Spanish Civil War: Hundreds demonstrate to keep Franco’s remains in the Valley of the Fallen | Spain


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Hundreds of people gathered in the Valley of the Dead on Sunday to protest against the Spanish government’s plan to remove the remains of former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco from the controversial monument north of Madrid.

Protesters traveled from all over Spain to attend Sunday’s protest, chanting slogans such as: “Long live Spain; “Hands off the valley; “And” Franco, Franco, Franco! outside the basilica which houses Franco’s tomb.

Cars began to park in the Valley of the Dead from 9 a.m. to watch the protest. “We have come to say goodbye to Franco,” said Zaqueo Echeverría, a 27-year-old who traveled with his pregnant wife and three children from Segovia. Pilar Gutiérrez, president of the Movement for Spain, which organized the demonstration, said: “Franco is not dead. Whoever dies in Christ is not dead.

The 13.6 square kilometer site of the Valley of the Fallen remains hotly contested in a country that still struggles to come to terms with the legacy of the fascist dictatorship of Franco, who had been Spain’s head of state since the end of the civil war in 1939 until his death in 1975.

There is a lot of resentment, it’s revenge against a political ideology

Protester Francisco Javier Feria

The site was ostensibly built to commemorate all victims on both sides of Spain’s bitter and bloody civil war, and the remains of more than 33,000 conflict victims are found there – including pro-Republican fighters whose bodies were taken from mass graves and buried. at the monument without the consent of their families.

Critics point out that the Valley of the Dead, which includes a basilica and a 150-meter-high cross, which dominates the surrounding countryside, contains only two marked graves: those of Franco himself and José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the founder of the Phalange, the Spanish political party of fascist inspiration.

Dressed in the blue phalanx uniform, protester Francisco Javier Feria said the Spanish government‘s decision to exhume the dictator’s body was an act of revenge. “There is a lot of resentment, it is revenge against a political ideology,” he said. “It is not a Francoist sect. The bodies here must set an example so that [the Civil War] will not happen again, ”he added.

Protests make fascist salutes on Sunday.SAINT BURGOS

While waiting to enter the basilica on Sunday, some of the protesters posed for photos, making fascist salutes and displaying the pre-constitutional Spanish flag emblazoned with an eagle. The Law on Historical Memory – legislation that seeks to recognize the victims on both sides of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) – prohibits any “political act or any act celebrating the Civil War, its protagonists or the Franco dictatorship” in the Fallen Valley. But even though it was approved in 2007, various organizations continue to hold protests in honor of the dictator there. In some cases, for example in November 2010, riot police had to be called in to intervene.

This Sunday, the demonstrators sang Cara al Sol, the anthem of the Phalange party, and chanted slogans such as “the Spaniards yes, the refugees no” and “Catalonia is Spain, they are not deceiving us”. Civil Guard officers called on the loudest protesters to calm down.

“This is not the place, they should go to La Moncloa [the seat of government]”Said Alberto López, a 29-year-old man who describes himself as” the most Francoist of all. “The Valley of the Fallen” is a place of reconciliation, “he argued, and should not be used for make political demands.

At 11 a.m., a mass was held inside the basilica, where the remains of the founder of Phalange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera are also located. Many participants wore bracelets, hats and shirts with the Spanish flag. “There have always been people from both sides in my family,” said Luis Sánchez. It is not his first visit to the valley and he is uncomfortable with the Francoist symbols displayed inside the monument.

Before leaving, hundreds of people lined up to enter the Valley of the Fallen gift shop, which sells everything from € 1.90 bookmarks to canvas bags featuring the cross. of the Valley.

Amid Francoist protesters, a group of eight Australian tourists watched in surprise. “We weren’t expecting this, we’re a little confused,” said Bradley Pool, 19.

By noon most of the protesters were gone, except for a few who remained singing The song of the valley: “These are not war songs, they are hymns to love and peace.”

Since taking office by a motion of censure, the new Spanish Prime Minister of the Socialist Party (PSOE) Pedro Sánchez has announced a series of measures to heal the wounds of the civil war and the era of dictatorship. In addition to pushing to remove Franco’s remains from the Valley of the Dead, the Socialist government has pledged to lead the search for those missing under Franco and whose bodies still lie in mass graves and by roadsides. The Interior Ministry has also opened an investigation into the police medals and the additional pension awarded to the famous Franco-era cop known as “Billy the Kid”.

english version by Melissa Kitson.

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