Where they buried Francisco Franco, Spain’s dictator from 1939-1975
Today we delve into Spain’s history.
This is the Valley of the Fallen, or Valle de los Caídos. It is situated close to Madrid, a little to the north west.
Only rarely these days do I find myself watching anything on television that piques my curiosity but La Sexta, a national TV channel in Spain, surprised me on Friday evening with a most insightful programme about this odd memorial.
I say odd for many reasons, some of which I shall go into here.
Supposedly Francisco Franco, that dictator who ruled over Spain for 36 years until his death in 1975, was behind the creation of this monument which the history books tell us is there to honour and bury those who died in the Spanish Civil War.
What I learned while viewing on Friday was that honour is in short supply in The Valley of the Fallen.
If I didn’t already know better I would have been shocked to find out that the bodies of many of those who ‘fell’ during the Civil War of 1936-39 were exhumed and transferred to this place without the knowledge of the families directly involved. Can you believe that?!
Perhaps more extraordinary is that even now, 42 years after the initiation of Spain’s transition to Democracy – which those history books declare a ‘success’ – the families of those illegally exhumed are having their pleas for repatriation of their loved ones completely ignored by the Spanish government.
The aptly named Purificación Lapeña is a case in point.
Her grandfather’s body was exhumed and taken to the Valley so many years ago. In an attempt to have him reburied close to her home, she took her case to court. There, her lawyer called upon a little known statute from the 19th century which proved to be something of a loophole because the judge ruled in Purificación’s favour.
This was all very recent by the way, and the upshot was that her grandfather’s body legally had to be removed from the Valley.
But wait! Not so fast!
What happened next is scandalous. Just when the first of these illegally buried bodies was about to be exhumed (which no doubt would have opened a ‘floodgate’ of further successful claims from other families) the Spanish authorities disregarded the old statute and hence the claim that went with it.
Purificación Lapeña has since taken her case to the United Nations and that’s where it is currently held. Personally, I hold out no hope at all for her because if the reaction from the Spanish government to her valid, heartfelt, even utterly legal claim is a resounding No, then the signs are that it is not about to buckle under pressure coming from any outside body. This is obviously too important.
In 1975 Franco dies and hands the reigns of power back to the Monarchy. Franco is pictured above, shortly before his death, alongside the man who succeeded him: King Juan Carlos.
So where was this dictator and friend to Hitler buried?
Here is Franco’s tomb upon which fresh flowers are laid every day:
This tomb is located in the Valley of the Fallen!
The obvious conclusion is that the Spanish authorities are treating their former dictator with a level of respect far in excess of that accorded to the common people.
Their people. The ones whose vote they ask for every few years.
It was ever thus, and not just in Spain.
PS There is much talk at the moment of Franco’s remains being removed from The Valley of the Fallen. Don’t hold your breath!
Jim Porter is a co-founder of Speekee®, the most comprehensive Spanish for kids learning program ever to appear online. Jim’s work includes this homeschool Spanish curriculum and this homeschool Spanish curriculum (not a misprint – he wrote two!) and this Primary School Spanish curriculum.
Jim began his Spanish learning journey in 1990. He has been a language teacher since 1994 and he lives in sunny southern Spain. He has two bilingual children. More…