construction of reconciliation. This is done convincingly through a sophisticated and nuanced examination of various elements of the reconstruction pursued by the Franco dictatorship whether in physical, architectural terms or through ‘cultural’ devices, the rewriting of history, the demonization of the defeated and so on.
Paul Preston, Series Editor, London School of Economics

Following is a joint review of Reconstructing Spain and Olivia Muñoz-Rojas’ Ashes and Granite: Destruction and Reconstruction after the Spanish Civil War and its Aftermath

What happens in the aftermath of war? Reconstruction is a term often thought of in a physical sense, but using Spain after 1939 as case studies, both of these works challenge us to delve deeper into the meaning of the term and examine its implications for propagandistic, cultural and symbolic meanings. They seek to have us look at landscapes in an entirely new way and to contextualize and complicate our own interpretations of various sites by understanding their design, purpose and use in the effort to rebuild Spain after the civil conflict of 1936–1939.
... Recounting the extensive aerial bombing that occurred across during the Civil War, Olivia Muñoz-Rojas argues that after the fighting, the regime of General Francisco Franco had “an unparalleled opportunity of rebuilding the country” and doing so in a manner that reflected “the values the Nationalists had purportedly fought to reinstate: unity, discipline, honor, hierarchy” (2). Similarly, Dacia Viejo-Rose begins her study of post-Civil War Spain by asking “What role cultural heritage plays in post-conflict reconstruction, whether as a motor for the prolongation of violence or as a resource for building reconciliation” (1). Both authors draw extensively on photographs and other visual images, such as architectural plans, while also grounding themselves in the archives of various municipalities, regions and central administrative organs like those of the Ministerio de Gobernacíon’s Direccíon General Regiones Devastadas. The result is two important studies not only for Spanish historians of the immediate post-Civil War era but for anyone interested in the uses of historical memory and places and the revision of such sites that come about as a result of the need for physical reconstruction after conflict.
... Muñoz-Rojas focuses on three case studies in Madrid, Bilbao and Barcelona in order to assess the plans and achievements of the Franco regime in the field of reconstruction during the immediate years after the war. In Madrid, early initiatives by the Falange to build a new headquarters influenced by Nazi and Fascist architecture as part of an effort to recast the capital as a center of administrative and imperial power fell short. In Bilbao, the need for quickly rebuilding the city’s river bridges destroyed by retreating Republican troops gave the Franco regime both a propagandistic opportunity to rally against “red barbarism” and a chance to put forth new structures that evoked modernism and the promise of a ‘New Spain’. Meanwhile, in Barcelona, the bombing damage in the city center allowed the construction of what is now called Avengeda de la Catedral and fulfill longer term visions of a central avenue into old Barcelona. It also gave the regime the chance to reveal Roman ruins in the old quarter and exploit them for the purpose of linking the new regime to the glories of a Roman past. Muñoz-Riojas details each case well while drawing out the significant gaps between plans and reality, between national visions and local needs, and the effort to change cities within a regime that celebrated the rural.
... Dacia Viejo-Rose offers a more theoretical work, grounding her study within the framework of post-conflict studies and memory studies to examine how symbolic landscapes are built in a way that possibly “prolongs the violence of the war into the post-conflict period, planting antagonistic symbols of difference that continue to provoke fear and hatred and operate against reconciliation” (3–4). Drawing on ideas about history, monuments, cultural resources, space and lieux de mémoire, Viejo-Rose defines reconstruction as being a complex phenomenon that revisions place, rewrites history, remembers selective events and myths and recodifies space (199). The result is a new ‘heritage-scape’ that is meant to “structure spaces and their meanings” (202). While she, like Muñoz-Rojas, points out gaps between ambitions and reality (211), Viejo-Rose argues that the transformation of space desired by the Franco regime was more successful than not, at least in the short and medium-term. The book does this in two ways, first through a general examination of policies associated with reconstruction and the central government’s DG Regiones Devastadas, and second, through a case study of Gernika.
... In her examination of the nation as a whole, Viejo-Rose outlines important propagandistic themes such as the celebration of historical figures like the Catholic Kings and El Cid, and the comparison between them and Nationalist heroes of the Civil War. Looking at how these themes revealed themselves in particular places and at particular sites, the author examines the rebuilding of the small towns of Belchite and Brunete, both of which changed hands numerous times in the conflicts and which were extensively destroyed. In Brunete, the entire town was re-planned and new housing and street-building projects were propagandized as heralding the modern Spain (60–61). In Belchite, the original town was left in ruins and a new town was built 500 meters away; new modern planning stood alongside ruins and memorials to fallen martyrs (88–90). Practical reality invaded this planned symbolic landscape, because reconstruction took so long, most residents lived amongst the ruins for over 15 years (90). Nonetheless, the ambitions that the Belchite case demonstrated allow Viejo-Rose to define reconstruction of cultural heritage as physical, symbolic and social (198).
... Using a case study of Gernika, Viejo-Rose notes how any trace of the town’s destruction by bombing on April 27, 1937 was removed and a new, modern market opened in 1943 alongside a town hall that used some Basque elements while also incorporating more typical Spanish designs in terms of roads and space leading to the plaza. All of this was not only about removing signs of the bombing, but also was an effort to downplay the town’s history as a center of Basque rights and Basque culture (122–127).
... One of the most important contributions in Viejo-Rose’s work is the decision to extend her analysis beyond the short- and medium-term of the 1940s and 1950s. From the moment of the Gernika bombing onwards, she analyzes the other ‘reconstruction’ of Gernika outside of Spain, amongst Republicans and their supporters. She also moves forward to examine the memory of the site in the immediate period of Transition, 1975/6–82, and since 2004 with the efforts of the Zapatero government to incorporate historical memory into the culture and politics of Spain. The extensive construction of monuments and the holding of public events in Gernika, and the transformation of the town as a symbol of victimhood into a symbol for peace-building, reflect her argument that reconstruction is constant, and that it is necessary to understand the stages involved (195). In the case of Gernika, Franco’s vision of a suppressed victimhood had to be followed by commemoration of victims, typified by the mausoleum erected in the town’s cemetery in 1994, before the town could become a site for peace-building conferences and other related activities.
... The replication of images and plans necessary for the arguments of both authors is extensive in both books, and Sussex Academic Press should be congratulated for the efforts made in this respect. Dacia Viejo-Rose’s Reconstructing Spain also includes a number of insets that develop the history and critical analysis of specific sites like Brunete, Belchite and Valle de los Caídos as well as issues provoked by the Law on Historical Memory like the excavation of the supposed grave of Federico García Lorca (164).
... Reading these two books together is a worthwhile exercise, and leaves many questions to explore. Olivia Muñoz-Rojas emphasizes the gap between rhetoric and reality, and she underlines that the Franco regime was not only “repressive” but also “lethargic” and that the visions of a new Spain fell short given these attitudes (67). Viejo-Rose, on the other hand, believes Spain serves as an excellent case to study the transformation of landscapes through reconstruction and that it allows one to draw out the symbolic narratives inherent in the process of “re-visioning the nation” (197). Moreover, by moving beyond the Franco era, Viejo-Rose also seeks to demonstrate that one re-visioning effort, even carried out over 30-plus years, did not eliminate the other heritage of the civil war, that of the Republicans, which continues to shape and re-shape the Spanish landscape. All three conclusions strike this reader as true, and thus there remains a need to continue to examine and deconstruct the myths, symbols and narratives of the Civil War as they appear in Spanish and diasporic places.
David A. Messenger, University of Wyoming, Bulletin for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies

In this study, Dacia Viejo-Rose, a Research Associate at Jesus College, Cambridge, assesses the motives and consequences of reconstructing a country post-civil war – in this case, Spain – and the role that heritage plays post-conflict, examining the relationship between cultural heritage, power and society.
... The post-civil war reconstruction of Spain was a powerful way of exerting control, reminding people who won the war and conditioning behaviour. Viejo-Rose demonstrates how this was done, through various stages of the reconstruction by using an overwhelming array of references and resources. Although a study on Spain, we can see parallels with Cyprus, Iraq and Afghanistan, which Viejo-Rose references. She concludes with a chapter presenting the risk that reconstruction itself can destroy heritage and contribute to events that will lead to the recurrence of war: ‘If truth is the first casualty of war, it certainly takes a long time to be resuscitated, as myths born during the war takes years to be dispelled and can be reinforced in the reconstruction’.
Sophia Sophocleous,

What Viejo-Rose’s examples from within and beyond the Peninsula do undeniably provide are a series of compelling illustrations of Foucault’s dictums on how ostensibly hegemonic discourses of power not only allow, but also sometimes create, the possibility for dissidence. There is, for example, a fascinating discussion on how memorials to Nationalist martyrs in Francoist Spain became psychic and physical loci of resistance as the memory of those who died on the Republican side were paradoxically kept alive by their (in)conspicuous absence from the regime’s official ‘history’. The opposition to deterministic imposition from above is, in this case, framed in a positive light but, the author argues, it can also beset more progressive measures.
... Predisposed to accept the need for historical memory – she is critical of the PSOE for not making better use of an absolute majority ‘to acknowledge the previously ignored and disregarded victims of the regime’ during their second mandate of the 1980s (155) – Viejo-Rose retains a critical distance from the processes by which it is often enacted. This makes a refreshing change from the Manichean discourse which still proliferates in much Spanish historiography; it also allows the author to make potentially controversial parallels not only between Francoism and the ‘à la carte version of the past’ fostered by the first Socialist administration (154), but also to efforts made elsewhere by the international community (202), without ever succumbing to moral relativism. Nevertheless, the general conclusion drawn from the Spanish case is underwhelming: ‘the reconstruction of cultural heritage in the aftermath of war is not inherently a peace-building activity’ (214).
... This may be a useful reminder and/or caveat, but it hardly constitutes a radical intervention in wider debates. I was not, therefore, convinced by the publisher’s blurb which speaks of how the ‘insights are pertinent to other cases such as Cambodia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Afghanistan and Iraq’; the end product is seemingly less than the sum of its parts. Viejo-Rose’s self-consciously broad scope nevertheless gives rise to the book’s principal strengths and limitations; any scepticism I felt over its general applicability was more than compensated for by individual components which are of sufficient merit to warrant our attention and praise. The engaging prose style, academic rigour, non-parochial approach and keen eye for the human dimension make this essential and enjoyable reading for anyone interested in the politics and culture of contemporary Spain.
Duncan Wheeler, Bulletin of Spanish Studies, University of Glasgow

Viejo-Rose provides an introductory chapter which makes a case for the role of ‘cultural heritage’ in post-conflict reconciliation, arguing that a key outcome of civil war (especially in cases where no negotiated settlement is permitted) is often the cultural ‘disinheritance’ of the defeated. Material sites of suffering and sacrifice thereby become ‘places of forgetting’ for those who are vanquished. Control by the victors of cultural heritage thus prolongs the violence and prevents social integration and state legitimacy. This is certainly a case that can be powerfully made in relation to Gernika and, through a publicly expressed collective sense of national and religious identity, to the Basque Country more generally. The appropriation of ‘Basqueness’ by the central state left a legacy of problems only imperfectly resolved by the post-Franco political settlement after 1975. The chapters on Gernika are the most enlightening, but the picture was not uniform throughout Spain.
... Although it is useful to be reminded that the dictatorship strictly controlled which monuments and buildings were erected – and, of course, what could be commemorated – the repressive process (side-by-side with state paternalism) did not have the same effects throughout national territory, as the cases of El Valle de los Caídos (Franco’s own and largely ignored pantheon of ‘the Crusade’), the anachronistic Alcázar of Toledo, and the ruins of the town of Belchite (Aragón) confirm. The book’s structure, which leaps from the Civil War and its immediate aftermath to the surge in war-related calls for justice in the late 1990s and beyond, reinforces the vision, however, of cultural authoritarianism and rigid control of memory.
Journal of Contemporary History

Reviewed in Hispania, July 2914,

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