Declarations of Victor and Vanquished
We had walked into the American equivalent of a Confederate bar south of the Dixie Line. As we try to leave, the bar owner Javi rushes over to us. Frantically, he pastes pro-fascist stickers onto lighters for us to take with us to our final destination of Castuera. The smokers on the team (of which there are many) end up using the “I’m a Nationalist” lighters for the rest of the archaeological campaign in Castuera. They become an ironic conversation starter as people learn that we’re there to exhume the clandestine mass graves of anti-francoist civilians in the cemetery and in the former concentration camp.
It was 2012 and the Spanish Civil War between pro-fascist Nationalists and Republicans was long over. But like the war between the Confederates and the Union, the conflict endures in other forms. And in Spain, unlike in Germany and Italy, the Nationalists overcame the democratically-elected Republic and fascism prevailed until 1975. It is with little wonder then that at Javi’s Bar, between greasy photos of fried eggs and french fries, hangs a large framed portrait of the former dictator, Francisco Franco.
Once we reach Castuera, Maria Luisa, the vice president of the local historical memory association, meets us at the community pool to welcome us. It’s easy to identify her: she has a miniature keychain replica of the 1931 Spanish Republic flag and a sticker on the back of her car with the red-yellow-and-purple colors of the Republic. A dreamcatcher dangles from her rearview mirror. The conflict between victor and vanquished, it was obvious to us at Javi’s Bar and in Castuera, lives on in Spain…
More to come of my manuscript, “Archaeology as Witness: Traumatic Pasts and Humanitarian Futures.”