Spain May Close Public Spaces That Celebrate Spanish Dictator

Valle de los Caídos Franco
Spanish vice president Carmen Calvo announced on Monday that she will impose sanctions that could lead to the closure of spaces, now open to the public, where the memory of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco is celebrated, El País reports.

The sanctions could impact such controversial destinations as the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen), a massive monument near Madrid where the remains of 40,000 people who died in the Spanish Civil War lie alongside Franco's remains.

Calvo's announcement comes after a campaign by Franco's family to inter Franco's remains in the Almudena Cathedral, the primary church of the Diocese of Madrid, which is located right next to the Palacio Real (Royal Palace).

"The objective of the government is that [Franco's] remains are in a place that is respectful and private, in the responsibility of the family, not the state," Calvo said.

Francisco Franco, Spanish Dictator

Francisco Franco, Spanish dictator
Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco ruled over Spain for 35 years as a ruthless and repressive dictator. He took power during the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939, ousting a democratic government.

Upon taking control of Spain, Franco instituted laws that reflected his Catholic ideology, severely curbing the rights of women and limiting free speech. Thousands of those who had opposed him during the Spanish Civil War remained in prison for their political beliefs after the war was over. Meanwhile, the 1940s plunged Spain into a period of want and famine as Franco's isolationist policies slowed the country's recovery.

Franco's political ideology has been called Catholic nationalism, and was based on the belief in a superior Spanish race. As a nationalist, Franco aimed for a homogenous, Catholic society populated by this single race of people. To this end, he prohibited the minority languages of Spain — Catalán, Gallego (Galician), and Basque—from being spoken in daily life or used in official documents.

Women were at first unable to work outside the home, and part of the vast propaganda machine under Franco was dedicated to creating women's magazines teaching them how to be good housewives. Later, some of these restrictions were loosened, and women were permitted to work with their husbands' permission. When Franco died in 1975 Spain transitioned to a democracy and began to reckon with a difficult past.

Almudena Cathedral in Madrid

Almudena Cathedral Madrid
The Almudena Cathedral in Madrid. | Photo by Erin L. McCoy

When the family of Franco suggested that he be interred in Almudena Cathedral, the seat of the Madrid diocese, the Spanish government originally stated that it could do nothing to stop the move, according to El País.

But now, the government is now looking into a way to modify legislation, called the Law of Historic Memory, that is now under consideration in congress, in order to ensure that Franco's remains cannot be placed there. A change to the law has already been drafted. 

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Sagrada Familia Will Pay Millions After 136 Years Without a Permit

The Sagrada Familia | Photo by Erin L. McCoy
More than 130 years after construction began on Barcelona's most iconic church, it turns out that the Sagrada Familia never had a building permit. Now, the basilica has agreed to pay the city back-fees for all those years of nonpayment. The Sagrada Familia will pay millions—$41 million, to be exact—to the city of Barcelona in a space of just 10 years.

The basilica was designed by famed Catalán architect Antoni Gaudí. Construction began in 1882, and is expected to reach completion in 2026. By 2022, it will be Barcelona's tallest building, according to Spanish newspaper El País.

The funds that the church is slated to pay back will cover improvements in public services and transport, TIME reports. Barcelona mayor Ada Colau called the culmination of the agreement a "historic day" for the city.

The Sagrada Familia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that draws 20 million visitors a year—4.5 million of whom pay to step inside the awe-inspiring structure. It can be expected, then, that the church will not find it too difficult to muster up the funds necessary to pay back the city of Barcelona.

Construction plans around creating an access road, tunnel, and staircase to help visitors reach the Sagrada Familia have also generated controversy, as some have proposed removing as many as 150 homes in the area to achieve these aims. Neighbors of the temple demonstrated on Oct. 18 calling for a resolution to this question.

Your Visit to Barcelona

The most essential sights, experiences, and dining recommendations for your next trip to Barcelona, all in one place.

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Spain and Morocco in Talks to Build Underwater Tunnel

Tangiers Morocco ferry Spain

A Spanish government committee has confirmed that a proposed project to build an underwater tunnel connecting Spain and Morocco is a viable project. 

The largest tunnel-construction company in the world, Herrenknecht, teamed up with the University of Zurich to conduct a feasibility analysis, The Local reports. Despite worries over construction challenges, they concluded that the 18.6-mile-long tunnel between Europe and Africa can reasonably be constructed.

The total price tag is estimated at €8 billion. The first step would be to construct a custom-made boring machine at a cost of €32 million.

The tunnel would be used to transport high-speed trains, and also to transmit solar energy generated in the Sahara desert to Europe. Nearly 17 miles of the tunnel would be submerged below water, reaching depths of 1,558 feet below sea level.

Those wishing to travel between Spain and Morocco generally travel either by plane or by ferry. Ferries launch from Gibraltar and Tarifa in Spain and land in Tangier or Ceuta, an autonomous Spanish city on the northern coast of Africa that is just 7.1 square miles. 

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Barcelona’s Sant Antoni Market Reopens to Fanfare after a Major Facelift

Mercat de St. Antoni

The Mercado de Sant Antoni is in many ways the beating heart of one of Barcelona's most vibrant neighborhoods. Now, locals are celebrating its new lease on life, as the market reopens after a nine-year renovation. 

A Quintessential Barcelona Market

The market has been hosted in a temporary structure while €80 million was being invested in turning the area into a "super block." There is now a pedestrian-friendly area with more greenery and play sets for children surrounding the market.

The Guardian explains how this massive market is structured:

Sant Antoni actually consists of three markets. As well as a food area with 52 stalls, there are 95 stalls in the Encants (enchantments), the lightly ironic Catalan term for a flea market. In this case it mainly sells cheap clothes. On Sundays, Sant Antoni also hosts one of Europe’s largest open-air book markets, with 78 stalls selling new and secondhand books, comics, stamps and other collectables.

Opening for the first time in 1882, the market was designed by Ildefons Cerdà, famed for designing Barcelona's Eixample neighborhood. By 2009, though, the steel-framed building had some steep maintenance costs and was in desperate need of updates. 

Hub of the Sant Antoni Community

Locals celebrated the reopening in May 2018 with poetry readings, dances, and music. The renovation had suffered delays, in part as a result of the discovery of part of a Roman road and an old city wall. As a hub of this working-class—but quickly gentrifying community—residents were more than eager to see its return: 

“The market generates business, it’s a point of attraction but it’s also a social nexus,” explains Agustí Colom, head of commerce on the city council and the man charged with implementing Barcelona’s costly citywide market renovation plan. “People don’t just shop, they talk and they feel part of a community. We run programs in markets for elderly people who feel isolated. Because they’re regular customers, there are people there who know them and to whom they can talk about their problems.”

Still, locals aren't keen on having the market turn into another tourist hub like the Boquería market off La Rambla. In order to ensure that this doesn't happen, they've reduced the number of bars and are discouraging stalls that are designed for tourists. 

Visitors should be respectful, and instead of snapping Instagram stories, should put away their phones, talk to the vendors, and make some purchases. It's a surefire way to glimpse what daily life in Barcelona is really like. 

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Mallorca’s Beaches Named Among the World’s Best

beaches in Palma, Mallorca, in Spain's Balearic Islands
After an analysis of thousands of different data points, MONEY magazine has identified the 14 best beaches in the world. It narrowed down a list of more than 250 popular destinations. The beaches of the island of Mallorca, Spain, came out to be among the world's very best, according to MONEY's analysis.

Mallorca: A Holiday Destination

Mallorca, also spelled Mallorca, is the largest of Spain's Balearic Islands, a destination for anyone who loves clear, blue water and golden sand. In 2016, more than 26 million visitors flew into and out of Palma de Mallorca Airport. Other islands in the area are Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera, all of them about 200 kilometers off the coast of Valencia. There are 24 ferry crossings every day from the mainland of the Iberian Peninsula leaving from Barcelona, Valencia, and Dénia in Alicante. This makes Mallorca a magnificent getaway for anyone visiting Spain. Best of all, though, is that Mallorca offers not just beautiful beaches but fabulous cuisine and a long, rich cultural history. And while this is a highly popular destination, don't let the crowds deter you. According to TIME:
Famed largely for its beach clubs and nightlife, this Spanish island also offers sheltered beach coves and peaceful hill towns. “Even among the tourist swarms of mid-August you can find pockets of silence,” says Tom Stainer, a Lonely Planet destination editor.

Beaches for Rest and Relaxation

Bahía de Alcudia: This is the longest beach in Mallorca and is perfect for families because of the variety of available activities. The nearby town of Alcúdia offers up shopping and great eateries, and is considered by many to be the island's most beautiful village. Cala Mondragó: This environmentally protected area features a bright green double bay and white sand. Shelter from the waves makes the area safe for children and families, who will also have easy access to beachside snacks. Formentor: This beach is located near Cap de Formentor at the northern end of the island's Serra de Tramuntana mountain range. The Serra de Tamuntana is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Formentor beach is lined with pine trees and features clear blue waters on a quiet peninsula. Stay at the Barceló Hotel Formentor. You can reach this area by boat. Playa de Palma: Located in the capital of Palma de Mallorca, this beach is ideal for those who'd prefer not to rent a car but are looking for a bright, sloping beach to relax and take a dip.

Beaches for Water Sports and Activities

Cala Estellencs: This beach is ideal for those who like diving and snorkelling. It's a rocky spot flanked by caves, and offers up a great sunset. Cala Llamp: There's no sand here but there's a wealth of snorkeling. Relax at the seaside bar after a dip. Cala Mesquida: This is one of the only beaches that's optimal for surfing on the island. It's also ideal for long walks and a relaxing picnic. Booking.com

Historical and Cultural Sites

The entrance to the Ses Païsses talaiotic settlement on Mallorca island in Spain. The first settlements on Mallorca date from as early as 6000–4000 BCE. The Talaiotic Culture thrived here during prehistoric times and ruins can still be seen in Puig de sa Morisca, an archaeological park. Tumuli structures, built for funerary purposes, date from the second millennium BCE while talaiots date from the first millennium BCE. There are at least 274 talaiots on the island, but their purpose is not yet clearly understood. Some argue they were defensive in nature, and perhaps served as lookout points. Various tombs also date from this period.
The entrance to the Ses Païsses talaiotic settlement on Mallorca island in Spain.
The entrance to the Ses Païsses talaiotic settlement on Mallorca island in Spain.
Perhaps one of the best-known archaeological sites on Mallorca is the Taula, a table-shaped arrangement of stones. Visit the Taula of Talatí de Dalt near the town of Mahón. The Phoenicians arrived around the eighth century BCE (when they were also active in the area around modern-day Cádiz). Carthage had control over the island for a time before the Romans took hold. Alcúdia, considered the oldest town on the island, was founded during the Roman period. Roman remains are still visible in this charming town in the northern region. In more recent history, the Polish composer Frederic Chopin loved to visit the island with French writer Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, known by the pseudonym George Sand. Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío was so inspired by his visit that he wrote several poems and began a novel called El oro de Mallorca. Artist Joan Miró settled in Mallorca in 1954, and you can see a collection of his work at the Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró in Palma. For fans of Agatha Christie, stay at the Hotel Illa d'Or in Puerto Pollensa, a small fishing village in Mallorca's fertile northern region. The site was a favorite of Christie's and inspired her novel, Problems at Pollensa Bay—which, incidentally, makes for fabulous beach reading. There are at least 2,400 restaurants on the island, including Michelin-starred Marc Fosh. Even a three-course meal here shouldn't cost more than about $40.
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