All you want, after forty years of repression and frustration,
is not years of pleasure and elation, but the simple
horizontal rest in a luxuriant field of marjoram …
It wasn't this, my friends, it wasn't this that so many flowers
died for, that we wept for with such yearning.
Spaniards have now lived in democracy as long as they did under Franco's dictatorship. Forty years have elapsed since the first post-Franco elections. That amounts to two and a half generations by traditional assessments of the time of public influence of an age group. And the fact is that recent generations of Spaniards know about the Civil War roughly as much as their parents knew about the Republic: very little, if anything. And the little they know, they know it filtered through a precarious, uncertain memory. Memory deficiency, in this collective sense, means above all insufficient information, but the problem cannot be ascribed merely to a low flow of information but rather to lack of criteria in sifting and putting the pieces together. The filters were already in place and the censorship was much stronger when the transition was taking place. For the most part, those who tried to explain the transition against the grain of official discourses interpreted the events with the help of theories that were standard in left-wing political analyses at the time. Theories that seduced more than they explained; legitimated more than they clarified.
The transition, like the Civil War or Francoism, was not the solution of the previous conflicts but the synthesis of the historical dialectic, which became the new thesis, to put it in the Hegelian terms then in fashion. Expressed without the sepia color: contemporary analyses of the transition could not really be historicizing exercises, since they were steeped in the conflict they claimed to explicate. One of the best books on the subject, Jaume Lorés's La Transició a Catalunya (1985), suffered from the overvaluation of Marxism common at that time, while severely underestimating the importance of national identity that was to become hegemonic in Catalan politics over the following decades. Only four years after the publication of this book, Marxism was thrown on history's heap of discarded ideas.
The most useful memorial for past injustice is keeping the debate about it alive, rather than freezing it in a monument.
At some point in the recent past, the term “historical memory” was pried loose from its originating theory and set adrift on the sea of prevalent discourses. There it floats, tugging previously unrelated issues in its tow. Since nothing happens without a reason, a measure of historical necessity must account for the broad diffusion of the concept. In Spain, the emergence of a public debate about the historical memory toward the turn of the twenty-first century was a belated adaptation of debates already prevalent elsewhere. To be sure, Spain had a fertile past to cultivate, and soon after the end of the dictatorship the theme of remembrance emerged as a natural continuation of the critique of the regime, which had seeped into the arts and the popular culture for over a decade. As a consequence of the duration and pervasiveness of the dictatorship, in Spain the historical memory has centered almost exclusively on the Civil War and the Franco era. Only recently, the extension of historical memory to earlier periods (for instance, the eighteenth-century War of Succession to the Hispanic Monarchy) has produced comparable levels of acrimony.
Spanish history has altered or suppressed enough aspects of the past to fuel intense debates. It is not scarcity of materials but rather the lack of ethical initiative that explains the country's intellectual lag. This can be seen in the mechanical extrapolation of concepts developed in other contexts. Proof of this dependence can be seen in the often implicit, and occasionally explicit, placing of Spanish experience under the interpretive auspices of extraneous models once they are globally established. For instance, the term “Spanish Holocaust” brazenly profits from the academic prestige of the most influential studies of memory. It is hard to avoid the impression that, in Spanish discourses on memory, the rhetorical cart often precedes the historical horse—that the universal expansion of the memory discourse after the 1960s, rather than a social demand for “recovering the past,” was responsible for the rise of the memory debates in Spain.
The Galician audio/visual fields have been key areas of cultural deperipheralization and means of reimagining Galicianess on the global map in recent years. From a historical point of view, the contemporary developments in audio/visual production in Galicia need to be understood within the general context of two fundamental phenomena that have reshaped the traditional concepts of nation and culture in the last few decades: one at the level of the reconfiguration of the nation state—the consequences of the ongoing process of political devolution and autonomous decentralization initiated since the 1978 Spanish constitution; and the other at the transnational level—the effects of political, economic, technological, and cultural globalization in local environments. Together they have redrawn a new cultural map that we could call postnational. Against this complex and evolving backdrop, we can distinguish several stages in the development of modern Galician audio/visual culture.
The 1980s are a foundational period for Galician audio/visual production, part of a larger project of nation (re)building which occurred in the context of the general “reconversion” crisis, primarily an economic and industrial process, but profoundly intertwined with the political and sociocultural transition of the late 1970s and early 1980s. These changes should be seen in relation to the beginning of the deperipheralization of Galician culture in broader terms (and particularly in the areas of music, media, literature, fashion, and the visual arts) and its opening to the world at large. Some major collective undertakings represented the concerted launch of a new and modern culture in dialogue with national and international trends, including new cultural “brands” such as the Movida galega, Cinegalicia, Galician Celtic music, and the Atlántica visual arts movement, which acquired momentum and wide projection throughout the 1980s with diverse degrees of institutional support. These projects are characterized by a very high degree of intermediality, which could be synthesized in the pioneering avant-garde multidisciplinary work of Rompente, and cut across the conventional categories of high and low, local and global, tradition and modernity, and the areas of music, literature, and image. The work of Siniestro Total and Os Resentidos, which represent two opposing poles of the Galician Movida rock of the 1980s, are deeply intertwined.
Anda vaite polo mundo
Non esquezas de onde vés
O que esqueza a súa historia
Pouco poderá aprender.
Anda vaite polo mundo
E aproveita a viaxe
Deixa que o mundo te vista
Coa roupa da mestizaxe.
‘Go travel around the world
Don't forget where you come from
Those who forget their history
Will not be able to learn much.
Go travel around the world
And take advantage of the journey
Let the world dress you
With the clothes of metissage.’
“Vaite polo mundo,” Traditional song/Leilía
This chapter examines the contemporary redefinition of Galician folk music that has occurred since the transition to democracy and the establishment of Galician autonomy, and the role contemporary Galician folk music has played in the construction of a modern Galician cultural identity in the global age. Since the mid-1970s the recovery of Galician musical and cultural heritage has gone hand-in-hand, somewhat paradoxically, with innovation, transformation, and hybridization. In parallel, contemporary Galician folk music has become one of the key cultural expressions of a modern Galician identity that is to a large extent based in the distinctness and richness of its traditional music, even if this genre has undergone a complex process of hybridization entailing the merging of old and new forms, rural and urban manifestations, and local and global trends.
This redefinition of Galician folk music has developed in parallel to the major political and social changes occurring in Galicia during this period, and the significant cultural developments in literature, audio-visual arts, rock music, and fashion, which have all played a key role in the process of collective self-discovery and self-construction. Two major historical events have governed these developments: the process of cultural “normalization” as a result of the establishment of Galician political autonomy; and the globalization of the cultural industries with Galicia's response to the new cultural climate and the economic currents of our global age. The result of these processes has allowed the redefinition of Galician folk music as an organic entity that maintains strong and direct links with its own past, but is clearly heading towards new horizons.
n. [countable], pl. -er•ies.
1. The outside boundary or perimeter of a surface or area. The outer
limits (of an aspect of social, cultural, or intellectual life).
WordReference Random House Learner's Dictionary of American English
Creo que la periferia ya no existe como la entendíamos,
porque tampoco hay un centro claro.
‘I think the periphery is no longer as we once understood
it, because there is no clear center.’
Elena Oroz, “Las afinidades electivas”
If we look at the cartographic map of Western Europe, there are very few places that could be considered more geographically peripheral than Galicia. It has been historically considered the continental land's end, the finis terrae, a designation shared with Brittany—also on the outer limits of the continent and the Roman Empire—with which Galicia has many cultural and historical connections. Galicia's position in the geographical periphery has also often meant being away from the centers of political and economic power, and therefore situated in a marginal and inferior position. In some significant ways, its present political, economic, and cultural situation within the Spanish nation state is that of a double periphery, frequently invisible and inaudible from the center. But, over its history, the area that we now know as Galicia has gone through many changes in its geopolitical boundaries and cultural position in regard to the center, from the total autonomy of the Suevian kingdom to the medieval splendor to the progressive marginalization by the Castilian hegemony in the modern era with the formation of the Spanish nation state, and its massive expansion overseas through the Galician diaspora. Galicia's geographical peripherality did not preclude Santiago de Compostela from becoming a center of Christendom for centuries, a crossroads of multiple routes leading to Santiago, which has re-emerged as a global cultural phenomenon in recent years and generated numerous audio/visual productions. Galicia's outward Atlantic position has historically enabled its people to travel far and wide, to build the largest fishing fleet in Europe, and to establish connections around the world, mixing with other cultures and creating a rich cultural tapestry beyond the confines of the Galician land.
In the year 1940 even the trees seemed mussed up.
The worldwide surge of an ethics of memory in the last quarter of the twentieth century was kindled by that century's crimes against sizable human groups. Raphael Lemkin named this sort of crime “genocide” in his 1944 treatise Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. Shortly after, on 11 December 1946, the General Assembly of the United Nations condemned genocide in its resolution 96. Although the Spanish Civil War has often been considered the preamble to the Second World War, Spain has escaped the moral blemish associated with ethnic persecution in a way that other European countries have not. On the contrary, Franco profited from the legend of his protection of Jews (Avni 179–99; Rother) to ease his acceptance by the Western powers. Certainly, the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War pale next to the magnitude of the destruction in the Second World War and the enormity of the violence against Jews and other groups. There was a difference of scale, but also something else. For the first time in modern European history, a state organized the physical annihilation of an ethnic group. In Spain no such outright extermination took place, and despite the commission of human rights abuses, by 1946, Franco had begun to de-Nazify his regime and initiated a rapprochement to the West, resuming full diplomatic relations with the United States in 1951 and gaining admission to the United Nations in December 1955.
With Spain's membership in the European Union and in NATO in the 1980s, the Civil War seemed remote and the dictatorship anecdotal to the point that some historians disputed its fascist nature. In part, this milder view of the Franco dictatorship is the result of his timely maneuver to disengage from the Axis before the end of the Second World War while shedding the fascist rhetoric and ceremonial; but it is also influenced by the general assimilation of the regime's self-representation as a stern but on the whole lawful and orderly government. Dressing up its crimes in the semblance of legality was the regime's principal strategy to falsify the historical truth.
Truth has not single victories; all things are its organs, not only dust and stones, but errors and lies.
The greatest paradox in the popular debate about the historical memory could well be the concern with its frailty, the almost conspiratorial alarm at its suppression, and widespread demand for its protection by means of specific legislation, foundations, archives, monuments, museums, ceremonies, and other public initiatives intended to anchor the past in society's awareness. In the face of massive preoccupation with the dominant tendency to forget—a byproduct of society's evolution—and, in the case of Spain, with an alleged machination to accelerate this tendency with regard to the Civil War and the ensuing military regime, it is important to look at the facts. And the facts show that, on the intellectual plane in general and that of history in particular, there was no forgetting during the years following the Franco dictatorship. There was selection of the narratives, strategic emphasis on certain elements at the expense of others, depending on who told the story, whose viewpoint became the cornerstone for the edifice of the past in historical recollection, whose interest and for what goals dictated the syntax of the narrative, determined its agents, interpreted their motivations. To admit memory's subjective organization (how could memory, an affair of consciousness, not be subjective?) is not to declare it threatened or abolished. It is merely to place it where it belongs: in the relative space and temporality of reflective consciousness, from where positivist historians of the nineteenth century and their belated epigones, who claim to represent a “scientific” history based on the aseptic handling of the facts, had taken it. Claiming collegiate ownership of memory, and unaware of the historical origins of their own disciplinary language game, such historians mistake archival documents for facts.
Although it is often said that the victors write history, denouncing its distortion is not the exclusive task of the vanquished. Francoists were not the only ones who covered up their crimes and obscured their atrocities. Often, when someone calls on society to remember, it is not to center the scale but to legitimate a partial version of the past as if it were the complete account. Long after its official conclusion, the Civil War continued to be fought on the ideological front.
People often quote the sixth of Benjamin's Theses on the Philosophy of History, the one that warns that “even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins,” without fathoming its actuality. The “if” in this sentence is rhetorical, for Benjamin famously added: “And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious” (255). And, although we love that phrase, we rarely remember the one immediately preceding it. The one that calls for something like a permanent epistemic revolution: “In every epoch, the attempt must be made to deliver tradition anew from the conformism which is on the point of overwhelming it.” The dead, by which Benjamin clearly does not mean those honored by the victor but those sacrificed for the sake of the tradition, will certainly not be safe if our revolt is merely an excuse to leave things as they are, or, worse yet, to deflect toward conservative goals the sympathetic insight that alone can redeem the past.
Modern Spanish identity has always been a postcolonial identity. The reason for this is that Spain constituted itself as a nation after being severed from its sprawling body across the seas. Decapitated, the crowned head of the empire, the capital addicted to command and an extractive economy, reconstituted itself as the head of a nation state. Not without difficulty or violence. The twin processes of decolonization and nationalization were visualized for the first time in the emergency constitutional assemblies of 1812, the so-called Cortes de Cádiz, which declared the inhabitants of Spain's American possessions free co-nationals of the Europeans, while according them unequal representation (Fradera 66–8). The full-fledged ideological outgrowth of that foundational moment for the nation was the literature of the Generation of '98 and the so-called “problem of Spain” around which it coalesced. Concomitant with this problem was the formulation of the ethnicist doctrine of Hispanidad (meaning, roughly, the Hispanic world, or the Hispanic condition), based on the spiritual superiority and defining character of the Castilian language. In Spain, this language was proclaimed the state language in 1902, shortly after the loss of the colonies, and renamed Spanish in 1923, when the Royal Spanish Academy joined conceptually what had already been legislatively attached, namely state and language. This is how cultural hegemony substituted for political hegemony when the latter was no longer feasible.
This book has been a long time in the making. Since the publication of Disremembering the Dictatorship in 2000, I have worked intermittently on the question of social memory in the Iberian Peninsula. I have done so from the dual subject position of someone who remembers daily life under Francoism in the ordinary, non-metaphorical sense of the term, and of the historian of culture who reconstructs the experience of others, of a generality of others, through acts of secondary witnessing. This combination of points of view is nothing extraordinary; I share it with hundreds, possibly thousands of others. But being aware of the duality helps me (and hopefully my readers as well) to situate my perspective and justify to myself the stresses and omissions, perhaps even to understand my transferential relation to that slice of the past that I study in not always explicit forms of remembrance.
Memory is a synonym for culture and also for life. I do not mean having good or bad memory, which is a matter of neurological endowment, but having long or short memory, which is a matter of experience. Older people live ever more in their long memories, which accounts for the poverty of their short ones. And so it is with societies. Young, barbarian ones remember little but vividly; they are prey to simple, intense representations and prone to mythography. Older, declining societies have civilized their past; they are the peoples with history. The past never goes away, never truly passes. Ernst Nolte's famous dictum about a past that does not want to pass is a truism not just for the Nazi era. At best, the past can be laid to rest, like a corpse, or an exhausted body. Forgotten does not mean “gone.” It merely means “out of mind.” This book is about a large and decisive part of the twentieth century in the history of Spain, a history that, for those of us born and raised under the dictatorship, began with the Civil War. In our childhood, everything referred back to it, the war was the big bang of our universe. Its genesis was presided by a powerful and remote figure with a mezzo-soprano voice who one fine summer day in A.D. 1936 had criedinto the warm, well-lighted republican abyss the command “let there be darkness.” For dark, or at least depressingly gray, was the Spain of Franco.
All at once, Martí Carulla left the group behind and found
enough courage in himself to start running. He stopped, raised
his arms emphatically and after looking intently at the sky,
kneeled down and placed his lips on the boundary stone.
“I am already in France!” he shouted naively as he overstepped the limit.
“You can't see anything but everything's there,” he said affected, “Martí, since
you're already in France, can you tell me when are we going to return?”
“Don't think about returning; it's a loser's idea.”
“Are we anything else?”
No one replied. We crossed the border, drenched in moonlight, silent.
Xavier Benguerel's novel, Els vençuts (“The Vanquished”) (1969), begins with the evacuation of Barcelona in the last days of January 1939 and ends when Joan Pineda, the novel's fictional author, leaves the camp of Sant Cebrià (Saint Cyprien) in Roussillon. In the foreword to this work Benguerel comments on the paradox besetting the writer who hovers between objectivity and verisimilitude. Later, he would write in his memoirs: “In 1955, when I published Els fugitius, what was rigorously historical was objected to on grounds that it was ‘exceedingly literary.’ The way I have recently ‘imagined’ it in Els vençuts has been deemed absolutely verisimilar and logical” (Memòries 1905–1940, 301). The inversion of the reception between historical and fictional discourses calls for analysis of the status of historical truth in collective memory and of the role of testimonial fiction in revising epistemological routines in the present. In the case of Benguerel, the difference between the two texts mentioned is not in their adscription to this or that discursive modality (literary versus historical narrative) but in the method of composition and, above all, in the history of its reception. Benguerel wrote Els fugitius upon returning from exile in 1955, a time when the story of the losers in the Civil War could not gain a foothold in public life, and the experience of exile was lost on the generations that had grown up or lived in Spain after 1939 (Els vençuts 15).
Germany is not the single European country that has an unresolved
problem with its collective memory … Spain also has one, since
an overwhelming majority rightly decided in favor of a collective,
desired amnesia in order to achieve the wonder of a peaceful
transition to democracy. But some day it will also
have to pay the price for this process.
Jorge Semprún, Dank. Address on the Awarding of the Freedom
Societies do not remember; people do. There is no such thing as group memory prior to or above the individual's precarious retention of the past. This is the reason why cultural memory is transmitted from mind to mind. Social memory is nothing but this exchange. Certainly, material culture contains clues to the past, as do documents of foregone eras; but artifacts no more remember than they speak. Even recorded voice, disembodied and detached from its origin, does not speak; it merely produces sound. Without consciousness there is no language. This trivial though frequently forgotten observation accounts for the seeming paradox that modern society forgets in direct proportion to its accumulation of objects from previous ages. Alienating the past in artistic and technical re-enactments, commodifying the experience of time, staging “history,” or museumizing its otherness is the clearest sign of a society's estrangement from its memory. It shows that society not only has forgotten the past but the present also.
Thus, when we speak of collective memory, we refer to the intersubjective constitution of our experience. Personal memory taps into a social fund of memories and modulates itself through them. But even as it does so, it remains anchored in consciousness. Outside of consciousness time does not exist, and memory cannot arise. The collective or “public” dimension means that social memory is not concerned with isolated anecdotes of private life but with events and experiences affecting everyone. As a common denominator of the myriad instances of remembered past, the collective memory cannot but be a convention.
To be compelling, memoirs must be located at the intersection of the personal and the collective. Jorge Semprún's books are for the most part autobiographical recollections whose interest arises from a self-conscious osmosis between the private and the public.
Nuestro cine es bastardo, exiliado, emigrado, fronterizo.
Ser artista ya implica ser extranjero, inadaptado.
‘Our cinema is a bastard, exiled, migrant, border cinema. To
be an artist already implies being a foreigner, a misfit.’
Oliver Laxe, “Cine gallego: viento del norte, a favor” (quoted in Calzada)
La memoria, aquello que somos, se construye con una mezcla
de la realidad y la construcción mítica de esa realidad. […]
La realidad se construye, ante todo, imaginándola.
‘Memory, what we are, is constructed with a mixture of reality
and the mythical construction of that reality. […]
Reality is constructed, above all, by imagining it.’
Eloy Enciso, “Efectos Especiales” (quoted in Koza)
En la periferia nacen las olas
‘Waves are born on the periphery’
José Luis Castro de Paz, En la periferia nacen las olas.
Nouvelle Vague y documental
Rethinking Peripheral Cinemas from the Margins
In recent years there has been an emergence of the notion of the peripheryl peripheral as a conceptual framework for the study of contemporary cinema. In the Iberian context, Josetxo Cerdán was one of the first critics to approach the production of experimental documentary non-fiction cinema in Spain though the conceptual lens of the peripheral, which he defines as avant-garde cinema on the margins of the mainstream audiovisual industry. His attention, however, has been mostly on Catalan experimental filmmakers and his essay, published in 2005, does not include any references to Galician documentary films. In the global sphere, Iordanova, Martin-Jones, and Vidal have edited the volume Cinema at the Periphery (2010), which offers a more theoretically informed peripheral view of world cinemas from a postcolonial perspective, focusing on cinemas “located in positions marginal to the economic, institutional, and ideological centers of image making” (5). Recognizing also the geopolitical location, the volume aims to “explore the connotations of the peripheral as a mode of practice, as a textual strategy, as a production infrastructure, and as a narrative encoded on the margins of the dominant modes of production, distribution, and consumption” (9). They thus propose a new model of polycentric vision, “by making the periphery the center of our study” (6, original emphasis).
Hit and Myth in the Deep North. Forward-looking Rural
Area Transforming into TV and Film Heavyweight.
Fragmentation, Invisibility, and Political Devolution
In several vital respects, cinema has since its inception been marked by absence and loss and by a persistent tension between fragmentation and suture, visibility and invisibility, repression and representation. This tension is perhaps all the more acute in relatively peripheral and invisible cinemas, such as that of Spain, and even more so in the various cinemas that operate on the fringes of the nation state's official apparatus, such as that of Galicia.
On a general technical level, cinema provides a fragmented virtual take on reality, as a result of both the mechanical reproduction apparatus that magically tricks the human eye (the 24 frames per second produce a sutured ghostly illusion of an absent reality) and the particular narrative grammar of cinema based on continuity editing, which sutures a fragmented mosaic of images: the composition frame, the shot, the sequence. On a historical plane, cinema is also indelibly marked by fragmentation, because of the extreme fragility of the medium and the ephemeral nature of cinema, particularly in its first decades, complicated by belated or insufficient efforts at preservation. Any history of cinema will always be marked by a high degree of loss and fragmented remnants, a loss that means that cinema scholars and institutions aiming to reconstruct a meaningful whole must recognize such an aim as by definition an impossible enterprise. A history of cinema will always be an archaeological attempt at suturing the fissures and reconstructing the missing pieces of its own narrative. This situation becomes acute in cinemas that, in order to exist at all, have had to contend with major political, structural, and financial obstacles, as is the case in Galicia.
On a more culturally specific level, the historical mapping of cinema in Spain reveals a complex, fragmented picture composed of several singular cinemas, marked by particular political and economic developments as well as by cultural and linguistic diversity. As a mass cultural form cinema has been used as a major vehicle for Spanish nationalism at least since the Second Republic of 1931–36.
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