The Spanish Catholic Movement (MCE) is a remnant of the Francoist ultra-right of the first batch, an offshoot of Blas Piñar’s New Force and nostalgic for the dictatorship. At 9:30 in the morning of 20-N, 45 years after Franco’s death, the MCE is exactly nine people waiting in a bar in Usera to get on a bus heading to the Valley of the Fallen and final stop in the cemetery of Mingorrubio, where a little over a year ago the remains of Franco were moved.
“It bothered us because it was a desecration of a body against the opinion of the family and a sacrilege of the basilica, which was taken by military force,” says José Luis Corral, a veteran of these leaders who presents himself as the national head of the MEC and Acción Juvenil Española, which explains the bus has been organized to maintain the safe distance in these times of coronavirus without having to squeeze into cars. After an intermediate stop in Moncloa, the delegation grows to 16 members.
Roberto, 47, sits down. He wears a bald head, a fitted jacket, tight blue jeans with red and yellow suspenders, and boots. Underneath, a black T-shirt with gold letters: “Spain ‘is coming” and the Franco crest underneath. The slogan is indeed inspired by the fantastic television series Game of Thrones. Roberto works in the printing press of a large media outlet and has a sense of humor. “You see that we are four cats, haha,” he laughs, before going on to explain his political thinking. He had relatives on both sides of the civil war, politics was not widely discussed at home, and at the age of 14 he had a communist friend and another very right-wing. He ended up getting closer to the second.
Roberto is remembering the great demonstrations of yesteryear and how the 20-N streets were cut off by people who came when, in the front seats, a melody came from a mobile phone and two older, blonde women began to sing: “Cara! the sun with the new shirt! ”, etcetera. They are Carlota and Francine, who have come from Barcelona. They proclaim: Spain, one, great and free; Live Christ the King; Franco, present. They are very animated.
Also on the bus is Alejandro, Francine’s son, a jeweler by profession. Talk a bit with Roberto, the two are worried about the rise of “the communists”, protagonists of a “covert regime change” and of “diluting the concept of the nation with lies”. Alejandro comes from a “conservative family” and studied at an Opus Dei school, but he became ideologically inclined later. “You have to find out, read, search for yourself,” he explains, and goes on to criticize La Pasionaria (he calls her Solitaria, but Roberto corrects him) or the “electoral fraud in the Alfonso XIII referendum.”
In Moncloa, Marián, a tourist guide for a long time, claims to manage good information networks thanks to the Internet. Taking the dictator out of the Valley of the Fallen seems to him “like the Taliban.” His is the first mention of the day to the financier George Soros, “who wants everything to sink to buy it for two dollars.” The criticism is becoming more esoteric, with mentions of vaccination campaigns to kill older people, when Corral gets up to indicate that the car is passing where Father Huidobro fell, victim of a Russian shell, according to Franco’s historiography. Beatified in 2016 by Francis I, passengers do not, however, have a good image of the current Pope, who also “will last for years”, predicts Roberto.
After the landmark of the Palacio del Canto del Pico, the Franco summer residence that today threatens ruin, the convoy appears in the Valley of the Fallen. There are a dozen Civil Guard officers at the lower entrance, but the arrival has been announced, so the bus moves to the car park, next to the funicular entrance, closed since 2009. The cafeteria is also closed. The 16 get off and go up to the basilica. Francine and Carlota pose in front of two Civil Guard cars, and at the door of the church, another agent tells the first one to please change the mask, which is green and has a drawing of the Franco coat of arms on one side and a portrait of Franco on the other. “Can you believe it?” He protests later. Alejandro tells a joke: “Civil Guard agents are like watermelons, green on the outside and red on the inside.” But the time for jokes is over, it’s time for mass. Only half of the banks are occupied, some people have come by car and there may be as many as 100 people. There are no mentions in the mass to Franco or José Antonio, but to the “promotion of peace among all Spaniards.”
After the prayer, the faithful return. A couple comes talking about Atlético de Madrid, a group of four wait for the driver of an old Mercedes to take the car out of the parking space. When he rolls down the window, the legion anthem blasts. The bus is now going to Mingorrubio. Passengers kept the tone festive. Long live our president! Carlota and Francine cry out. Corral responds that he is the “boss”, that the “president” is for “democrats.”
Arriving at El Pardo, the atmosphere thickens a bit. Media is expected to be at the cemetery gate. Indeed, there are several television cameras and photographers next to the Franco family pantheon, almost as many as there are sympathizers of the dictator, who are no more than a few dozen. There is also Pilar Gutiérrez, daughter of the late Francoist minister Joaquín Gutiérrez Cano and a recurring television presence in the debates on the extreme right. It is Corral’s moment, who seems to have not expected so much attention. He announces: “We are going to put some flowers and sing ‘I had a comrade”, in reference to the Falangist funeral hymn. The entourage obeys. They start and the first verses are known to everyone, but when the stanza changes, many begin to hesitate. A man, on the other hand, continues to sing in a loud voice. Corral rebukes him: “It’s starting to get out of tune, sing lower”. The other one gets very angry: “Look, I sing whatever I want, asshole!” They almost come to blows, but they end up being separated.
Corral then responds to the journalists, surrounded by people who loudly criticize the manipulation of the journalists. “Your television is a prostitute”, insists a woman a lot. He says that he feels persecuted since the days of UCD and that now they let him speak, but later they will want to put him in jail. If Franco was not mentioned in the basilica “it is surely because of the political threat,” he argues. Another man approaches and repeats before the microphones that with Franco they lived very well and that the worst thing about now is that they kill the children. It refers to abortion. Unaccompanied foreign minors and gold from Moscow also come up.
Roberto waits, a little out of the way. “With what was this … Now it looks like a Berlanga movie.” The Spanish Catholic Movement briefly passes by the grave of Carrero Blanco, returns to the bus and leaves.