Commemorative Monument of the Battle of the Ebro in Tortosa, Spain

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The memorial over the Ebro River.

In 1960, Francisco Franco established this memorial to the victims of his victorious nationalist forces, who had bombed the Catalan city of Tortosa in 1938.

The memorial was re-imagined in 2016 to commemorate the fallen on both sides, despite being viewed for a long time as a symbol of oppression. It looks the same as ever.

One of our best accounts of the air raid comes from Ernest Hemingway’s famous article, “The Battle of Tortosa.” Franco, with the help of his German and Italian allies, had sought to destroy the three bridges running through the town over the Ebro River.

The memorial was built on the remains of the one bridge that was completely destroyed—a reminder to many Catalan people of not only the violence but also the still-stymied dream of Catalan national independence. Even so, the people of Tortosa voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to not scrap the memorial altogether but to make sure it told a more complete version of the history.

Though it’s a bit disquieting to see this triumphalist piece, commissioned by a dictator, still standing tall over the Ebro, perhaps it can now help bring closure to the contentious legacy of the Spanish Civil War, after the 1975 “Pact of Forgetting” between right-wing and left-wing parties put that processing on hold.