The postwar period is a black hole in the memory of cities in Spain. A group of specialists has traced in archives, newspaper archives and autobiographies and memoirs how Valencia looked after the occupation of the city by Franco’s troops in 1939 and until the end of the state of war in 1948 in a complete urban guide with impressive material graphic that collects the most varied aspects of the city, from its architecture to daily life or the savage repression of the regime. “It allows to locate in the city those spaces with fragments of recent history and to know a near past that you can almost touch today”, explains the sociologist Lucila Aragó, coordinator of the guide together with the popularizer José María Azkárraga and the anthropologist Juan Salazar . “It is very important to know how to identify some features of our recent history in order to know our present”, Aragó adds.
The Guide to the Valencia of the first Franco regime (1939-1948), forthcoming and with a foreword by historian Dolores Sánchez Durà, is a continuation of the urban guide of the Second Republic in Valencia and has followed the same design: chapters on each aspect of the city prepared by specialists in the field, including almost twenty authors, including architects, urban planners, anthropologists and historians, with abundant graphic material, largely unpublished, and direct testimonies rescued from memoirs, biographies or official reports.
After years of tracking in archives and newspaper archives, the careful publication brings to light a period that shaped the city and began almost four decades of dictatorship. “It is a way of reaching time through space, of understanding what happened from those physical traces that remain in the city,” says José María Azkárraga. In addition, with the “added value” of “bringing to light a whole series of images and documents, many of them forgotten or unpublished, or simply that the regime agreed to hide,” adds the coordinator of the publication, published by the University de València in tandem with the Polytechnic University.
Thus, the work begins with the occupation of the city by Franco’s troops and the implementation of the original repressive mechanisms of the regime, with images of the concentration camp in the Plaza de Toros, the public parades of the victors and the First Corporation of the Franco regime. Another chapter, by historian Mélanie Ibáñez, reviews the mechanisms of Franco’s repression during the postwar period and establishes a map of the first makeshift detention centers, as well as the overcrowded prisons where thousands of political prisoners passed.
The section on Falange, by historian Juan Carlos Colomer, analyzes the role of the yoke and arrows in those early years of the new state allied with German Nazism and Italian fascism. “I highlight the power of the Falange to which the regime delegates at that time to establish a new Francoist state,” explains Colomer, who emphasizes the role as a “new sphere of sociability” of the party founded by José Antonio Primo de Rivera. “Falange is in charge by neighborhoods in the different districts to organize the repression”, adds the historian. As in the rest of the chapters, the guide reviews the main places seized by Falange, such as the Valencia Mercantile Athenaeum in the Plaza del Caudillo, now the Plaza del Ayuntamiento.
The choral work has rescued images from the archive of the photojournalist Luis Vidal Corella, of which Azkárraga highlights those that portray the visits of Nazi leaders. “There is an effort for a long time to hide the real events that is manifested in the absence of documentation files, the Franco regime was evolving and that first stage linked to Nazism then does not interest that too much is known”, explains Lucila Aragó. In contrast to the previous guide to the Second Republic, which reflects the cultural splendor and effervescence of the city, “the ugliness of the Franco regime goes beyond the aesthetic and goes into repressive behavior, it paints a very gloomy and unpleasant panorama, rough and difficult for those people who were not the winners, “adds Aragó.
A “new visual memory”
In addition to the chapters dedicated to urban planning and architecture, by Tito Llopis and David Sánchez Muñoz, the publication also includes the new educational model established since 1939, with a section by the historian Carmen Agulló, one of the leading specialists in the matter. The epigraph on daily life, signed by the anthropologist Andrea Moreno, portrays the changes in customs and even in gestures. “It even changes the way of greeting, dressing, behaving and body language”, defends Moreno, who highlights that the administration “changes even the ink” used in bureaucratic paperwork.
“Not only are there changes in the ways of living together, also physically in the landscapes and mental maps of the citizens, symbolic elements of the Second Republic disappear and a new visual memory is generated in the symbols”, adds the anthropologist. Thus, indoctrination and “physical, moral, social and economic” repression within the framework of daily life reaches a “suffocating degree”. The chapter on culture, by the sociologist Gil-Manuel Hernández, reviews the new Franco calendar or the reorganization of the Fallas, the most distinguished festival in the city, irretrievably marked by the new stage of the regime.
The guide also includes the field of health, by Àlvar Martínez and Josep Garcia Ferrandis, and work, with a study by the historian Alberto Gómez Roda. Also Franco’s power, with a section signed by the historian Andreu Ginés and the economist and urban planner Josep Sorribes. The publication has a website associated with the page of the Delegation of Historical Memory of the Diputación de Valencia, which offers access to “widely dispersed sources of that time, from vertical union bulletins to Church documents in which the exaltation appears of the national Catholic values or the first newspapers published in Valencia after the occupation of the city “, explains José María Azkárraga.
“The idea has been to provide in each chapter a series of documents and testimonies of people who lived at that time,” says the coordinator of the guide. Each section is nourished by first-hand testimonies, some very unknown, which vividly illustrate postwar Valencia, from imprisoned political prisoners to Falangists or agents of the Social Political Brigade.
The publication also provides abundant cartography of the city. “After doing the republican guide, in which, above all, importance is given to space, we plan to do the following about a period that has had more impact on today’s city. There are already many works by historians on the period but we believe that that more spatial approach of seeing how fascism occupies the territory and that new regime takes over the city was lacking, “says Azkárraga.
The chilling portrait of the city helps to understand the traces in the city of the first years of the dictatorship. “The Franco regime impregnated everything”, concludes the coordinator of the guide.