Francoist Street Names Are Out. Women’s Accomplishments In Spain Are Finally In

2016 saw the 80th anniversary of the start of the Spanish Civil War, and the 41st celebration of Francisco Franco‘s death. Yet on many streets all over Spain, the men who fought and assisted Franco though his 39 years of war and dictatorship are still revered with street names, vile and cruel men who harmed untold thousands. It is long past time to remove these names, and the opportunity to name streets after women has finally arrived.

Spain’s political situation is a hot mess – the December 2015 election ended in a stalemate, and subsequent efforts for coalition and even new elections have produced not a lot. The left-wing Podemos party, made of newcomers and small groups coming together to gain power, have found their place in some cities, such as Madrid and Barcelona. Spain has the History Memory Law, enacted in 2007, which provides rules to allow the reburial of SCW victims, and removal of all Franco (and Franco cronies) monuments, dedications and street names (the law has a wide range of powers; this is just an example). While many cry about leaving the past in the past, those with a wider view want to put right as much as can possibly be done. It is time to use Article 15 of the memory laws to change the streets named after men who murdered their way to power and used fear to stay there.

Some examples of names changes is in Calle de Soledad Cazorla (Spanish link), named after Spain’s first female public prosecutor, who used her position to fight gender violence. Until now, the street was named after Andrés Saliquet (Spanish link), an old-school General and fascist party member, serving in the war and the dictatorship. The notorious General José Varela loses his street name to journalist Carmen de Burgos in Granada, likewise Federica Montseny, Spain’s first female minister, will replace Colonel Chápuli.  Madrid’s Plaza Caudillo (if you’re new, Franco was referred to as the Caudillo, the leader) will be Plaza Mayor in El Pardo.

Places like León have just 5% of female street names, Cadiz has just 3%. People ask why it matters – the naming of a street in your honour is a great privilege; it shows prominence. The lack of female names shows that they are considered better at home than out in the world. Women’s achievements are simply not being recognised in this traditional way of having a street in their honour in Spain. Madrid has 137 streets which are named after the Virgin Mary, but not streets named after real women. Women’s roles are confined to being imagined virgin saints, not actual accomplished members of a community.

Valencia has a new law, meaning that 80% of new names, or streets in need of a change, must be female names. In the Poblet area in the west of the city, eight new streets are needed, and are being decided by public suggestion. Author Carmen Martín Gaite is in the running, along with Las Trece Rosas, 13 women murdered by a firing squad in Madrid in 1939.

The northern city of Oviedo has 22 new streets, a majority going to women. Alicante has a new law ensuring women are included while 50 Francoist streets are removed, and northern Bilbao and southern Cadiz now have mandates in place guaranteeing female names. Cadiz has only eight female street names, all saints, a situation about to be rectified.  In Santander, a motion is in place to remove Francoism from the city and celebrate women, a move which has faced steady criticism (aka fascist man tears).

Without surprise, all this comes with its complainers. The usual cries of ‘that’s just complaining feminists, don’t indulge them’ is rife, with machismo still strong in Spain. Giving women the same rights and rewards as men scares many, as does the notion of altering traditions, even when traditions are inappropriate. Somehow, giving a street name to a fascist murderer is okay, as is keeping the name because ‘tradition’. Changing the name to erase an evil man from memory, and embracing a successful woman still frightens many delicate flowers.

The 2007 memory law has had little success in its nine years. Granada alone has 4,000 victims still dumped in mass graves, Seville has only reburied two of the 104 mass graves in the region. You only need to look at the maps of each region on the Historical Memory Association website to see how many mass graves (fosas) country-wide are ongoing. As family members of the victims pass away themselves, voices are becoming lost and the commitment to the past needs to be honoured. Trouble is, Europe is doing its terrifying swing to the right. Spain is no stranger to the Hitler-fascist salute, regularly done at Francoist sites (especially Valle de los Caídos), and Nazi groups have been springing into violence recently in Madrid. Spain needs to be un-Francoed as fast as possible, and that level of hate needs to be eliminated.

It can be easy to say that what happened in the Franco years is in the past and no longer relevant. But as long as dedications to remarkable women like Dolores Ibárruri are opposed by those in power (due to her left-wing work), the past is still haunting the present. Guadalajara, near Madrid, has the highest number of female street names at a tiny 9.5%, all-but named after virgins and saints. The names are dedicated to women who are bound in legend and many hundreds of years out of date. Women are overlooked in history, so inaccuracies are ever-present. Meanwhile, Spain has a plethora of successful feminists, leaders, scientists, teachers, and modern sports stars who could be honoured, yet are forgotten.  Why not Calle Maruja Mallo (artist), Avenida Clara Campoamor Rodriguez (suffragette), or Paseo Margarita Salas (biochemist). Spain needs more streets named after women like Ángela Iglesias Rebollar (Spanish link), murdered by Franco’s killers, remembered for their struggles.

It’s not like Spain isn’t in need of change; young women need role models, advertised the way men are exposed to their role models, and largely take for granted – because they’ve always been right in front of them. Why have streets and plazas named after Nazi-style killers when you can have streets named after María Mayor Fernández de Cámara y Pita, who fought against the English in 1589, or Manuela Malasaña Oñoro who saw off the French from Madrid in 1808, or pianist Alicia de Larrocha from Barcelona who was an extraordinary composer, or Rosalia Mera Goyenechea from A Coruña who became the richest female entrepreneur worldwide and used her riches to help other women, as such as fighting anti-abortion laws.

Another issue is not just the lack of female names, it’s irrelevance of those that do exist. Margaret Thatcher was given a plaza in Madrid, hardly a popular move. Madrid also has Calle de Quiñones,  homage to the first female run printing workshop, but without her full name, how can anyone look up Maria de Quiñones from the 17th century (did any of you reading this know that until now?).

Galicia is leading the way by looking through historical information to find forgotten women, as is Barcelona, and making sure people can find information about all people awarded a street name. The southern city of Córdoba has passed a law saying 50% of new names must be female, which currently boasts just 6% of female names.

My personal suggestions (in addition to the ones above) –

Isabel-Clara Simó i Monllor – Valencian writer, one of the most important writers in the Catalan language

Clara Campoamor Rodriguez – women’s right campaigner

Federica Montseny Mañé – first female cabinet member – minister of health

Carmen Amaya  – influential flamenco dancer

Alicia de Larrocha – extraordinary pianist and composer

Margarita Salas – biochemist and geneticist

Rosalia Mera Goyenechea – world’s richest female entrepreneur, co-founder of Zara

Rosa Montero Gayo – journalist and author

María de los Ángeles Alvariño González – fishery research biologist and oceanographer

Magdalena (Magda) Bermejo – primatologist

Emilia Espinoza Hazelip  – pioneer of the concept of synergistic gardening

Patri Vergara – professor in Physiology, first woman President of the International Council for Laboratory Animal Science

Dolors Aleu i Riera – first female Spanish doctor

Ana María Matute Ausejo – writer and member of the Real Academia Española

Emilia Pardo Bazán  – Galician novelist, journalist, essayist, critic and scholar

María Josefa Crescencia Ortiz Téllez- Girón/ Doña Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez – insurgent and supporter of the Mexican War of Independence

Rosalía de Castro – Galician writer and poet

It’s not about women being elevated above men, it’s about women being given their due. It’s about successful people (yes, women are people) not being forgotten, their accomplishments out there for all to remember.

Sign at entrance to town of Águeda del Caudillo. Photo: Gaceta de Salamanca

 

SPAIN BOOK REVIEW: July – The Spanish Civil War 80th Anniversary – Part 2: Fiction

Following on from yesterday’s post –SPAIN BOOK REVIEW: July – The Spanish Civil War 80th Anniversary – Part 1: Non-fiction, here is part two, novels based around the Spanish Civil War. It is a particularly difficult task to pluck suggestions from so many books on offer, so I stuck to just a few of the books I have read, and only ones in English. I included my own book because… well, I can! Great to have a selection of female writers, as part one was sorely lacking. If you have an suggestions, let me know.

All cover art and blurbs are via their amazon links

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BLOOD IN THE VALENCIAN SOIL: LOVE AND HATE HIDDEN IN THE LEGACY OF THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR by Caroline Angus Baker

Pleasure is as fragile as glass… Spain, March 1939 – the Spanish Civil War is coming to an end. Five young Republicans in the small town of Cuenca know they are on the losing side of the war. History only recognises the winners, and the group know they could die, all destined to become faceless statistics. They concoct a plan to go to Valencia in search of safety, but not all of these young men and women are going to survive? Seventy years later, bicycle mechanic Luna Montgomery, the granddaughter of a New Zealand nurse who served during the Spanish Civil War, has made Spain her home. A young widow and mother of two little boys, Luna wants to know what became of her Spanish grandfather. He is one of the ‘disappeared’, one of the hundreds of thousands of Spaniards who were murdered and hidden away during and after the war. On a quick trip to Madrid, Luna forms an unlikely friendship with an intelligent and popular bullfighter, Cayetano Beltran, but as Luna presses on to delve into Spain’s history for answers, Cayetano struggles with truths he wished he had never found out. In an ever-changing society that respects and upholds family ties, betrayal by the people who Luna and Cayetano hold dear will hurt them more than they could have realised. There are old wounds that have yet to heal underneath Spain’s ‘pact of forgetting’.

This is my first book series based entirely in Spain, and this is the first book in a three part series. The first book is based during the war, the others during and at the end of Franco’s reign. See my Secrets of Spain category for all the details. 

51acqUu++xL._SY346_WINTER IN MADRID by C J Sansom

1940: The Spanish Civil War is over, and Madrid lies ruined, its people starving, while the Germans continue their relentless march through Europe. Britain now stands alone while General Franco considers whether to abandon neutrality and enter the war.

Into this uncertain world comes Harry Brett: a traumatised veteran of Dunkirk turned reluctant spy for the British Secret Service. Sent to gain the confidence of old schoolfriend Sandy Forsyth, now a shady Madrid businessman, Harry finds himself involved in a dangerous game – and surrounded by memories. Meanwhile Sandy’s girlfriend, ex-Red Cross nurse Barbara Clare, is engaged on a secret mission of her own – to find her former lover Bernie Piper, a passionate Communist in the International Brigades, who vanished on the bloody battlefields of the Jarama.

In a vivid and haunting depiction of wartime Spain, Winter in Madrid is an intimate and compelling tale which offers a remarkable sense of history unfolding, and the profound impact of impossible choices.

Winter in Madrid is one of the most popular civil war novels available. I found some of the characters annoying, but I suppose that’s proof the author can make people authentic. Read my review here

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FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS by Ernest Hemingway

The story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to an antifascist guerilla unit in the mountains of Spain, it tells of loyalty and courage, love and defeat, and the tragic death of an ideal. In his portrayal of Jordan’s love for the beautiful Maria and his superb account of El Sordo’s last stand, in his brilliant travesty of La Pasionaria and his unwillingness to believe in blind faith, Hemingway surpasses his achievement in The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms to create a work at once rare and beautiful, strong and brutal, compassionate, moving, and wise. “If the function of a writer is to reveal reality,” Maxwell Perkins wrote Hemingway after reading the manuscript, “no one ever so completely performed it.” Greater in power, broader in scope, and more intensely emotional than any of the author’s previous works, it stands as one of the best war novels of all time.

THE Hemingway war novel. Just read it – why haven’t you already? Read my review here

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ALBERTO’S LOST BIRTHDAY by Diana Rosie

A little boy and his grandfather embark on a quest to find the old man’s missing birthday in Diana Rosie’s debut novel, Alberto’s Lost Birthday.

As a child, Alberto lost his birthday in the Spanish civil war. Now an old man living a simple life, he rarely thinks about his disappeared past.

But when his grandson discovers his Apu has never had a birthday party, never blown out candles on a birthday cake, and never received a single card or present, he’s determined to do something about it.

As the two set off to find Alberto’s birthday, they have no idea it will be a journey that takes them through Spain’s troubled past, to places – and people – that Alberto once knew.

But in a country that has vowed to move forward, looking back can be difficult. Will they be able to find the memories they’re searching for?

A sweet and interesting take on historical memory in Spain.

51rvAH5wS2L._SY346_GUERNICA by Dave Boling

n 1935, Miguel Navarro finds himself on the wrong side of the Spanish Nationalists, so he flees to Guernica, the most ancient town of the Basque region. In the midst of this idyllic, isolated bastion of democratic values, Miguel finds more than a new life-he finds a love that not even war, tragedy or death can destroy.

The bombing of Guernica was a devastating experiment in total warfare by the German Luftwaffe in the run-up to World War II . For the Basques, it was an attack on the soul of their ancient nation. History and fiction merge seamlessly in this beautiful novel about the resilience of family, love, and tradition in the face of hardship.

Guernica is a widely loved novel based in the Basque region and its unimaginable destruction in the late 30’s. A place mostly untouched by the world became the testing ground for misery.
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SOLDIERS OF SALAMIS by Javier Cercas

In the final moments of the Spanish Civil War, fifty prominent Nationalist prisoners are executed by firing squad. Among them is the writer and fascist Rafael Sanchez Mazas.   As the guns fire, he escapes into the forest, and can hear a search party and their dogs hunting him down.

The branches move and he finds himself looking into the eyes of a militiaman, and faces death for the second time that day. But the unknown soldier simply turns and walks away.

Sanchez Mazas becomes a national hero and the soldier disappears into history.  As Cercas sifts the evidence to establish what happened, he realises that the true hero may not be Sanchez Mazas at all, but the soldier who chose not to shoot him.  Who was he?  Why did he spare him?  And might he still be alive?

Another hugely popular book translated into English, and well worth the read. Read my review here

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DEATH OF A NATIONALIST by Rebecca Pawel

Madrid 1939. Carlos Tejada Alonso y León is a Sergeant in the Guardia Civil, a rank rare for a man not yet thirty, but Tejada is an unusual recruit. The bitter civil war between the Nationalists and the Republicans has interrupted his legal studies in Salamanca. Second son of a conservative Southern family of landowners, he is an enthusiast for the Catholic Franquista cause, a dedicated, and now triumphant, Nationalist.

This war has drawn international attention. In a dress rehearsal for World War II, fascists support the Nationalists, while communists have come to the aid of the Republicans. Atrocities have devastated both sides. It is at this moment, when the Republicans have surrendered, and the Guardia Civil has begun to impose order in the ruins of Madrid, that Tejada finds the body of his best friend, a hero of the siege of Toledo, shot to death on a street named Amor de Dios. Naturally, a Red is suspected. And it is easy for Tejada to assume that the woman caught kneeling over the body is the killer. But when his doubts are aroused, he cannot help seeking justice.

This is the first book in a series featuring the same characters. Great to see an author taking this line of fiction.

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THE CARPENTER’S PENCIL by Manuel Rivas

Manuel Rivas has been heralded as one of the brightest in a new wave of Spanish writers influenced by Spanish and European traditions, as well as by the history of Spain over the past seventy years.

A bestseller in Spain, The Carpenter’s Pencil has been published in nine countries.

Set in the dark days of the Spanish Civil War, The Carpenter’s Pencil charts the linked destinies of a remarkable cast of unique characters. All are bound by the events of the Civil War-the artists and the peasants alike-and all are brought to life, in Rivas’s skillful hand, with the power of the carpenter’s pencil, a pencil that draws both the measured line and the artist’s dazzling vision.

Originally written in Galician, this is another great opportunity for readers to enjoy Spanish (Galician) authors on the subject.

51s-joC4ONL._SL500_SX331_BO1,204,203,200_THE STUFF OF HEROES by Miguel Delibes

Set in the 1930s during the Spanish Civil War, Delibes’s ( The Hedge ) plot chronicles the shifting fortunes of the De la Lastra family, which finds itself divided by politics. Much of the story is seen through the eyes of young Gervasio, who dreams of becoming a military hero. While Gervasio enlists in the Navy in order to fight the Communists, his father, a naturopathic doctor, is imprisoned for more liberal beliefs. The surrealistic horror of war, which directly touches every member of the family, is lightened by farcical domestic dramas. Gervasio’s haughty sister has her marriage to a homosexual annulled, only to find herself involved with a Fascist. Gervasio’s nurse, who tries to turn him against his family, outsmarts herself and is dismissed. As Gervasio daily comes closer and closer to battle, he faces his own conservatism, and finally must answer the question posed by Delibes: Which side of this bloody confrontation is indeed just?

This book can be hard to find, but worth it, being a little complex and quirky. Proof the war had few winners.

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IN THE NIGHT OF TIME by Antonio Muñoz Molina

October 1936. Spanish architect Ignacio Abel arrives at Penn Station, the final stop on his journey from war-torn Madrid, where he has left behind his wife and children, abandoning them to uncertainty. Crossing the fragile borders of Europe, he reflects on months of fratricidal conflict in his embattled country, his own transformation from a bricklayer’s son to a respected bourgeois husband and professional, and the all-consuming love affair with an American woman that forever alters his life.

A rich, panoramic portrait of Spain on the brink of civil war, In the Night of Time details the passions and tragedies of a country tearing itself apart. Compared in scope and importance to War and Peace, Muñoz Molina’s masterpiece is the great epic of the Spanish Civil War written by one of Spain’s most important contemporary novelists.

This book is quite a read, it took me months to get through it all. Epic is the only word I would use to describe the novel.

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SEVEN RED SUNDAYS by Ramón J Sender

The time is 1935. The place is Madrid, a city beset by labor unrest which has raised fears―and among some, hopes―of revolution. At an overflow meeting of workingmen, the military intervenes and three of the workers’ leaders and a member of the socialist party are killed. A public funeral ends in street fighting, sabotage, and the prospect of a general strike throughout Spain. From these events Ramón Sender has fashioned a novel of terror and beauty―one of the great unsung works of the 20th century. Behind the confused and conflicting theories of the revolutionaries who are the central characters of Seven Red Sundays, Mr. Sender discovers a sublime faith and a spirit of self-sacrifice. But whether these idealists with guns represent hope or despair is a haunting question which the reader must decide.

Another book that can be hard to track down. The books focus on the lives of ordinary people in the lead up to the outbreak of war.

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SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

It is 1945 and Barcelona is enduring the long aftermath of civil war when Daniel Sempere’s bookseller father decides his son is old enough to visit the secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books. There Daniel must ‘adopt’ a single book, promising to care for it and keep it alive always. His choice falls on The Shadow of the Wind.

Bewitched, he embarks on an epic quest to find the truth about Julian Carax, the book’s mysterious author. Soon Daniel is consumed by strange discoveries about love and obsession, art and life, and how they become entangled within the shadow world of books.

The Shadow of the Wind is a mesmerising love story and literary thriller, which twists and turns and enthralls with its cast of vengeful souls, threatening spectres and innocent hearts.

The Shadow of the Wind series is not to be missed. About more than just the war, its aftermath and a gothic mystery feel are added. While the second book in the series, The Angels’ Game, is less war related (but incredible), the third in the series is about prisoners during the civil war. Stop reading this and go and get these books. Now.

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THUS BAD BEGINS by Javier Marías

As a young man, Juan de Vere takes a job that will haunt him for the rest of his life. Eduardo Muriel is a famous film director – urbane, discreet, irreproachable – an irresistible idol to a young man. Muriel’s wife Beatriz is a soft, ripe woman who slips through her husband’s home like an unwanted ghost, finding solace in other beds. And on the periphery of all their lives stands Dr Jorge Van Vechten, a shadowy family friend implicated in unsavoury rumours that Muriel cannot bear to pursue himself – rumours he asks Juan to investigate instead. But as Juan draws closer to the truth, he uncovers more questions, ones his employer has not asked and would rather not answer. Why does Muriel hate Beatriz? How did Beatriz meet Van Vechten? And what happened during the war?

As Juan learns more about his employers, he begins to understand the conflicting pulls of desire, power and guilt that govern their lives – and his own. Marias presents a study of the infinitely permeable boundaries between private and public selves, between observer and participant, between the deceptions we suffer from others and those we enact upon ourselves.

This book, again in Marías’ flowing prose, is the author’ latest work, about a man digging in the his bosses war past and a bit of a journey into voyeurism. Read my review here

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NADA by Carmen Laforet

One of the most important literary works of post-Civil War Spain, Nada is the semiautobiographical story of an orphaned young woman who leaves her small town to attend university in war-ravaged Barcelona. Edith Grossman’s vital new translation captures Carmen Laforet’s feverish energy, powerful imagery, and subtle humor. Nada, which includes an illuminating Introduction by Mario Vargas Llosa, is one of the great novels of twentieth-century Europe.

“Laforet vividly conveys the strangeness of Barcelona in the 1940s, a city that has survived civil war only to find itself muted by Franco’s dictatorship…The spirit of sly resistance that Laforet’s novel expresses, its heroine’s determination to escape provincial poverty and to immerse herself in ‘lights, noises, the entire tide of life,’ has lost none of its power of persuasion.”

This book is based in the aftermath of the war and one I couldn’t put down. Read my review here

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MAZURKA FOR TWO DEAD MEN by Camilo José Cela

The Spanish Civil War intrudes almost casually on the characters’ picaresque doings in Cela’s amorphous, bawdy novel, first published in Spain in 1983. Set in the mountainous region of Galicia and redolent with the Spanish countryside’s wild beauty and its inhabitants’ folkways, the work depicts a gallery of sinners, fools and misfits in overlapping yarns that span several generations. The plot involves Lionheart Gamuzo, who was shot in the back in 1936, and his brother Tanis, who in 1940 avenges the death with trained killer dogs. The blind Gaudencio, who works as an accordionist in a whorehouse, plays the same mazurka to commemorate these deaths, framing a sprawling canvas peopled with an enormous Rabelaisian cast, including jazz musician Uncle Cleto, who vomits whenever he’s bored; the widow Fina, who is fond of bedding priests; and Roque Gamuzo, who is famed for his colossal member. Winner of the 1989 Nobel Prize for literature, Cela ( The Family of Pascual Duarte ) garrulously conveys the impression that “mankind is a hairy, gregarious beast, wearisome and devoted to miracles and happenings.” The musical translation captures his lyricism and colloquial flavor.

I love this author and all his works are worth taking the time to find and read. This book is a bit all-over-the-place but still worthy of attention.

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THE SENTINEL by Mark Oldfield

You can’t escape the past.

He was the cold steel behind Franco’s regime. The fear behind Franco’s power.

57 years ago, Comandante Leopoldo Guzmán disappeared without a trace. They know what he did, but they don’t know where he’s gone.

Madrid, winter 1953: the snow lies thick on the ground and Comandante Guzmán of the Brigada Especial is preparing a dawn raid. His job is to hunt down opponents of Franco’s regime and destroy them. Feared by all in Franco’s Spain, Guzmán takes what he wants: food, drink, women.

That is about to change. Guzmán is going to find himself on the wrong side of Franco, and on the wrong side of history. It’s not the first time Guzmán has been on the wrong side. But there’s no one left alive who knows about that… until he gets a message from a dead man…

Madrid, 2009: Ana María Galindez is a forensic scientist investigating a mass grave from the Franco era. Now she is hunting for the hidden ledger of secret policeman Leopoldo Guzmán – a man who disappeared without trace in 1953. But there are those who would rather the secrets of Guzmán’s ledger stay buried. Galindez’ pursuit of the past has revealed a battle for the present…

This is the first in a three part series, and a long read worth your time.  Read my review here. Book two, The Exile is also available. Read my review here

The Beginners Guide to the 40th Anniversary of Franco’s Death – ‘History’ Remains Fluid

El Caudillo. The Generalissimo. Supreme patriotic military hero by the Grace of God. Whatever you want to call him, Franco was a short man with a penchant for moustaches and murder. When people think of dictators, they think of Franco’s mate Hitler, or more current dictators such as Mugabe or the North Koreans with bad haircuts. Some would say Franco was a coward in comparison, or more moderate. If you turn from the word dictator and instead to fascism, the dictionary will give you Franco as a definition. Call Franco whatever you like, but November 20 is the day to celebrate his slow and painful death. The day in 1975 when cava and champagne bottles were popping faster than overheated popcorn. That day, Spaniards, at home and in exile, could finally shake off their not-so wonderful leader.

Born in December 1892 in Galicia, Francisco Paulino Hermenegildo Teódulo Franco Bahamonde was one in a long line of relatives in the navy. But instead Franco chose the army in 1907, and worked his way through the ranks through wars in Morocco, and was shot in the stomach in 1916, and lost a testicle (it is rumoured). He continued fighting and winning medals, and by the mid-twenties, he was ranked high enough to be before the King in Madrid. The royal family got run out of the country when the Second Spanish Republic took hold in 1931, but it wasn’t until Franco’s cozy position at the army academy in Zaragoza being extinguished did Franco start getting angry. Posted to the Balearic Islands for a few years, Franco got a taste of killing his own people during the miner’s strike in Asturias in 1934. He crushed innocents defending their rights, and the left and right side of politics only continued to divide as bitterness set into the young Republic. After the 1936 elections, all went to hell, and Franco found himself leading an army from Morocco into Spain to depose the Republican government.

Fast forward through three years of brutal civil war though 1936-1939 (if I explain that in detail, we will be here forever), and Franco’s Nationalist army, backed by fascists, Carlists, monarchists, any right-wing nutball group really, had defeated the Republicans, with the communists, anarchists and general plucky young men and women from Spain and overseas fighting for freedom. After gross atrocities, upwards of 200,000 people were killed. Franco was the leader of Spain, a nation decimated by force and hate. The short, moustached, one-testicled Hitler lover was in control.

Spain was no picnic. So many fled the country, many to France, Mexico, Cuba, Argentina… basically anywhere but Spain. Artists, teachers, bright minds, and those of the left-wing all ran for their lives. Spain skipped the Second World War after basically being in pieces, claiming neutrality, though Franco loved Hitler’s style of hating. While Franco was claiming that Spain had struck gold and all would be well, 200,000 people starved to death in the first half of the 1940’s. The whole decade was spent rounding up people who had supported the Republican side of the civil war, and up to 50,000 were killed, or put in concentration camps, or just ‘disappeared’.

Franco was brutal and bizarre. He could be easily played with wild schemes. But his own plan, being anti-Communist, won him love from the United States. They were allowed to set up military bases, Spain got money and their love for Hitler, Mussolini, etc was swept under the carpet. Spain and its technocrats were keen to move on and make Spain wealthy and prosperous again, though naturally, all spoils only went to the people at the top of the food chain. Spain’s Años de Desarrollo, years of development began through 1961-1973, with Franco promoting tourism, bullfighting, flamenco, everything super-Spanish. Financially, things got much better, but since everyone was doing so poorly, ‘much better’ still wasn’t great. Many Spaniards were still living overseas. Riots broke out at universities, women were still horribly oppressed, with divorce, abortions and birth control illegal. They couldn’t have bank accounts without male oversight, and couldn’t even leave a violent husband, real middle-ages style of living. The church was sticking its evil nose into everything, being gay was illegal, local languages were banned, and nuns loved hitting kids in schools and orphanages.

By 1969, Franco was getting old and handing more power to the lecherous bastards who profited from his reign. It was time to choose an heir. Franco had one daughter (though that has been questioned, given the testicle incident, but never mind), and Franco chose Juan Carlos de Bourbon, grandson to the Spanish King exiled to France in 1931. The young man, dutifully married to a Greek princess, would be modelled and educated in the ways of Francoism – basically being a murderous douche.

Even as Franco was getting super old in the 1970’s, he was still being real bastard, handing down executions just months before his death. Young people were rising up, wanting change in their country, and groups such as ETA wanted their regions’ independence back, as did Catalonia, Galicia, Valencia – basically everyone. In the final months of Franco’s reign, countries were having protests against his execution decisions, Mexico tried to have Spain kicked from the UN, and the Pope wasn’t interested in him anymore, which isn’t cool for a Catholic nation. But on October 1st, Franco have a hate speech from his palace and left in tears. From that moment, his number was up.

Pneumonia, heart attacks and then internal bleeding took hold. Machines kept the old man alive and drugged. Doctors worked day and night for the man who let people be shot by firing squads or starve to death. But after 35 days of pumping life into a frail old man, on November 20, 1975, Franco finally passed away.

The parties started, in Spain and all around the world, where Spaniards had waited for the day. Half a million people went to see his body, just to see the proof for themselves (this figure remains disputed, like all figures during Spain’s 20th century). Spain, which had been lying dormant, could live again. The protege, Juan Carlos, was crowned King, and tossed Francoism aside, opting for democracy. None of that was an easy ride as the road to the Transition began.

The trouble is, those killed during and after the war are still buried in their makeshift graves. Those lecherous wannabes who circled Franco did not lose their place in politics, and among the wealthy and elite. Those who were evil were all given amnesty, to smooth the road for democracy. Justice was never served; Spain’s hard questions remained unanswered for so many. Those who did wrong have grown old, as those who were harmed. The varying levels of independence of Spain’s 17 regions still causes headaches. Does Spain still need to ask questions of its past, or is the future hard enough?

Either way, pop a cork off champagne today, at least to celebrate the freedom Spaniards would have felt on 20 November, 1975.

Read more of what has changed in Spain since Franco’s death, and what is to come – Spaniards aim for a new democracy and end to Franco’s long shadow

Read more about Valle de los Caídos, Franco’s super creepy tomb, where monks will be praying for him today (yes, that’s a thing!)

Read more about Franco’s war, reign, and death in the Secrets of Spain  novel trilogy

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Get the ‘Secrets of Spain’ series free for Christmas!

To celebrate Christmas, for 72 hours only, you can download Blood in the Valencian Soil and its sister, Vengeance in the Valencian Water for free, for your Kindle (or on any device using the free Kindle app). They are the first and second parts of the ‘Secrets of Spain‘ novel series, featuring bike mechanic Luna Montgomery from Valencia, and Cayetano Beltrán Morales from Madrid, and their quest to dig up Spanish Civil War and Franco-era mass graves, while coping with 21st century Spanish life. Get one, get both, read in any order, the choice is yours! Read about 1930′s war time Cuenca, Valencia 1957 and the flood which took over the city, and present day Valencia, Madrid and Cuenca. The series has something for everyone – Spain, history, war, bullfighting, cycling, romance… whatever you like, this series will give out your favourites and tell you the stories of ordinary people in extraordinary lives. Of course, you don’t need to have a knowledge of any of these subjects, just jump in and follow the story!

Check your timezone, so you don’t miss out on the offer. The books will be on sale –

December 22 09:01 – December 25 09:00 Europe time

December 22 00:01 – December 24  23:59 US Pacific time

December 22 21:01 – December 25 21:00 New Zealand time

Click here to download –

BLOOD IN THE VALENCIAN SOIL (US/International)

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VENGEANCE IN THE VALENCIAN WATER (UK)

SPAIN BOOK REVIEW: ‘1984 and the Spanish Civil War’ by Paul Read

1984

In 1937, George Orwell spent six months in Catalonia, witnessing the rise and fall of the popular revolution on the streets of Barcelona and Catalonia. Alone amongst his contemporaries, Orwell understood what the success or failure of that Spanish Revolution would mean for the rest of the world. The lessons he learnt, were explained in the three books he wrote upon his return.

1984 And The Spanish Civil War – the 2nd book in the ‘Forgotten Spain Series’ – tells the story of Orwell’s relationship with Spain and the legacy he has left us:

*How far was ‘1984’ and ‘Animal Farm’ the inevitable conclusion to all Orwell had witnessed in those brief months he spent in Spain?
*Why was his work so unanimously rejected by his contemporaries in England?
*Was the revolution Orwell witnessed in Barcelona crushed forever by the end of the war, or did it slide into hibernation, awaiting the present conditions for revival?

If you want to understand Spain today, you need to understand Orwell. If you wish to understand the work of Orwell, you need to understand the history of Spain in 1937.

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1984 and the Spanish Civil War is the second book in Paul Read’s Forgotten Stories from Spain series. George Orwell, now synonymous with ‘privacy, procedure and responsibility’ has much to thank from his time in Spain in regards to his greatest works. His theory on the ‘thought police’ , of big brother and their CCTV cameras are part of common culture, and he was the man who gave a face to big corporates and hierarchies that control the populace. While the reclusive Orwell (real name Eric Blair) died aged just 46, his work lives on.

His work, Homage to Catalonia, is the best piece of work that embodies the Spanish Civil War from a personal point of view, by a man who didn’t fall for ideals of either side of the fight, and dared to stand up and question Spain’s situation. With suspicion from the right and criticism from the left, he was able to produce three of his great works – Homage to Catalonia, Animal Farm and 1984.

Between 30-35,000 people joined the civil war as volunteers, the International Brigades, organised mostly by the Communist Party, but Orwell slipped into Spain through a Marxist militia and fought for the POUM, which would eventually be his downfall in Spain. He was able to assess the different sides of the left in the war – Socialists, Anarchists, Communists, Republicans, Basques, Catalonians and the big unions in Barcelona, the UGT and CNT. 1984 and the Spanish Civil War is a great way to understand why Orwell came to the conclusions he did, what he faced in his desire to fight and come to grips with Spain unlike anyone before him. The book also details what Orwell and his wife went through in escaping Spain.

1984 and Spanish Civil War discusses how criticism of Homage to Catalonia led Orwell to use satire in writing both Animal Farm and 1984 to relate his ideals and knowledge. In learning how power can destroy ideals and morals, and seeing the left coalition the civil war collapse under ‘folding lies’, fighting for something to save face rather than believing in the facts, Orwell was able to produce these stunning works.

The book also goes on to talk about how, in many ways, Spain has not changed. In these times of austerity, many of the original ideas that spurred the civil war have come alive again: the left wing and anarchism in its root form – with the indignados, occupation movements, desahucios (evictions and related occupations) and also escrache, calling people to account in public settings (humiliation protests if you will). Orwell may be proud that some of his ideas are alive and in practice today, who knows.

Paul Read has written an excellent book on the subject of Orwell and the effect of the war on the Englishman. 1984 and the Spanish Civil War is insightful, well-researched and written in a smooth, satisfying pace, giving out so many details, and informing the reader on many certitudes that they may not have known. A highly recommended book.

See book one in the series – Forgotten Stories from Spain: The Ambulance Man and the Spanish Civil War

See more from Paul Read on Speaking of Spain