Letter from ALBA: Why care about the past?
Why should we care about the past?
This is one of the essential questions we ask when we work with students and teachers. We believe it is a question worth pondering, and worth answering thoughtfully.
It is also the question that has driven Spain’s Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory since its founding in 2000. Like ALBA, the Association believes it is not a theoretical or academic question. It is an ethical and political question. It is a question that invites activism.
What is historical memory and what does recovering it involve? No one has shown this better than Emilio Silva and the thousands of Spaniards who have devoted their time, energy, and spirit to that task. They have located and exhumed mass graves of civilian victims killed by General Franco’s fascist regime, set up DNA databases to identify victims’ remains, returned them to their families for proper burial, presented the victims’ case to the United Nations and to Spanish and international courts in the search for justice. They have written books, shot documentaries, mounted exhibits. They have organized protests and public events—all the while educating Spain and the rest of the world about the violations of human rights committed during and after the Spanish Civil War.
The recovery of historical memory as defined by Emilio Silva and his Association is about truth, and it is about justice. But not just in relation to the past. It’s a struggle for truth and justice in the present and the future.
The principles that drive the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory are remarkably similar to ALBA’s. We, too, engage with history not just for its own sake, but to intervene in the present. Using our unique archives as primary source material, we bring the past into classrooms around the country to encourage young people to address moral questions in their own lives today. We believe that issues like intervention in foreign wars, civilian casualties, or treatment of refugees and veterans should be at the forefront of public debate. Not just in Spain or the United States but around the world.
This belief distinguishes all our Human Rights Activist award winners over the past five years. It informs everything that ALBA does. And we have found that teachers and students take inspiration from our classroom materials, which allow them to grapple with essential questions in a tangible and meaningful way. We are proud of our accomplishments in education and human rights—and delighted to receive the endorsement of New York’s Chancellor of Education (see page 13).
But we know—and hope you do, too—that we can only do this good work with your help.
Thanks for your continued support.