Spain’s decision to exhume the body of General Franco threatens to disturb more than his bonesby Stephen Phelan / November 14, 2018 / Leave a comment
On 13th September, Spain’s Congress of Deputies voted to expel the bones of General Francisco Franco from his Catholic-pharaonic tomb at the Valley of the Fallen. Not much longer would the Generalissimo be allowed to repose inside a vast basilica with black marble floors, flanked by chapels dedicated to the patron saints of his army, navy and air force, beneath a simple plate that bears his name but not his rank.
Seven years had passed since a government-appointed Commission of Experts recommended de-glorifying the dictator by way of exhumation. Suddenly it looked like the new Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was going to make it happen.
The following Saturday morning, thousands went to pay respects while they still could. Francoists, nostalgists, day-trippers and rubberneckers formed a traffic jam of pilgrims along the A6 motorway and up the winding access road to the colossal, surreal mausoleum carved into a mountain outside Madrid, where a towering granite cross rises more than 150 metres straight out of the rock.
A motorcycle rider and his passenger stopped to one side, looked towards the monument, and raised their right arms in a fascist salute. Crowds of paying customers flowed into the basilica, past the armed security guards and apocalyptic tapestries, merging with the guests of a couple who were being married by one of the resident Benedictine monks. The atmosphere within flickered between wedding, funeral, theme park and far-right rally.
Older visitors blinked back tears and younger ones took selfies, breaking church rules to pose for photos by the altar-side graves of the Generalissimo and his acolyte José Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder and leader of the ultra-nationalist Falange party.
De Rivera was executed by firing squad on 20th November 1936 for the capital crimes of military insurrection and conspiracy against the Republic. Franco himself died in his bed on the same date in 1975, having vanquished that Republic, proclaimed himself El Caudillo—head of church and state—and ruled as a strongman to the venerable age of 82.
The argument against his interral at this site began with the fact that he was not among the “fallen” of the civil war. Unlike Nazi Germany—which had propped him up…