The Pact of Silence

Alba Diaz

2019 - Ongoing

Andalusia, Spain; Jerez de la Frontera, Andalusia, Spain; Cadiz, Andalusia, Spain; Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain; London, England, United Kingdom

During the Spanish Civil War (1936 - 1939) and the subsequent dictatorship, hundreds of thousands of people were persecuted, executed and buried in ditches around Spain, leaving them in abandonment — as was the case of my great-grandfather Jose Montes de Oca. This situation was prolonged until the death of the dictator Francisco Franco (1975).

After these events, when moving forward to the country's modernisation and democracy, the Spanish society was divided. In order to recover the national reconciliation, the political parties agreed to create the Amnesty Law (1977), known as Pact of forgetting. It establishes oblivion and silence to past offences and its victims. 
This lead to infrastructure constructions — which on this day are ordinary spaces of our day to day lives. These mundane locations above the desolated bodies, perpetuate them to silence and forgetfulness while hiding the most tragic crimes of Spain.

In actuality the law is still in force, and there is a collective knowledge of the existence of those ditches that abandon repressed people, but they are perceived as myths — owed to inherit familiar tales that have been told from generation to generation. Still, the political amnesia together with the repression, let several generations with no option but to forget. 

‘The Pact of Silence’ looks with a different perspective, into the conjunction of repression and memory as a significant role in Spanish history and today’s society. Furthermore, it explores the possible locations where my great-grandfather could be. A reality that exemplifies the importance to repair the historical narrative into an adequate direction, for the conciliation of the Spanish memory.

If I am selected for the 2019 Women Photographers Grant, I will deepen this project in a more intimate way. I am willing to keep exploring my country's and family's history, in a very different way to the one that has been done from decades. I want to keep producing work that after providing answers, it arises more questions.

Through the development of ‘The Pact of Silence’, I have also been investigating the disappearance and execution of my great-grandfather Jose. The next chapter of this project, might be titled ‘1936 | 2020’ — the year he was executed and the year I aim to find what happened, and hopefully, where he is. 
The way I aim to approach this second project is by creating a visual narrative of my findings on him. Here my great-grandfather will be the narrator. I will visit and portray the locations that I have found in relation to his story. It will be a creative non fiction in which Jose’s testimony will guide us through these spaces, telling us what has happened and thus, leading us to know his story. ‘1936 | 2020’ is a story of two journeys. The first one is the journey I will go through by undertaking all the findings — I will capture self-portraits to create a visual diary. The second journey, is the one that the audience will go through, by following my great-grandfather’s narrative. This will lead to a stage where his journey in 1936, and mine in 2020, collide to discover his truth.

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