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HISTORICAL MEMORY

Barcelona bans Montjuïc Castle Mass held for executed Franco supporters

City offers different date and venue for tribute held almost uninterruptedly since 1940

A Mass held in Montjuïc Castle’s Santa Elena Moat shortly after the Civil War.
A Mass held in Montjuïc Castle’s Santa Elena Moat shortly after the Civil War. Arxiu Centre Excursionista de Catalunya

Barcelona’s new leftist administration has banned a traditional Mass held for decades at the city’s Montjuïc Castle in honor of over a hundred individuals who were executed there at the start of the 1936-39 Civil War for supporting the right-wing Nationalist cause.

City officials, headed by Mayor Ada Colau, claim that the event violates Spain’s historical memory law because the Mass conceals “an act of exaltation” of the military uprising that led to a 36-year dictatorship under Francisco Franco.

The city’s ruling Barcelona en Comú coalition ran on a campaign that included a promise to uphold historical memory legislation

The Mass has been held in the castle’s Santa Elena Moat almost uninterruptedly since December 1, 1940, when a monument was inaugurated there in memory of “the heroes and martyrs of the Glorious National Movement.”

Deputy Mayor Jaume Asens pointed to the organizers’ choice of date for the Sunday Mass, July 19 – the Civil War began on July 17, 1936 – as further evidence that the event was really an undercover glorification of Franco’s coup.

Asens added that several Franco victims’ associations had complained about the Mass. He said that the city’s ban – or “non-authorization,” in his words – was aimed at “protecting the victims’ feelings.”

Instead, City Hall is offering the organizer of the event, the Amigos del Castillo (Friends of the Castle) association, the option of holding the Mass in a different municipal public space and at a different date.

The city’s ruling Barcelona en Comú coalition ran on a campaign that included a promise to uphold historical memory legislation and phase out Francoist demonstrations.

Once viewed by Nationalists as a shrine of sorts, the Santa Elena Moat, which reopened to the public a year ago, has seen all the Francoist imagery that once adorned it gradually eliminated.

The city’s historical memory chief, Xavier Doménech, admitted that everyone had the right to their own memory, and that coexistence issues need to be improved at Montjuïc, where people from both sides of the conflict were imprisoned and executed at various moments. But he stressed that ethical considerations and democratic memory should prevail.

English version by Susana Urra.