Yesterday an announcement was made about the recommendations proposed by a special committee of “experts” (whose credibility is a cause for much discussion), set up to look into the Valle de los Caidos (the Valley of the Fallen), the massive, sinister mausoleum outside Madrid where the remains of General Franco are buried.
The monument was built under his orders in the 1940s and 50s by tens of thousands of political prisoners, many of whom ended up being buried there, due to maltreatment, illness, starvation and poisoning; it was said to be “like a Nazi concentration camp”. In total, over 30,000 bodies are interred at the site, which is also home to a monastery.
Far-right-wing sympathisers, and the few Falange left, gather there every year on the anniversary of Franco’s death; a monument to Fascism, it is detested by the majority of Spaniards.
The commission recommended that the dictator’s remains be moved to a place of his family’s choosing; that the other remains be identified, and their names inscribed on a list of the fallen; and that effectively this grim place, with a huge cross towering over it, be reinvented as a place honouring the dead on both sides of Spain’s Civil War. Apparently, the church’s permission is also required, since the basilica where the Generalissimo is buried is a religious site.
The official reason given for wanting to disinter the Fascist dictator’s remains is that the Valle is only for people who died in the war, which Franco didn’t.
It has also been suggested to have an interpretation centre, so people can understand what happened, and why so many people (plus the hundreds of thousands more who died all around the country) lost their lives.
The reaction to this news on Twitter was extraordinary, with every extreme of view represented: people saying, aren’t there more important things to think about, like the unemployed; it’s in the past, we need to move on; it’s not worth spending money on; who cares (mostly younger people said this).
Some of the reactions, about what should be done with this much-reviled man’s remains, were interesting. I think their opinions are far more relevant than my own, those of an outsider. These are the people whose relatives were killed in the War, or under the Dictatorship – it’s easy to forget that pretty much every family was affected by what happened during those 40-odd years.
(I have translated them roughly for those whose Spanish might not manage.)
“Que le den un pico y una pala a la familia Franco. Ya joderia pagar una milionada por el translado”
(They should give Franco’s family a bucket and shovel. I’m not bloody paying a packet to have him moved.)
“Lo que tiene que hacer es tirarlo a una fosa comun.”
(What they should do is throw him in a mass grave.)
“Que pais. La iglesia catolica, complica del dictador Franco, es la que tiene que decidir si se trasladan del Valle de los Caidos.”
(What a country. The Catholic church, which was complicit with the dictator Franco, are the ones who must decide if he should be transferred from the Valle de los Caidos.)
“No es ningun faraon ni victima de la Guerra para esta alli.”
(He shouldn’t be there – he’s not a War victim or a pharaoh.)
“Inadmisible que un dictador tiene un monumento.”
(It’s outrageous that a dictator should have a monument.)
“Espero que pronto los familiares de los que el asesino encuentran a sus muertos.”
(I hope the relatives of those whom he killed are able to find their loved ones soon.)
“Valle de los Caidos para viviendas sociales.
(Make the Valle de los Caidos into social housing.)
“Indecente, que poco respeto para los muertos.”
(Terrible, no respect for the dead.)
“Por que coño tienen que elegir la Iglesia si los restos de Franco se quedan en el Valle de lo Caidos? ¿Quien coño creen que son?”
(Why the hell does the Church get to decide if Franco’s remains stay in the Valle de los Caidos? Who the hell do they think they are?)
“Los curas van a coger las palas?”
(Are the priests going to pick up shovels?)
“El Valle de los Caidos es patrimonio nacional. ¿Pq hay que consultar a la iglesia sobre el traslado de Franco? ¿O es que le han beatificado?”
(The Valle de los Caidos is national heritage. Why does the Church have to be consulted about moving Franco’s remains? Or have they beatified him?)
Most agree it is unlikely to happen under Mariano Rajoy’s about-to-be-formed PP government. And that the money could be better spent. But however many other, more worthy causes there are, isn’t it a good idea to try to rectify the past by ensuring that a brutal dictator is no longer honoured in such an extravagant visual way?