A cross called Francoism

A cross called Francoism

The crosses are not history, they are propaganda. And removing them does not threaten history either, but it does cleanse and put an end to a vision of the past that cannot be honored in the present, defends Miguel Ángel del Arco Blanco. This professor of Contemporary History at the University of Granada, author of Cruces de memoria y de olvido. The monuments to the fallen of the Spanish civil war (1936-2021), published by Crítica, believe that despite all the modifications that have been made to reconvert them, "they are monuments that must be eliminated from public space."

The new Memory Law proposes to put an end to the symbols "contrary to democratic memory". According to article 35 of the law – pending parliamentary approval – the crosses that honor "those fallen for God and for Spain" will disappear from public and private places, because the apology of Francoism will be prohibited and foundations and associations that extol the coup or dictatorship.

Are there many? "Many. There are almost as many crosses as there are towns in Spain," says Del Arco, who says that under the pretext of honoring those who fell in the Civil War, a story of the past was built in order to define what Spain should be. The memory of the Republic was usurped by the dictatorship "to legitimize an all-embracing and arbitrary power."

He points to the architect Pedro Muguruza as the ideologue of the aesthetics of the fallen. He and his disciples imposed a classicist and severe line "with which they sought to convey sobriety, spirituality and at the same time awe". The message that had to be illustrated was terrible: Spain had been saved and had been redeemed by the spilled blood of her true children, who should be remembered in her name and shown as an example for future generations. An explicit and clear typology was imposed, without variations. A unequivocal message, understood and accepted by the population. Thus, indicates Del Arco, the monuments to the fallen forged a memory and a national identity whose roots are in the Civil War.

The Catholic crosses appropriated by the Franco regime are memory forged in death and violence, explains the historian in the essay that shows how Franco's propaganda roller has perpetuated the "Crusade" to this day. These presences fought the Transition thanks to the "pact of oblivion", they survived at the end of the 20th century and when the 21st arrived... "In some town halls intermediate solutions were adopted, they removed the symbol of the Falange, the Francoist shield, the plates that they excluded everyone who was not fallen from the rebel side and placed plaques in the name of all the fallen. They are patches for reconciliation, "says the historian. The Franco regime was very quick to invade urban space with its monuments and its propaganda. Democracy shows another rhythm.

He believes that equidistant solutions based on a theoretical reconciliation full of silences have not worked. Because it is a symbol created by the fascists that honors only the memory of those who participated in the coup. The crosses remember places of pain and violence. The exclusive memory of these sites has not been "cleansed", says the author. "They appropriated the death of many people to legitimize the regime and it wasn't until 2008 that some began to disappear," he says.

With the cross they not only delimited the national identity, they also excluded other possible existing memories. The cross has become an instrument for posterity. That unique and immutable stone memory has passed the test of time and is part of everyday life in the 21st century. The stone Spain. They planted them throughout the country, in small and large towns, in provincial cities and in the capital.

In the middle of nature, too. "In the Valley of the Fallen, the official memory of Francoism about the war rests almost intact. It is incredible that it is as Franco left it and it is not explained. A democracy cannot afford a place like that. There cannot be this silence ", indicates Miguel Ángel del Arco.

Nor is he in favor of tearing it down. "If we destroy it we will not understand anything," he maintains. "Besides, you can't blow it up because it's full of graves and corpses." So he is one of those who think that this space should become a museum to explain fascism, without Franco there. However, he would not save the "victory arch" of Moncloa (Madrid) and in other places he would contrast the Francoist plaques with others that reported what really happened in that place. In some cases he prefers not to erase the past, but to explain it.

For the historian, the new law should put an end to the extension in which the Franco regime and its defenders live. The crosses, he says, must be removed because our Spain has nothing to do with it. "We are a plural society, which does not want to be exclusively masculine and which has different languages ​​and protects them," he says. That is why he regrets that there is so much work pending. He says that democratic governments cannot remain impassive in the presence of symbols that are loaded with Francoist meaning. Although he thinks that withdrawing them will not be enough.

"It is not possible to escape the history of a civil war and a dictatorship like Franco's." For Miguel Ángel del Arco, the withdrawal of symbols must be accompanied by a policy of remembrance to recognize the history of such a painful and violent past. That is why he calls on governments not to be inhibited, to advocate a plural memorial about the traumatic past.

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