surinenglish

Graveyard shift

Madrid's Supreme Court's decision to go against the Francos' wishes and exhume the dictator's body from his Valle de los Caídos grave is, admittedly, a step in the right direction. As it stands, the Valle makes a mockery of Franco's victims and the move to El Pardo, rather than Madrid's Almudena cathedral reduces the sickening chance of security risks posed by Francoist cults and their opposition.

Yet, the need to address other failing aspects of Spain's Historical Memory Law is equally pressing, and, in this regard, I believe the Spanish government to be guilty of turning a blind eye. The pact of silence brought about by Spain's 1977 Amnesty Law means that known Francoist torturers such as Antonio González Pacheco continue to roam free, while the 2018 act of formal investigation into a crass gag made by popular comedian Dani Mateo about the Valle de los Caídos indicates that freedom of expression regarding this towering monstrosity is still not a given.

What is most concerning is that, while outspoken critics such as Dani Mateo continue to be silenced, the same rules do not appear to apply to those on the opposing team. The insistent outbursts of the National Francisco Franco Foundation, still permitted to run from its Madrid headquarters, and its sponsorship of far-right political climbers Vox, are a chilling reminder that the legacy of Franco continues to live on today.

Perhaps the ongoing battle between the Franco family and the State dangerously distracts from the question really at hand: how to go about resignifying the Valle de los Caídos once Franco's body is, at long last, removed.

Appeals to give new meaning to Madrid's controversial Arco de la Victoria, which still bears the Francoist emblem, have consistently been rejected. The same cannot be allowed to happen with the 150-metre-tall structure which casts its shadow across the Sierra de Guadarrama.

A dynamite explosion, as has previously been suggested, is, I hasten to add, most certainly not the answer. Instead, Spain's government should now focus on converting the Valle de los Caídos into an educational homage to the Civil War's victims, such as that of the Holocaust memorial museums we see in Germany today. True dignity for Franco's victims will not be delivered until this is achieved, and so pressure should be exerted on the government to quicken the so-far painfully slow process of Franco's removal.

Ultimately, education and the recuperation of memory is most crucial, before Spain renders its younger generation oblivious of the truth and the Orwellian nightmare of "rectified" historical records becomes reality.