All the Dead

La Voz de Galicia – November 1, 2019 →

Cristina PatoAt my house, we always look for our own ways to remember them. Sometimes we recreate the deceased’s little routines: like how to enjoy a dinner of canned sardines and onions (my father’s favorite meal), and at other times we simply follow the traditions we never think of questioning, like taking flowers to the graveyard. We all have our dead, we all lose loved ones at some moment of our lives. And the fact that nowadays there are special bus routes to get to our cemeteries says much about our cultural identity. It seems that with our without religion, finding ways to bring our dead back to life in our memory makes us feel as if we were closer to them.

But what happens when as a collective we bring back to life the dead we don’t want to remember and, in a systematic way, we forget those who could not be remembered? History is full of the dead we don’t wish to remember. Perhaps our collective memory is directly related to the dead someone labeled as relevant, capable of synthesizing the events of a moment in time. These are the dead in books who tell only a version of history…

This week, when I tried to explain the issue of the “Valle de los caídos,” or The Valley of the Fallen to one of my New York colleagues, I began to imagine what would happen if we moved, with all that pomp and circumstance, all those anonymous dead from history in 1936. If we were to invest that kind of time and energy to find all those roadside ditches where history tried to be erased. In this way, we would honor the memory of those invisible people who wanter among us to remind us that there still are many wounds to heal, many dead to remember, and many graves to mend.

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