Spain's 114,000 disappeared, who lie still in unmarked under roadsidesDictatorship

SPAIN. Spain’s Lost Memory 1936-1975

by Miquel Gonzalez – professional photographer, near Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Barcelona, Spain. Studied photography at the IEFC in Barcelona, Spain

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A photo book tracing the sites of Spain’s 114,000 disappeared, who lie still in unmarked under roadsides, gorges, fields and in unmarked mass graves since 82 years.

A photo book tracing the sites of Spain’s 114,000 ‘disappeared’.

To this day the bodies of up to 114,000 ‘disappeared’ from the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), and the dictatorship of Francisco Franco (1939-75), lie in unmarked mass graves on roadsides, on the edges of towns and villages, in ravines or fields. Memoria Perdidacomprises photographs of the locations of these graves and related atrocity sites that have not yet been excavated or commemorated. Many sites have been lost, hidden under new roads or buildings, or have just disappeared without any hint or sign marking their cruel past. This absence of formal recognition of the past and its injustices at most of the locations was both melancholy and disturbing.

The Spanish government still does not officially recognise the existence of the mass graves, which makes it very difficult to recover or identify the remains of the ‘disappeared’. The only trial which has taken place relating to that period, was one directed against the judge, Baltasar Garzón, who attempted to investigate the crimes of Franco’s dictatorship. Garzón was charged with abuse of his powers and acquitted in 2012.

I wanted what cannot be seen ‒ the invisible past ‒ in these photographs to become of equal importance to the visible present. If I can provoke the viewer to imagine and ask questions, rather than suggesting answers, this might be the way to link past, present, identity, landscape and memory.

I captured each location as close as possible to the hour, day and season of the year that the atrocity took place. Most of the photographs were taken after sunset and before sunrise, the preferred hours for ‘taking a walk’ and execution.

The emptiness and silence of those hours give the landscapes a certain serenity that belies the horrors which occurred there. Although the sites are full of human traces, it was the absence of people that struck me the most. It made me think about the victims and somehow re-established their ghostly presence in the empty landscapes.

If you like this project, please support the crowdfunding campaign for the book on Kickstarter.