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Washington, D.C. is a young capital that was founded in 1790 as a symbol for the equally new country. Its identity was largely constructed via major government buildings such as the White House and the Capitol, but also via various memorials and monuments.
Many of these icons depict historical figures or achievements that form part of the collective memory, but other monuments go unnoticed or are barely known. In both cases, this lack of attention can be due to ignorance on our part about the history surrounding them, difficulties associated with their construction, or the weight of the past borne by the figures represented therein. Some aspects have been hidden from view, while the sociopolitical contexts in which these monuments were created made it possible to celebrate viewpoints that are now extremely problematic.
Monuments have always given rise to controversy, and in our times there are various movements in many countries demanding that they be interrogated, recontextualized, and, in some cases, removed altogether (for example, the Monument Lab in the USA and Uncomfortable Monuments in Chile). In Spain, we have spent decades trying to approach our own memory from the standpoint of historical reparation, involving a review of the Franco-era monuments that still spark controversy, but there has been a reluctance to confront other ineluctable historical topics such as colonialism, which other neighboring countries are indeed grappling with.
This project delves into this background, as the stories around these monuments and the controversies they arouse today prompt us to study their contexts more closely and observe them with a critical, historical, and political gaze.