Battle of Ebro monolith to get makeover in Tortosa

Franco-era monument to Battle of Rio Ebro in Tortosa, Catalonia. Photo: Jorge Alonso-Lej / Wikimedia Commons

• Local citizens vote to ‘recontextualise’, rather than remove monument
• Dictator’s ‘Mayor in Perpetuity’ honor revoked by vote of municipal council

A controversial 26-metre-high monolith erected during the dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco to commemorate the victory of Franco-led rebel forces over the Republican government in the bloody Battle of the Ebro during Spain’s 1936-39 Civil War will remain in place, but will undergo a “reinterpretation and contextualization” of the memorial following a referendum vote on the issue in the Catalan city of Tortosa on Saturday.

The continuing presence of the monolith in the middle of the Rio Ebro where it traverses Tortosa constituted a violation of Spain’s 2007 Historical Memory Law, which calls for the removal or reinterpretation of all monuments, streets and other symbols glorifying the Nationalist victory in the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War and subsequent 35-year Franco dictatorship. The monument was inaugurated by Franco in 1966 to commemorate the losses of his victorious troops in the bloody Battle of the Ebro, fought from July-November 1938 with the deaths of tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides.

In a referendum Saturday to decide the fate of the monolith, the 31.25 of Tortosans who voted to completely remove the monument but were outvoted by 68.36 percent who opted to leave the memorial in place, but “re-contextualise” it a way that honors the dead on both sides of the battle and is more in keeping with guidelines of the national Historic Memory Law. Two days prior to the referendum, the Tortosa municipal council also voted to remove a resolution that had remained on the city’s books bestowing the honor of Mayor in Perpetuity on former dictator Franco.

► Read More in Spanish at El Día and La Vanguardia …