Madrid officials are planning on changing the names of 30 city streets before next summer.
A proposal put forward in the City Council by the Socialist Party (PSOE) to eliminate enduring references to the Franco regime was backed by Ahora Madrid, the leftist alliance in power, and by emerging party Ciudadanos. The conservative Popular Party (PP) voted against the motion.
“When the PSOE proposed creating a committee to oversee observance of the Historical Memory Law [passed in 2007 by the central government, then in Socialist hands], we thought it would be a unique chance to draft a comprehensive plan that goes well beyond the strict letter of the law,” said Madrid culture councilor Celia Mayer, of Ahora Madrid.
Women are absolutely invisible on the street map”
Celia Mayer, Madrid culture chief
The ultimate goal, she said, is “to collectively build Madrid’s image and memory.”
The city will enlist the help of expert groups such as the Complutense University’s Historical Memory chair, as well relying on as several historical memory laws.
One of the more practical initiatives in the pipeline is “a list of streets that need to be eliminated.”
The streets that stand to have their name changed are those that pay tribute to “the instigators of the coup [which led to the Civil War] or executors of crimes against humanity.”
Still to be determined are the deadlines for the project, and the criteria for selecting the new street names. The city will also have to inform citizens of the cost entailed by the initiative.
In the meantime, the new leftist team in power has already started taking down other elements such as plaques and coats-of-arms that pay tribute to the Civil War and the Franco era, as mandated by the Historical Memory Law.
The previous PP administration in Madrid, which had been in power since 1991, never acted to remove these remnants of the dictatorship.
According to Mayer, “neither presences nor absences in street maps are neutral, they are part of a partisan view of history, and what we aim to do is to bring back all the forgotten individuals who deserve recognition because of their career and biography, as well as the relevant events that led to social progress, and historically significant places.”
Mayer added that “some shortcomings are evident,” such as “women, who are absolutely invisible on the street map; trades and professions that added to the wealth of the city but are not even recognized; ordinary people who helped build this city, and above all collective and neighborhood struggles for public services that are not recognized, either.”
English version by Susana Urra.