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SPAIN: The Valle de los Caidos



John Heelan and Carmen Negrín both dislike the Franco regime and itx expression, the Valle de los Caídos. John says: "Frankly, I find the Valle de Los Caídos a very disturbing place to visit (and I have- several times with the same feelings). For me the place has an eerie, unreal atmosphere. The massive cross dominating the site gives the impression that one is visiting a very holy place of pilgrimage, not the overblown mausoleum of a dictator. (The fate of Ozymandias comes to mind immediately.)

Entering the basilica is spooky. The long, straight, broad corridor disappears into murky darkness, flanked at intervals by an oversized guard of honour. Arriving at the gloomy basilica itself, induces a feeling of being present at the heart of an ancient temple, one of a religion that demanded human sacrifice. One might almost be entering Valhalla. Making a rapid exit towards the sunlight, one is confronted by a major paved square that one could imagine being used for arcane religious celebrations in devotion to an all-powerful deity.

Paul Preston captures the feelings exactly when he comments "The Decree announcing the foundation of the monument, dated 1 April 1940, vividly revealed Franco's megalomaniac thoughts about his own place in history: 'The dimension of our Crusade, the heroic sacrifices involved in the victory and the far-reaching significance which this epic has had for the future of Spain cannot be commemorated by...simple monuments.... The stones to be erected must have the grandeur of the monuments of old, which defy time and forgetfulness'" (Franco p.351)

El Escorial it isn't!" --

Carmen Negrín says: "If there are any republicans, they would be the prisonners who died building it. The last insult to them! Fascists still meet at the Valle de los Caídos. Tim is right about the three symbols: Church, the Army and the Falangist Party".

RH:Do fascists still meet there? Have the numbers increased with the sales of Pío Moa's book? Has Christopher Jones visited the Valle de los Caídos? The word "Caídos" (the fallen ones) was deliberately chosen to suggest impartiality and equality in death. Were it an expression of triumphalism or simply the mausoleum of Franco, another title would have been chosen. The title may have been discreetly diplomatic,hiding the real motivation.

Ronald Hilton - 7/31/03


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