Navarre and the State create a working group to convert the fort of Ezkaba into a place of memory

Navarre and the State have agreed to create a working group to declare the Fort of San Cristóbal, on Mount Ezkaba, a place of memory. The new forum will be made up of representatives from both administrations. On behalf of Madrid, the Secretary of State for Democratic Memory and the Ministry of Defense, while the Navarrese delegation will be led by Citizen Relations with the presence of other departments related to the project. Its main objective will be to specify the conditions under which the conversion of the Fort, currently owned by the Ministry of Defence, will be carried out and how the restoration and maintenance work will be financed.

The creation of the group was recently approved by the Minister of Citizen Relations, Ana Olloand the Secretary of State for Democratic Memory Fernando Martinezin a meeting in Madrid in which an agreement was also signed to develop the project in Navarre ‘concrete curbs‘. At the same time, the creation of another working group in Navarra composed of associations linked to historical memory and political groups is also planned. Its objective will be to determine how and with what content the project of the Fort of San Cristóbal is carried out. This is a process that is expected to be long and costly, so the regional government hopes to start working with the central executive soon.

The reconversion of the Fort into a memory space is expressly included in the new law of Democratic memory. In its provision 17, the regulation indicates that Navarre, the State and, where appropriate, the local entities concerned must declare the Fort of San Cristóbal as a place of memory, “establishing the financing and activities in accordance with recovery, safeguarding and dissemination of democratic memory” within the framework of regional regulations. Its incorporation into the legal text was one of the commitments made by the PSOE and Podemos with EH Bildu in exchange for their support of the law.

A historic claim

This is a historic claim in Navarre, both by the institutions and by the associations working in this area. The 2013 provincial law on historical memory already provided that the former Francoist prison, like the Sartaguda Park, should be a place of memory, although without further specification. Later, in 2017, a provisional census of public spaces was approved which should serve to remember the crimes of the dictatorship and its victims. From graves to places of detention or sculptures, which are then included in the law of places of historical memory of 2018. There are already twenty public spaces in Navarre with this objective.

Image of the interior of San Cristóbal Fort, on Mount Ezkaba. awarded

That of the Fort was however one of the most complex to achieve so far. Firstly because it belongs to the Ministry of Defence, but also because any project in this direction must take into account the project of Regional Park promoted in the region by the Commonwealth and some municipalities. Something that has historically generated gaps between administrations.

But mainly because of its high cost. Navarrese law requires the regional government to assume the costs of improving and preserving places considered memorials, and according to the calculations of the Navarrese executive, in the case of Fuerte, the budget necessary only for the adaptation of the ‘old prison could reach 35 millions. So far, less expensive projects have been chosen, such as the GR 225 which goes from Ezkaba to Sorogain along the route that only three of the 795 prisoners escaped in 1938 managed to travel successfully. Or the Bottle Cemetery, where 131 inmates who died in prison between 1942 and 1945 were buried.

A new opportunity

The law of democratic memory which has just entered into force now makes it possible to take up this historic claim. A commitment having the force of law which pushes the State to provide a solution both in terms of ownership and financing of the project. But this is not specified in the normative text and it must now be defined by the two governments.

It is therefore a question of seeing how the mandate of the law is exercised and of specifying who assumes the project and under what conditions. EH Bildu is also negotiating with the central government on his support for the 2023 budgets, and among his amendments he has proposed a four million post that could help move in this direction next year.

The objective of the Government of Navara is to begin work as soon as possible and to begin to define what the San Cristóbal Fort memorial project will be. It is necessary to specify, for example, if the whole fort will be restored or only a part, and what use will be given to it, which can range from an administrative headquarters linked to historical memory to a place of exhibitions. Before in any case it will be necessary to analyze in which situation the whole structure is and which part can be reformed. Subsequently, a competition of ideas could be proposed, similar to the one that takes place in the Valley of the Dead (now Valle de Cuelgamuros).

These details will remain in the hands of the working group that should be created in Navarre, formed, in addition to the provincial government itself, of associations and political parties. All, except Navarra Suma, have subscribed to the commitment to transform the Fort into a space of recognition and reparation for the victims of the military coup of 1936 and Franco’s repression. In this sense, the regional government hopes to reach a broad consensus on the manner and content of the memorial project on Mount Ezkaba, which is already taking its first steps. he

Francoist repression

concrete curbs

Collaboration. Navarre and the State will also collaborate in the Concrete Borders initiative, which aims to recover and mark the military structures erected by the Republican prisoners in the Pyrenees. The Ministry of the Presidency will allocate 30,000 euros to the Border and Repression exhibition project and will undertake the preparation of an educational unit on forced labour. It will bring an additional 170,000 euros for the rediscovery of the bunkers and the design of signs and routes. The Institute of Memory of Navarre will provide a maximum of 199,000 euros for indicative elements and the inclusion of itineraries on the website

Bay of Geroa

The Francisco Franco Foundation

without outlawing. The senator of Gero Bai de Navarre, Koldo Martínez, has tabled a question in the Senate to the Spanish government to find out the reasons “why the file of extinction and prohibition of the Francisco Franco Foundation has not yet been initiated”. According to Gero Bai, the recently approved democratic memory law “indicates that it will be a cause of extinction when the foundations defend Francoism, praise the coup and the dictatorship or praise their leaders, with contempt and humiliation of dignity the victims” . In the opinion of Koldo Martínez, “it is evident that the Francisco Franco Foundation falls fully within the assumptions included in the law” and, therefore, “it is necessary to start the procedures now to put an end to this anomaly in a State that claims to be democratic”. For this reason, the senator from Gero Bai calls for “immediate” action by the socialist government to “put an end to this anomaly”.


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