All the mass graves in Gonzalez’s photos are unmarked except one—that seen in Valle de los Caídos I–III (Cuelgamuros), Madrid (2016). Carved into a mountainside and crowned by the world’s tallest stone cross, the Valley of the Fallen was built by the forced labor of political prisoners after the Spanish Civil War. It contains the anonymous remains of more than 33,000 people, many of whom were interred there without the knowledge or consent of their families. But there is someone buried at the monument who is not anonymous, and never has been. Behind the massive underground basilica’s main altar, under a simple granite tombstone, lie the remains of Francisco Franco.
Since taking office in June 2018, Spain’s socialist government has attempted to exhume the dictator’s body from his shrine, but their efforts have been blocked by the Catholic Church, the Spanish Supreme Court, and the dictator’s family, who inexplicably continue to hold great power in the country. Meanwhile, construction, flooding, and erosion continue to bring mass grave remains to the surface. This March in Madrid, heavy rains revealed the remains of some 3,000 people executed by Franco’s forces in Madrid’s largest cemetery. In Gonzalez’s book, the historian Verena Boos writes that “the legacies of dictatorships are contaminated landscapes,” and the nation is still trying to contain that contamination.
Eighty years have passed since the Spanish Civil War ended, and many of its witnesses are dying out. Boos warns that a “final silence looms just around the corner,” as Spain’s right-wing parties continue to deny
efforts to recuperate historical memory. But in January of this year, the new government pledged an unprecedented €15 million to fund efforts to address the country’s historical memory, including the excavation of the country’s mass graves. And so “Memoria Perdida” is even more relevant today than when Gonzalez began his project four years ago.