Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Battle for the Valley of the Fallen!

In the place where he is buried, Spanish dictator Francisco Franco has built a symbol of his dictatorship that lasted for four decades. Now, the Spanish government plans to exhume his remains and remove this monument to fascism - but the conservatives are opposed to opening of old wounds.

The hills near Madrid are home to a symbol of a four decades long dictatorship – the famous Valley of the Fallen.  It is a mausoleum that General Francisco Franco ordered to be built to commemorate his victory in the Spanish Civil War. Now there are plans to relocate this complex. The "Valley" has a huge basilica surrounded with hills, and Franco is buried there, behind the altar, beneath the monument that is decorated with fresh flowers.

The new socialist-led government is considering to exhume the remains of the dictator in order to remove that monument. But, even after 36 years since Franco's death, this is still a delicate task.

The Spanish transition towards democracy was an act of prudence after deep wounds caused by war and dictatorship. We had to deal with the past little by little. We may have touched this issue a bit late, but prudence is the key to the success of our peaceful transition” –says Ramon Jauregui, one of the ministers in charge of this matter.

But Spain's conservative opposition refuses such thing. They claim that it would open old wounds.

There are people in Spain who are afraid to face the darkness of the past. Horrors and massacres were committed here and we are not unique in that because other countries will also have to deal with such issues. I don’t see a reason for Spain not to do it” - explains historian Angel Vinas.

For him, the relocation of the compound should be part of the process. This monument was one of the most visited in Spain, but there are no signs that explain its history, and it isn’t mentioned that it was built mainly by political prisoners.

Nicolas Sanchez Albornoz is one of them. As a student activist, he was sentenced to six years of work in a camp because of "activities against the state." He escaped in 1948 and never returned.

I believe that it is really shocking that one European country still has a huge monument as a remembrance of one of the bloodiest dictators. It would be best to remove all symbols. The thing that gives force to this particular symbol is Franco's presence” - said Sanchez who is now in his 80's.

The government now awaits a proposition from expert commission before their final decision. One of the proposals is to relocate the Franco’s remains to a more appropriate place, and to bury him in the city cemetery next to his wife. His daughter has already had a complaint, and the foundation that she runs has promised to carry out legal actions to prevent it.

Many people will oppose this barbarism. They can not move Franco without the permission of his family. That would be sacrilege. One must be careful with the history of Spain. You can not demonize one part of society, and elevate other” – says Jaim Alonso, in a room full of photos of Franco and his portrait. He believes that the general saved Spain from the clutches of Soviet Russia.

We will continue fighting

Few Spaniards openly shows their admiration for Franco, but many have an aversion towards relocation of his grave.

It is pointless after so many years. With that, we will only continue with the war” – says Jose Luis, one of the visitors of the Valley of the Fallen. "For the side that was defeated in the war it is quite different. The Fascists killed Father Fausto Canales, and his remains were moved to the Valley in 1959. More than 30,000 people that were killed in the war on both sides have been transferred there by Franco’s order ."

For me it is very painful that the remains of my father are located in a place that was built in honor of the winner of a coup. This looks like a double crime. Firstly, he was executed, and then his body was transferred without our permission to a place that is totally inappropriate” – says younger Canales.  

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