Repository: Archivo de la Administración General, Madrid, Spain
Fond or Collection
Estudio Fotográfico "Alfonso"
Repository and Location
Archivo de la Administración General, Madrid, Spain
Date Created: 1937
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: Madrid, Spain
The 2007 Law of Historical Memory, passed by the government of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, included provision for the removal from public buildings and spaces of objects and symbols which celebrated the 1936 coup and the Francoist repression. Street names commemorating the coup, its instigators and Regime heroes were among the many targets of this legislation. Nevertheless, changing street names is nothing new in modern Spanish history, and has been wrapped up with the inscription of political and social identities since at least the time of the Second Republic.
Madrid’s Gran Vía is an excellent example. Just before the outbreak of the Civil War, it had been named the C.N.T. Avenue after the Spanish anarchist union. At the start of the war, it was known as Russia Avenue and then Soviet Union Avenue, as in this photograph here, underlining Soviet support for the Republican cause, though it was also popularly known by the moniker Shell Avenue because of constant rebel bombardment of the area during the siege of Madrid. Under the Francoist dictatorship, the street was called José Antonio Avenue, with the original name Gran Vía, which is still used today, being reinstated by the Socialist Mayor Tierno Galván in 1981. Likewise, Barcelona’s Diagonal has had a series of politically oriented titles, including 14th April and Generalísmo Franco, though it has also returned to its 19th-Century name. Across Spain, streets and squares have similarly changed names since the time of the Civil War, depending upon local political and civic initiatives.
Such recent initiatives to change street names have not been without controversy, revealing the extent to which the cultural construction of place is profoundly entangled with issues of memory. Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, Madrid’s right-wing mayor between 2011 and 2014, largely ignored the implications of the 2007 Law, but Manuela Carmena, of the left-wing Ahora Madrid party who was in office between 2015 and 2019, vowed to comply with it, creating a committee of people with a range of ideological positions. The measure was controversial and created some confusion. In 2017, some names were changed online but not in reality. Hence, Victory Avenue in Madrid, which led to Victory Arch and the University City, was renamed Memory Avenue in digital maps but not on the urban fabric. More recently, the far-right Vox party has demanded the removal of left-wing names, such as Commandant Ernesto Che Guevara Street and Che Guevara Park in the city of Zaragoza where Vox holds influence in local government. The vagaries of Spanish street names thus depend not only on major historical events and national political shifts, but local pressures and from the left and the right.