Saturday, March 31, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 31.3.18

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

Spain
  • This Easter, as last year, the PP government has instructed all military installations to fly the national flag at half-mast between Friday and Sunday, in recognition - would you believe - of the death of Christ. Sometimes the party seems to be doing its utmost to justify the accusation of Francoist leanings. Anway, as The Guardian reports here, it's a controversial measure in this supposedly secular state.
  • I wonder how many Spaniards know that today is the 79th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, in 1939. Here's a copy of the official announcement from Franco, the following day. April 1st. 
  • An apposite question - Is Spain finally moving on? See the (machine translated) El País editorial below this post on the history of Spain and its impact on today's society. Of which the final para is: As long as the parties continue to use the Civil War and dictatorship as artillery to fight in today's politics, it will be difficult to find a way to repair and recognise the victims. The remains of the dead in ditches and mass graves must be exhumed and returned to their families. And it is the task of the state, which is almost always absent, to find a way to do this over and above partisan struggles. It is urgent to put an end to the outstanding accounts of the dictatorship. Amen to that. And, while we're at it, let's blow up the repulsive basilica and the huge cross above it in the Valley of the Fallen. Can one imagine Germany having memorials to Hitler? Or France having them to that tyrant Napoleon? Oh, hang on . . .
  • What!! A list of 15 breathtaking lookouts in Spain which is not from The Local but from El País!
Life in Spain
  • This is a foto of members of the Spanish legion, carrying Christ of the Good Death during one of this week's weird (to me) religious processions:-

My rather irreverent elder daughter watched the ceremony on the TV in Madrid and judged it to be the most camp thing she'd ever seen. Perhaps it was the traditional bare chests of the legionnaires, as well as their bizarre, err, bearing. Here in Pontevedra, a similar procession was held by people in mufti, this time called Christ of the Expiration. My impression from the foto is that it was a bit less camp. Rather like this:-


The USA
  • From a review of a 2015 biography called 'Never Enough': Trump has rarely been ordinary in his pursuit of success and his trademark method is based on a logic that begins with his firm belief that he is a singular and superior human being. He is a man whose appetite for wealth, attention, power, and conquest is practically insatiable. He pursues success with a drive that borders on obsession and, yet, has given him, almost everything he ever wanted.
Galicia/Pontevedra
  • Galicia – and Spain – is still losing thousands of its best educated and most ambitious young people to other countries. And, despite Brexit, one of the 2 most popular destinations is the UK, the other being Switzerland. And they're regularly profiled in the press as being very happy to be in work and perfecting their English. Here's El País  on the theme– in English.
Finally
  • Regional elections are imminent. So, naturally, Madrid has announced increases in pensions, going as high as 3% for those getting the lowest of these - said to comprise 77% of pensioners here here in Galicia. Of course, Spain's pension system is already in serious trouble and the country can't really afford these above-inflation increase. But, what the hell. Elections are near and the pork-barrel calls. At least democracy is working reasonably well here . . .
© David Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 31.3.18

EL PAÍS EDITORIAL

The disagreements that have arisen between the Commissioner of Historical Memory and the Madrid City Council regarding a memorial in the Almudena cemetery highlight once again how complicated the relationship between the democratic powers continues to be with the past of the Civil War and the Franco dictatorship. The dispute, in this case, arises from the proposal to include on the memorial the names of the 2,934 people executed there by Franco's forces between 1939 and 1944. Experts have recommended that the memorial be anonymous, since among the reprisals they believe there are chequists and those responsible for some of the crimes that took place in Republican territory. From the Town Hall they argue that the names serve to "socialize the knowledge of the victims of the dictatorship and of those who are resistant to it". What must a democracy do if those names include some murderers?

More than eighty years have passed since the coup d'état against the Republic, and then the terrible war and the brutal repression of Franco's regime, and no way has yet been found to turn the page. The dispute over the memorial serves to illustrate that sometimes there is not even agreement between those who seek to comply with the provisions of the so-called Historical Memory Law.

Something has been done badly. Many of the victims of the victorious side are still awaiting reparation and recognition; eccentricities such as a Franco Foundation are preserved; we do not know what to do with the Valley of the Fallen; and there are still names of famous Francoists in streets and squares. A few weeks ago the government exercised its right of veto and paralyzed a reform of the so-called Historical Memory Law that the PSOE presented in December 2017. The initiative proposes that the Franco trials be declared null and void - which would allow for claims to be made for property - and that the State be in charge of locating and exhuming the remains of more than 100,000 killed in reprisals, or that the remains of Franco be removed from the Valley of the Fallen, among other points. The Government estimates that some €214 million would be needed to implement these proposals, and it is an expenditure it is not prepared to make.

The conflict is once again served. The difficult thing about managing a traumatic past is that it operates in a territory full of emotions and against the confronted positions that the military coup of 1936 forced every Spaniard to take when it became a long war. It is devilishly difficult to avoid confrontation because things are again presented as a struggle between the heirs of the victims and the heirs of the victimisers.

As long as the parties continue to use the Civil War and dictatorship as artillery to fight in today's politics, it will be difficult to find a way to repair and recognise the victims. The remains of the dead in ditches and mass graves must be exhumed and returned to their families. And it is the task of the state, which is almost always absent, to find a way to do this over and above partisan struggles. It is urgent to put an end to the outstanding accounts of the dictatorship.

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