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They often disagree over how the country remembers the past; one side wants to commemorate a significant period in the country's history while the other wants a more balanced recognition of violent atrocities. Dictator Francisco Franco in his open coffin after his death on 20 November Photo: AFP.

At a local level, something as everyday as the names of public buildings or streets can fluctuate depending on the parties in or out of power. This is the national site dedicated to those who died in Spain's recent periods of unrest.


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It provided an acknowledgement of wrongdoing to those disadvantaged by the conflict, on both sides of the divide. Historically controversial images, such as the Francoist flag bearing an eagle, statues of Franco, and other memorials to nationalists were also removed.


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  • Spain Digs Up Its Past?

The socialists now believe the removal of the dictator's body from a site intended to be a place of national reflection — but which is sometimes seen as a shrine for right-wing pilgrims — would be a major step towards reconciliation. The new PM is supported in his proposal by other left-wing and regional nationalist politicians.

But the Popular Party of ousted premier Mariano Rajoy is firmly against any immediate exhumation attempts, despite unopposed parliamentary consensus in when they abstained from the vote. The valley — Spain's largest mass grave — is a controversial site. It was described by Franco himself as a memorial to end all wars, yet the question of what its future should be has caused decades of dispute.

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Spanish Civil War: Bombing of Guernica

A number of republican prisoners were involved in the building of the monument. However, the wider mass burial ground includes the remains of victims from all sides. There are around 34, identified in total, although with a lack of clear records, the figure is estimated to be as high as 50, if you include unidentified victims.

Bodies from other exhumed graves have also been relocated to the valley, accounting for a small proportion of the identified bodies there. The Valley of the Fallen is a disputed site of enormous significance for both sides.

Spanish Civil War - 3 Minute History

The Popular Party argues that the nation needs to look to the future. It says focusing on issues like the economy and national unity would be a better use of time than talking about the past. Socialists have retorted that acting on the Franco question is precisely what is needed in order to look to the future. The position of the church will also be paramount, given that the tomb lies within the basilica on site.

Spanish Civil War - Wikipedia

In a potential sign of things to come, a confraternity in Seville recently ended a three-year dispute by deciding to relocate the remains of the Francoist general, Gonzalo Quiepo de Llano , albeit to a more discreet location within the temple. Time is of the essence politically. Any progress on memory issues such as what to do with Franco will depend almost entirely on the outcome of that election and legal findings.

With the threat of legal challenges from the courts and those vehemently opposed to the exhumation, the government may be forced to change the law to prevent legal opposition from all but the highest courts in the country. And in practical terms, the site is currently in a state of significant disrepair.

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It has been completely closed several times. Experts have suggested the exhumation could be done at minimal cost and completed in only one morning.

A Controversial Exhumation and a Battle Over National Identity

However, it could cost tens of millions of euros to repair the Valley. Exhumation or repair may come at significant political cost — or benefit — to any party taking action. But inaction comes with a bigger cost for Spanish society. If no change in mindset can be achieved, the country can't hope to move on from the divisions of the past. Queipo de Llano, who was among the military leaders of the July coup that set off the civil war, swiftly took control over Seville and then conquered the rest of southern Spain, while making radio broadcasts urging civilians to wipe out left-wing opponents.

Spanish–American War

After the war, however, he was sidelined by Franco as a possible rival. Preston wrote. Politicians in Madrid have long argued over whether to exhume Franco himself from the Valley of the Fallen, the huge underground basilica near Madrid that he built to honor those who died securing his victory. Although some small protests have taken place to demand his removal, the issue has stirred politicians more than citizens.

The Roman Catholic Church in Spain has turned a deaf ear to such political initiatives, including the push to exhume Queipo de Llano. Pablo F. In fact, Mr.