Saturday, October 18, 2008
Maybe you have heard of the Valle de los Caídos, the megalomaniatic monument that Spanish dictator Francisco Franco ordered to build to honor the fallen fascists in Cuelgamuros, not too far from Madrid.
It seems now that most of the anonyous remains buried in its crypt are actually anti-fascists, the remains of people executed by the francoists all through Spain during the Civil War. Apparently there was much reluctance to move the remains of the fascists because of emotional reasons so, eventually, in order to fill the crypt somehow, the government ordered the move of hundreds of remains of executed republicans and anarchists from mass burials everywhere.
Now, more than thirty years after the death of the fundamentalist tyrant, the Society of Sciences Aranzadi is finally researching the issue, specifically for those remains that originated in the Basque Country. There are hundreds of Basques in the fascist monument: 146 from Araba, 123 from Navarre, 213 from Biscay and 16 from Gipuzkoa. Those from Araba and Navarre are certain to be all anti-fascists, the other just suspected.
This is not something new: already in 1956, the year of the monument was officially inaugurated, Basque newspapers reported that most of the corpses moved from Araba had bee taken from the cemetery of Villareal, where the gudariak (Basque troops) fallen in the battle of Legutio rested.
The information is in the hands of the Benedictine friars, in charge of the mausoleum. Some sources suggest that there are many more republicans than fascists buried in Cuelgamuros. Not only the case of Villarreal is known, other documents mention the unburial of people that had been executed and buried on the spot at roadsides, "red" priests taken from the cemetery of Hernani, etc. Two thirds of the people buried there are not yet identified.
The construction of the Valle de los Caídos was initiated in 1940, just after the war was over, and was built by slave labour recruited among anti-fascist prisioners. Many died due to the brutal conditions. Besides the thousands of unidentified or ill-identified burials, several fascist leaders, including dictator Franco rest in it. It is a pilgrimage spot for fascists.
The Spanish authorities delayed abnormally the concession of the permit for this research: while normally this kind of studies are authorized within days, in this case they took seven months to consider it. But Basque authorities are also trying to avoid the issue: Lehendakari J.J. Ibarretxe has ignored the requests of support by relatives who think their loved ones are insultingly buried together with their murderers.