Recently a Turkish friend asked my daughter Vera’s middle name. It’s Alcazar, my grandmother’s maiden name from Trinidad, and more commonly known as a Moorish Spanish word for fortified palace. I was surprised to hear the response, “Oh, like the cinema?” It turns out there is an Alkazar movie theater just a few miles away from us on Istanbul‘s busy Istiklal Caddesi. Opened in the 1920s with various incarnations as a popular, adult, and art house movie theater, the Alkazar closed two years ago just before I moved here, but the facade remains. The above video by Vimeo user mustafa emre uses a “time brush” technique to show the historic building in its heyday and more recently. It’s a fun way to show how the past is just below the surface.
Spain has reopened its Army Museum after moving it from Madrid to Toledo, but some Spaniards aren’t happy with the choice of buildings.
The Museo del Ejército is housed in El Alcázar, a fort overlooking Toledo. When the fascists rebelled against the Second Spanish Republic and started the Spanish Civil War, Toledo was controlled by the Republican government, but the fort was in the hands of an army garrison who threw their lot in with Francisco Franco and the other fascist leaders. The defenders held out for two months against overwhelming odds until Franco’s army took the town. Franco went on to defeat the Republic and rule Spain as dictator until his death in 1975. Spain quickly switched to democratic rule after that.
The siege was a rallying cry for the fascists during the war and a major propaganda tool throughout their rule. Many on Spain’s left don’t like the symbolism of putting a military museum there. Some on the right are upset too, because a planned exhibit dedicated to El Division Azul, Spanish volunteers who fought for Hitler on the Russian front, was left out. Some artifacts from the division are on display in the World War Two section.
Another lingering controversy is the cost–€101 million ($129 million), almost four times its original budget. The museum was four years late in opening.
The museum itself is an interesting addition to any already much-visited city. With 21 rooms and 8000 square meters of exhibition space, it displays thousands of items from the early days of Spain’s military might up to the present day. While the displays tell the story of the Spanish army, the controversy over the museum says a lot about Spain’s struggle with its past.
Photo courtesy Rgcamus via Wikimedia Commons.