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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Salamanca Papers

Peter Anderson from the University of Leeds has a fascinating new piece in the Bulletin of Spanish Studies called "The 'Salamanca Papers': Plunder, Collaboration, Surveillance and Restitution" (the abstract his here, I am unfortunately not permitted to post the full-text version).

The first paragraph of the article succinctly captures the essence of the debate over the Salamanca Papers and graphically illustrates more generally the passion that the fate of seized documents can inspire:
On 11 June 2005, up to 100,000 protestors took to the streets of Salamanca. With the backing of prominent members of the conservative Partido Popular (PP), the crowd massed to vent its fury against a plan to return hundreds of boxes brimming with ageing papers confiscated shortly after Francoists marched into Catalonia during the closing months of the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939. The documents belonged to political parties and private individuals who had resisted the Francoists in the course of the conflict. Once they had amassed their documentary spoils, the Francoists ferried the papers to Salamanca where security officials perused them in a concerted bid to identify political opponents. This police treasure trove later came to form the backbone of one of Spain's premier Civil War archives, today known as the Centro Documental de la Memoria Historica. Under the central government-brokered plan that sparked the protests, the papers would be transferred from the archive in Salamanca to the National Archives of Catalonia. The plan drove a wedge between those like the protestors who recognized no reason for restitution and argued that the documents had come to form part of the heritage of both the city and the central Spanish state, and their opponents who believed in restitution to the legal heirs of the papers. The passions the plan inflamed on the Spanish right comes across in the baying from some of the more intemperate members of the crowd who bellowed that they wanted one of the leading advocates of the return of the documents to Catalonia, the Catalonian left wing nationalist politician Josep Carod-Rovira, to be sent to the firing squad.
For additional background on the fascinating history of the Salamanca Papers (written unambiguously from the perspective of those who were advocating for their transfer to Catalonia) see "The Archives Franco Stole from Catalonia" from 2004, available here. More recently, a Catalan news report from February 2012 described the scene of the ceremonial return of some of the personal documents among the seized records:
Cultural associations, political parties, trade unions and private citizens have ‘only’ had to wait 73 years to receive the first documents stolen by Franco’s fascist regime in 1939. On Monday, three elderly ladies sat in a room packed with members of the press and politicians, and other victims of Franco’s dictatorship. They had a combination of joy, pride, and peace on their faces. Helena Cambó -daughter of the businessman and former Spanish Minister Francesc Cambó-, Teresa Rovira –granddaughter of the journalist and former President of the Catalan Parliament Antoni Rovira i Virgili–, and Mercè Romeva –daughter of the Christian-Democrat MP Pau Romeva– were waiting to receive a box with personal letters and documents from their relatives.

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