Two Spanish National Police officers stand at the entrance to the San Isidro cemetery in Madrid, where the remains of Falange party founder Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera will be buried after being exhumed from the Valle de los Caidos basilica, officially called Valle de Cuelgamuros, April 24, 2023. THOMAS COEX / AFP
Spain took a further step, Monday, April 24, so that the mosoleum of the basilica of El Valle de los caidos (literally, “the valley of those who fell”) can no longer be a “place of apology” for Francoism.
The remains of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder of the Falange, a fascist party which was one of the pillars of the Franco regime in Spain, has been exhumed from Franco’s former mausoleum, “one more step”, according to the left-wing government, in the dissertation on the Civil War and the dictatorship.
Once out of the monumental basilica of El Valle de los caidos, the remains of José Antonio Primo de Rivera (1903-1936) were transferred to the Madrid cemetery of San Isidro where several members of his family are buried. The funeral procession, carrying the remains and escorted by the authorities, arrived there at the end of the morning. About 200 far-right activists greeted him with a fascist salute and clashed with the many police officers present in brief scuffles.
Son of dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera (1923-1930), José Antonio Primo de Rivera was executed in November 1936, at the start of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) caused by the uprising of soldiers, including General Francisco Franco , against the elected Republican government. Franco then ruled the country with an iron fist until his death in November 1975.
Rehabilitation of victims of the dictatorship
Of fascist inspiration, the Falange was one of the pillars of the Franco regime along with the Catholic Church and the army. This exhumation, three and a half years after that of Franco’s remains, stems from the entry into force in October of a flagship law of the left-wing government known as “Democratic Memory”, which aims, among other things, to make the former mausoleum a place of memory on this dark period.
The Primo de Rivera family, who negotiated the conditions for the exhumation with the government, chose this date because it corresponds to the 120th anniversary of the birth of the founder of the Falange. “Today we are taking another step towards more dignity for our democracy,” said education minister and spokeswoman for the ruling Socialist Party, Pilar Alegría. “Our institutions are finally faithful to the memory of our country and not to its oversights”, said for the part the number three of the government, the communist Minister of Labor, Yolanda Díaz.
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Coming to power in 2018, Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez made the rehabilitation of victims of the Franco dictatorship (1939-1975) a priority. After months of legal battle with Franco’s family, he managed in 2019 to exhume the remains of the “Caudillo” from Valle de los Caídos.
Ordered by Franco in 1940 to celebrate his “glorious Catholic Crusade” against the “Godless” Republicans, the construction by thousands of political prisoners of the Valle de los Caídos, renamed by the government “Valle de Cuelgamuros” in reference to the name of the place , lasted almost 20 years. Overhung by a cross 150 meters high, this basilica is visible for dozens of kilometers around.
Wounds of the past not healed
Invoking “national reconciliation”, Franco had the bodies of more than 30,000 victims of the Civil War transferred there, Francoists, but also Republicans, taken from cemeteries and mass graves without their families being informed. The remains of Republican victims claimed by their families must also be exhumed, but the procedure has been delayed amid a legal battle.
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In November, the Spanish authorities had also exhumed the remains of a Francoist military leader, General Queipo de Llano, from the Basilica of the Macarena in Seville. This general is held responsible for the thousands of executions that occurred after the military uprising of 1936, the most famous being that of the poet Federico García Lorca.
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The question of the memory of the Civil War and the dictatorship still divides Spain, where the wounds of the past have not been healed and where the right accuses the left of reopening them. Accusing the executive on Monday of “profaning” Primo de Rivera’s grave, the leader of the far-right Vox party, Santiago Abascal, said he was “fed up with this government which is dedicated only to digging up hatred and opposing the Spaniards each other “.