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Memoria de Algeciras: Conserving the memory of a city

Rosario Pérez · Photos: Fran Montes

Memoria de Algeciras

The group ‘Memoria de Algeciras’ recovers old photographs and organizes exhibitions such as “Special Women 2.0”, ensuring that the history of this city is not forgotten.

They started as a group of friends/photography enthusiasts who shared a passion for their city, Algeciras, who duplicated old family photos so that they wouldn’t get lost.

In 2011, they created a Facebook group and started sharing these photos. Some time after, they launched a website where more than 30,000 photos are now stored.

The group ‘Memoria de Algeciras’ recovers old photographs
The group ‘Memoria de Algeciras’ recovers old photographs

“Our only objective is to treasure the memories of Algeciras through images that should not be allowed to disappear, because they pay testimony to what this city once was and how we got to where we are today,” one of the members of the group, Javier Gutiérrez, explains. He is confident that he is using his time provide a necessary service.

The oldest photo in this peculiar archive was taken in 1870. Houses and building that no longer exist, beaches that have disappeared, roads that have been turned into pedestrian streets, plazas and corners that have changed in appearance…

All these features remain forever frozen in time and space, so that the memory of those who knew these places won’t vanish.

They serve as a way for those who are too young to remember, to learn more about what their city looked like when their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were young, long before it came to be what it is today.

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Their latest exhibition was in the heart of the city, at the AlCultura venue.

“Special Women 2.0” took visitors on a journey through the history of women in Algeciras, from the late 19th century to the end of the 20th century, as told through 32 different framed, black and white photographs.

Each photo consisted of a little piece of history relating to the everyday lives of Algecirean women throughout the decades, each one of them depicting the historical, social and cultural conditions of the time.

Prior to this last exhibition, others have generated great interest, such as the presentations “Four Paths Through Algeciras” and “A Small Piece of Algecirean History Through Images”, as well as a monographic showcase about the Feria and the first collection of photos of “Special Women”, which opened to the public in the first months of 2019, where the images were improved and enhanced.

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Next to certain locations in the city center and in the red containers of Dársena del Saladillo. These images have also been on display in the Hotel Christina, during a showcase of the history of the emblematic establishment, and another on the artist, Helmut Siesser.

Many of the photos that they so ably reproduce and conserve are given to them by people who have come across their work, mostly via their Facebook page. Others are personally sourced by members of the group, some of which are located outside of Spain.

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These exhibitions spark surprise on the face of viewers who are contemplating an image that they didn’t expect to see, or the smile of someone who recognizes a member of their family, or a neighbor they had lost contact with…

For the members of the group, this makes their work worthwhile even though, they admit, they haven’t received the institutional support which the project deserves.

“The most popular photos are the ones featuring people; images which tell a little story, with some corner of Algeciras always featuring as a backdrop. Older people who suddenly rediscover the street in which they were born, exactly how it was back then, or younger people who are surprised to see that, back in the day, the tables at the chiringuitos were placed directly on the sand,” they explain.

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