I write a decent bit about the controversies around memorializing the past here in the United States, especially around monuments to treason in defense of slavery. But while I would argue these debates happen in a different way in the United States because social history is more central to public memory than in many other nations, especially in Europe, they certainly do happen elsewhere. Such as in Spain, which is currently debating whether to take Franco’s body from his ridiculous shrine-tomb.
About 33 miles outside Madrid, a 500-foot cross sits atop a basilica at a monument known as the Valle de los Caídos or “Valley of the Fallen.” Deep inside the monument’s ornate underground crypt lies the remains of Francisco Franco, the fascist dictator who ruled Spain from 1939 to 1975.
At least for now. Spain’s newly minted Socialist prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has pledged to exhume Franco and remove him from the site. The proposal has reignited a divisive, long-running debate in Spain about Franco’s state-supported resting place and prompted protests by far-right supporters.
On Sunday, nearly 1,000 such protesters gathered outside the Valle de los Caídos, demanding that Franco’s remains stay exactly where they are. Raising their arms to give fascist salutes, the protesters sang the anthem of the fascist Falange party and chanted slogans such as: “Don’t touch the Valley” and “Franco, Franco, Franco!” Spanish newspaper El País reported.
At this moment when fascism again threatens to descend on many nations, this question about Franco’s body is actually a really important one. Will Spain allow its remaining fascists to dominate this conversation? Will the ruling socialists be able to pull this off? Unfortunately Franco is a lot more popular among the Spanish than you would like to think. Personally, I’d say throw his bones in the ocean and blow up the tomb, but haven’t we tossed enough garbage into our oceans lately? Also:
The debate has been running since at least 2007 when the Spanish government passed the “Historical Memory Law” that formally condemned the Franco regime and recognized those who suffered under his rule. The bill called for the removal of all Francoist symbols, but it excepted the Valle de los Caídos on the premise that it was a historical and religious site.
We could use a law like this against our monuments to treason in defense of slavery.