Francisco Franco was the Spanish general who held Spain in the grip of his dictatorship until his death in 1975. His ashes are stored in ‘Valle de los Caídos’ or Valley of the Fallen. However, many feel this glorifies an oppressor.
Valley of the Fallen was created by Franco himself as a symbol of his strength and his victory in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. Franco rose to power after this historic victory which was aided by Hitler and Mussolini and claimed over half a million lives. His dictatorial regime lasted until his death in 1975 when Spain became a democracy. His fascist policies still plague Spain to this day, with many still hailing him as a hero and others desperate to forget.
The burial ground is highly symbolic of Spain’s Catholic devotion, with a large cross displayed above the building where Franco’s ashes are kept. The building which appears as a simple mausoleum is in fact an old nuclear bunker — a reminder of the horrors that took place. His grave is simple and plain. Many other victims of the civil war are also buried in this area which some family members feel is a disrespect to their loved ones who fought against Franco.
So why do people want to change things?
Well, it has something to do with the current political situation in Spain. The Socialist government are keen to remove this feature of Spain’s history and they are gaining support from other left-wing parties. Franco’s family however argue that this is only happening now as part of a political campaign and are distressed that the government is using their grandfather as a tool to improve public relations and gain support.
Another reason for this taking place is that this is still relatively recent Spanish history. The process of forgetting and moving on for many is still happening and it is now the younger generation coming through who are challenging the reasons for maintaining these symbols of the dictatorship.
Other changes are also taking place, with outrage over the many mass graves which contain over 100,000 victims of the Civil War. This would be a massive reburial project, but many believe that it is important to show respect to these victims. Though work is underway, it has been slow and extremely controversial.
Is the Valley of the Fallen a Fascist Symbol?
This is the question that divides Spain to this day. Some see this memorial as simply a historical monument, but others think that it is a reminder of Spain’s troubled past. In my view, it does not have to be a fascist symbol but can instead be an educational tool for future generations to teach people about the Civil War and the Francoist state.