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When a dictator who died more than 40 years ago is buried with honors in a giant monument in a democratic country, the past of that country collides with the present. And now the Government of Spain and its citizens are asking: What should we do with the remains of that dictator?

Francisco Franco, which is the name of that dictator, is buried in El Valle de los Caídos (the Valley of the Fallen) a monumental memorial with a basilica built by order of Franco in the mountains near Madrid to honor the people killed in the Civil War, of course, the fallen from his side. The fallen of the republican side are still buried unidentified in ditches and mass graves throughout Spain. The monument was built by around 20,000 political prisoners, since it became a forced labor camp, where many of them died during those works. This basilica and mausoleum of the dictator with a 150 meters cross is also a tourist attraction for all those foreigners who visit Madrid.

Now the Government of Spain has decided that it is time to remove Franco’s remains because a democratic country can not honor a dictator in that way, but this decision has provoked a debate in the country. Who would see right that in Germany a giant tomb for Hitler was erected and also charged entry to visit it as another attraction of that country? Why in Spain does this situation continue to create debate?

The answer to this question can be found in two main causes: one is the Amnesty Law of 1977 that was agreed during the transition to democracy, which prevented reparations for the damages caused by the dictatorship, and the other is the inheritance of the conservative party of this country, since the Partido Popular (PP) is the continuity of a party of the transition created by ex-leaders of Franco regime. That is why every time the issue of trying to judge the crimes of the dictatorship arises, the PP criticizes it as an attempt by the left to “reopen wounds from the past”. However, the truth is that the past is often very present in this country in which it is estimated that there are around 2,500 mass graves, many streets keep the names of high officials and generals of the Franco regime and the “Francisco Franco Foundation” is not only legal, it even receives public money.

The Valley of the Fallen is for many people a symbol of the impunity of the crimes of the Franco regime, so the exhumation of Franco remains approved by the current government represents the beginning of a historic reparation.

Spain is afraid to approach its past, but without an investigation of that historic moment to seek truth, justice and reparation, the ghost of Franco will continue in the present and, it becomes a question of the future, because without being able to close a chapter of history as terrible as that, a country can not move on.

Elena Castillo


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