Francisco Franco died in 1975, and for the most part all we knew about it in America was Chevy Chase’s recurring Saturday Night Live joke about Franco remaining dead.
Obviously there’s much more to it than this, because for some in Spain the generalissimo never really died, while for others he might have died far more often. I’d encourage readers to bone up on modern Spanish history. Since 1975, when Spain began its post-Franco transition to pluralism and democratic institutions (such as can be tolerated by the planet’s concentrated wealth and capital), the country pursued a course akin to “don’t ask, don’t tell” with regard to the aftermath of the Civil War and Franco’s ascendance.
For a while this was enough. Now it seems the ghosts of the victims won’t stay silent.
Francisco Franco: Yes, Spain should dig Franco up. But it must not bury the horror of his regime, by Giles Tremlett (The Guardian)
… Spain’s socialist prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has declared that Franco must now also be removed from the vast underground basilica the dictator had built at El Valle de Los Caídos – a dramatic, wild valley that overlooks the northern suburbs of Madrid. The government announced on Friday a new law giving it powers to dig up the grave, situated behind the basilica’s main altar, later this year.
So far, so good. The trouble is, however, that not only have we been here before, but that this measure on its own is not enough. For even if Franco goes, this will still be an obnoxious reminder of his 36-year rule; the ghostly home to the bones of 33,000 combatants of a civil war that he provoked by helping to lead a coup d’etat against democracy. Looming high above the basilica, a massive 150-metre tall granite cross sits like a giant finger raised to the families of those assassinated by his regime, to the victims of his political courts and to the families refused permission to take their dead elsewhere. Those dead are stuffed into damp, collapsing chambers that are invisible to visitors, who can only see Franco’s well-kept tomb and that of José Antonio Primo de Rivera – the ideologue and leader of Falange Española, the violent Spanish fascist movement.
What should happen to all of that? Some have suggested that the cross is so ghastly that it should be dynamited, along with the rest of the monument. That, however, misses the point. Erasing Franco’s symbols, rather than explaining them, does nothing to teach Spaniards what went wrong. Nor does the removal of his embalmed body, though this is a positive first step.
Sánchez knows that there is a much bigger and better solution – the one proposed by a commission set up by a previous socialist government five years ago, and roundly ignored since then. That proposal was to turn this morbid, decaying monument into a proper museum of national conciliation and remembrance.