Memory, Silence, and Democracy in Spain: Federico García Lorca, the Spanish Civil War, and the Law of Historical Memory
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What does it mean to unearth the dead? What is contemporary society’s responsibility to the disappeared? How do we live with the ghosts of history? In the midst of the search for the body of Federico García Lorca in 2009, Emilio Silva, cofounder and president of Spain’s Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARMH)—a national organization assisting in the location and exhumation of the graves of Spain’s desaparecidos, or disappeared, during the Civil War and its aftermath—wrote of “the silent bones of Federico García Lorca and the skeleton of our democracy.” This essay traces the ways in which the remains of one of Europe’s most resonant twentieth-century dramatists haunt contemporary Spain. In mapping the wider ideological framework in which his work has been produced in Spain, it engages with the politics of a statesanctioned “official” history that has shaped his appropriation by the nation-state. Using the search for Lorca’s corpse in 2009 as a central focus, it examines how the exhumation of mass graves undertaken in twenty-first-century Spain can be viewed as a move toward a more nuanced understanding both of the events of the past and the fissures of the present in a country where issues of justice have been compromised for too long by a culture of silence.
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