Spain May Close Public Spaces That Celebrate Spanish Dictator

Valle de los Caídos Franco
Photo of Valle de los Caídos by Jorge Díaz Bes
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. 

Tags : AlmudenaCarmen CalvodictatorfeaturedFrancisco FrancoValle de los Caídos
Erin L. McCoy

The author Erin L. McCoy

Erin L. McCoy is an award-winning photojournalist who holds an MA in Hispanic studies from the University of Washington. She's traveled to 20+ countries, five continents, and 45 U.S. states, but she's starting to lose count of how many times she's visited Spain.

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