‘Eroding Franco’ is a photography project that relates the environmental debt of Franco's regime (1939-1975) with Spain's current desertification crisis.
Desertification, the transformation of fertile territories into barren landscapes, is a critical global challenge intensified by unsustainable practices such as poor water management or harmful agricultural methods. While this environmental challenge spans continents, its imprint is deeply felt in Spain.
The legacy of Francoism goes beyond social and political repression. The regime's decisions over 36 years, fostered a culture of destruction and neglect for the land, prioritizing economic growth.
The regime cemented mass tourism, agro-industry, and construction as the 'economic pillars' of Spain, setting the stage for the country's future. These ‘economic pillars’, which now make up nearly 30% of Spain's economy, were heavily promoted in the 1960s and 70s, an era referred to as the "Spanish economic miracle" (1959-1974) that established the transformation of Spain into a 'desertification machine'.
This legacy has set the country on a trajectory where, by the end of the 21st century, an estimated 80% of its territory could be grappling with the critical impacts of desertification, according to scientific reports from the Spanish Ministry of Environment.
During Franco's era, some scientists were studying Spain's environmental trajectory and its potential consequences. However, the regime, possibly without a full understanding of these implications, prioritized other aspects of development and economic growth. This lack of awareness set Spain on a path that would pose significant environmental challenges for future generations.
The synergy between historical information and contemporary photography is at the heart of ‘Eroding Franco’. It delves into the key factors of Spain's desertification—mass tourism, construction, and agroindustry—and intertwines archival research with documentary photography, an approach that offers a comprehensive but distinct perspective of how past decisions shape present realities.
Alongside the historical legacies, Spain's desertification crisis is exacerbated by contemporary climatic factors such as torrential rains and wildfires. These events, often caused and worsened by human actions in the context of climate change, strip away fertile land, leaving behind poverty, especially in rural areas. As fields turn barren, farmers struggle, highlighting a direct link between environmental damage and economic hardship. This aspect of the story shows the ongoing effects of past decisions on today’s communities, adding a crucial layer to our understanding of Spain's environmental and social landscape.
'Eroding Franco' seeks to expand photographic boundaries by incorporating scientific insights, offering a fresh perspective on the human-environment narrative. The project challenges conventional thinking and immerses audiences in the realities of climate change. In essence, 'Eroding Franco' underscores the importance of understanding our past to address the pressing environmental challenges of today.