In case you didn’t know, Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco’s mortal remains are buried at the Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caídos), a hideous fascist monument built by the forced labour of political prisoners on a mountainside north of Madrid to commemorate all those who died during the Spanish Civil War, though he himself died peacefully in his bed in 1975 at the age of 82.
However, he is about to be disturbed 44 years after his death. When social democrat Pedro Sánchez became president of the Spanish government in June 2018 via a motion of no confidence in his predecessor, Mariano Rajoy of the right-wing Popular Party, he undertook to have the nationalist leader exhumed and removed from the memorial site, symbol of the dictator and his repressive regime and a pilgrimage destination for his supporters to this day.
At the same time, Sánchez offered to involve the family of the late dictator in the decision as to where the corpse should be re-buried. Right then, they said, if we cannot avoid the exhumation, we’ll have grandfather Francisco moved to the family crypt in the La Almuneda cathedral in Madrid. It’s where his daughter, Carmen Franco Polo, and her husband Cristóbal Martínez-Bordiu, Marques of Villaverde lie buried.
Pedro Sánchez is not very happy about this. If the old tyrant’s resting place at the Valley of the Fallen demands of his supporters some effort in travelling around 60 kilometres from the capital to pay their respects to their hero, La Almuneda is slap bang in the middle of Madrid and along with the Royal Palace one of the city’s major tourist attractions. Imagine the tomb of the Generalísimo being part of this!
So the Government has turned down this proposal, allegedly on account of the threat it poses to public order, with the possibility of violent confrontations breaking out between supporters and opponents of the man who ruled over Spain for 36 years (1939-1975), not to mention the threat of possible terrorist attacks. In other words: technical but no political arguments against the late dictator capturing this top spot at the very heart of the capital.
So far, an alternative to La Almuneda has not been decided on, though there is talk of the cemetery of Mingorrubio, El Pardo (Madrid), where his wife Carmen Polo lies buried in a grave that belongs to the country’s National Patrimony, as, incidentally, does the Valle de los Caídos memorial.
This soul-searching quest for an appropriate place to dispose of the remains of the man who is responsible for close to half a million deaths among the population may sound perverse, but as we know: Spain is different.
There’s no hurry, says President Sánchez laconically. Franco’s mortal remains have been where they are for 40 years, so as far as he is concerned a few more months are neither here nor there.
Why is this of such concern to us? The ‘marvellous’ Emilia Llanos was in the words of our poet FGL a ‘spiritual treasure’ among the women of Granada and ‘divine emblem of the 20th Century’, worthy of ‘all his admiration and fervour’. Thus, his dedication to her in the copy of Impressions and Landscapes he gave her, a few days after them having been introduced, on 29 August 1918. She and Lorca remained the closest of friends up until his murder eighteen years later. Emilia was similarly close all her life to the musician Manuel de Falla and especially his sister María del Carmen.
Fortunately, we know now that Emilia will not end up in an unmarked grave - ‘a pauper’s grave’ as they used to say - thanks to the intervention of aware local politicians, who pointed out her key role in the cultural life of twentieth century Granada, allowing her tomb to be recognised as worthy of maintenance by the city council. This, even though she did not figure in the official list of local dignitaries in receipt of formal honours and distinctions from the city.
Her memory may no have the social impact as
that of the late caudillo, Francisco
Franco Bahamonde, but it does look as if she will be able to continue to rest in peace.